Starting from Seed
One for the rock, one for the crow,
One to die, and one to grow.
-  English saying

I tried starting plants from seed this year, and though there were several ups and downs, I think I was pretty successful!  I started plants both indoor and sowed directly out of doors, and was successful with both. 

Started Indoors:

Here's what I started under fluorescent shop lights (raised way too high), no heat mats:

  • Alyssum -- Super Easy
  • Columbine -- Long Germination, 50% success
  • Allium (Chives) - Super Easy
  • Pelargonium - Easy, but slow to bloom
  • Echinacea - Super Easy, no flowers yet...
  • Impatiens - Long Germination, 50% success
  • Sunflower -- Don't Bother! Germinates super fast outdoors
  • Digitalis (Foxglove) -- Easy and indestructable, no flowers yet...

I started this project in February.  I used a Burpee kit for most of the plants, experimented with Jiffy pots for the Impatiens, and used potting soil and old plastic pots for the Foxgloves.  The Burpee kits were easy to use, but difficult to pop the plants out of.  The potting soil was cheap and retained a lot of water, which the Foxgloves didn't seem to mind.  I only got about 50% germination with the Jiffy pots.  Oh yeah, I only used about 2-3 seeds per cell, then thinned them out to one, maybe two seedlings once there were true leaves on the seedlings.  Once I hit mid-April, I brought the seedlings out to my front porch to harden off (What a pain!).  I potted up the annuals and planted the perennials around the second week of May.

Overall, I will definitely try it again.  Here are some things I will do differently:

  • Place the lights closer to the seedlings (FYI -- I ran the lights all day, but turned them off for about 8 hours at night)
  • Try to match the  days to germinate so that I can remove the plastic "humidity hood" at the same time (the Jiffy held 72 seedlings, but I mistakenly put variously germinating plants under one hood causing me a big headache.
  • Focus on Annuals.  Perennials often don't flower in the first or even second year, and I can usually get more unusual plants from mail order catalogs for under $5 a plant (Bless You, Bluestone Perennials) and less unusual plants from Kane's for under $4. 
  • Don't Ever Start Sunflowers Under Lights.  They sprout up fast, then start toppling over.  I also direct sowed a bunch of different kinds of sunflowers in the Spring with remarkable success.
  • Using little yogurt and pudding pots for next year, filled with a seed starter mix.  They're just the right size and the individual pots will be easier to maneuver (I hope).
  • Wintersowing -- I've been reading so much about it, so what the heck, I'll give it a try this year.  Anything to not have to bother with hardening off. The site I linked is really interesing and helpful!

Direct Sown Plants:

Nasturtiums -- Takes a while to Germinate, but grows and blooms fast

Lathyrus odaratus (Sweet Pea) -- Germinates fast, takes a while to bloom

Sunflowers -- Smaller kind (5 ft) germinates and blooms fast, larger (10ft+) germinates fast too, but takes a while to bloom

California Poppy -- very happy with these, germinated fast bloomed early (June) and heavily and won't quit (filled up a 3x4 space with one packet of seeds)

Cosmos binnapatus -- used a seed mat due to a sloping area.  Did OK, but I'm not sure I'd do it again b/c the white seed mat was so ugly in the spring and had to be watered frequently (daily).

Seed Links