Starting seeds takes more than toddler's attention span

May 3, 2010 | Posted By: Laura Pagles
Every spring, I buy about four flats of annuals (impatiens, pansies, the purple ones Lela pointed atÖ) to plant Motherís Day weekend. This investment gains throughout the summer to finally tank in the fall. This year, I decided to invest instead in a project for Lela and I, a seed starting kit and a handful of seed packets.

While I accomplished one goal of a hands-on, get-dirty project for Lela, I lost a few seedlings in the process - I'm estimating a 60% success rate thus far. I know now what Iíll do next year to successfully cut the cost of my spring plantings:

One plant type per starter kit
I purchased two seed starter greenhouse kits but four different kinds of seeds. The convenience of the greenhouse effect of this kit was lost when the seeds sprouted at different rates. While the zinnias were an inch high, I was still waiting for the cone flowers to sprout. Consequently, I had Lela moving the quick-starters to Dixie cups, simple enough a toddler can do it. But this one extra step nixed the watering benefit of this mini, Pauly Shore-free biodome, and I lost some plants to counter top drought.

Stick with annuals
With perennial plants being pricey if not begged from a friend's garden, I thought I was so smart choosing to plant a mix of annual and perennial seeds - Ďcuz, you know, I need 48 cone flower plants. I now have more perennials than landscaped space. Next year, Iíll choose one border plant or save some seeds for the next spring, when Iíve prepared more perennial space.

Research and wait
Even though I looked up the proper planting dates for my seeds, I still planted too soon. The problem wasnít the data. Instead, my ag-free brain was convinced the seeds would take longer to germinate. Plus, I was excited about having a cooler project for my preschooler than her daycare ever had.

To avoid death by frost in our area, itís safe to plant Motherís Day weekend. Since I didnít wait, Iím stuck either taking a chance on our overnight temperatures, or nursing my Dixie cup stock a few more weeks. Iím sick of looking at my laundry room display of greenhouses and tiny paper cups, so Iíll probably take Lela out to stuff Ďem in the ground this Earth Day.

The real test will come this summer when Iím charged with escorting these plants to maturity. Iíve learned that saving money by starting my own seeds takes the dedication I havenít even been able to offer a house plant. Hopefully in a few years, Iíll be writing about sharing perennial stock with friends and neighbors. At least the green house is reusable and I can start over with annuals, herbs or produce.

Have you been successful starting your own seeds or do you buy nursery stock?
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