If you’ve been gardening for more than a year, you’ve probably bumped into gardeners (online or in person) who start seeds indoors, instead of planting directly into their gardens. But why? Why would a gardener go through all the extra hassle?
Why Gardeners Start Seeds Indoors
As you’ve probably guessed, there are several good reasons for starting seeds indoors!
Whether it’s to get a head start on the growing season, to save money or for the sake of having more variety, you can bet the gardener knows what she/he is doing!
Here’s a list of primary reasons gardeners start seeds indoors!
Reason 1: Seed Starting Gives You a Head Start on the Growing Season
Seeding starting is a wonderful to way to get a head start on the growing season. Gardeners typically start their seed 2-12 weeks (depending on veggie type) before weather permits seedlings to be planted out in the garden.
This gives the gardener a significant head start with vegetables and particularly so, for those who live in northern climate!
Because here’s the thing: if northern gardeners don’t start their plants indoors, tomato, pepper, eggplant and other slow-growing crops may not have time to mature and yield a harvest before the fall frost kills them off.
But when the gardener can get a head start on the growing season, this not only enables him/her to have a harvest, but also extends the length of the harvest time.
Reason 2: Seed Starting Can Help You Beat the Pests
If gardeners are having a bad year with pests, some will start seedlings indoors, just to protect the plants until they’re a bit older and tougher. This only happens with above-the-ground vegetables (cucumbers, kale, lettuce, squash, tomato, etc).
Because here’s the thing: cutworms, mice, beetles and slugs will decimate tender young seedlings when they first appear. And to the gardener, it’s frustrating indeed!
But gardeners can usually work around a bad pest year by transplanting seedlings out when they’re 3-4 weeks old. Most of the time, these starts be able to withstand the attack and should continue to grow, in spite of the setback!
Reason 3: Seed Starting Gives You More Options
Another reason gardeners start their own seeds is because doing so gives them more options to choose from. Few live in areas where their local greenhouse centers offer more than a dozen varieties of each vegetable type.
But when the gardener start his/her own seed, they can choose their seed from companies who have dozens and dozens and dozens of options to choose from!
For the gardener, this freedom is a pleasure indeed!
Reason 4: Seed Starting Can Help Save Money on the Garden
Contrary to what many people believe, growing your own food isn’t free. Gardeners know this. And one of the ways they cut back on costs is by starting their own seedlings!
Purchasing your starts at a local greenhouse center is convenient. But if you’re actually growing food to feed the family, costs of seedlings will quickly add up to a significant sum of money.
Case in point? A single tomato start sells for an average of $4 in my area. If I want 16 tomato plants, I’ll be paying $64 for my starts.
But I can purchase a packet of heirloom tomato seeds (they’re more expensive) from one of my favorite seed companies, getting 25-30 seeds for $0.09 each.
Of course there are other expenses involved with starting seedlings indoors. Not every seed will germinate. You also need pots and potting soil to grow your veggies in. And unless you have a south facing window in your home, artificial lighting will be necessary.
But even still, a gardener comes out ahead financially when starting their own seedlings!
Reason 5: Seed Starting Can Extend Your Fall Garden Season
Gardeners who live in climates where they have a long autumn season will often put in a “fall” garden.”
In a fall garden, gardeners plant the exact same things they planted in early spring. These are cool weather crops with short maturation dates: lettuces, spinach, radishes, turnips kohlrabi, etc.
Depending on their climate, fall gardeners may not need to start seeds indoors. But many do. Because here’s the thing: cool weather crops won’t germinate well in the heat of summer (nor will the plants be happy).
So gardeners start (some) of these vegetables indoors where things are cooler. And when the heat of summer has passed, they’ll plant their young starts out for the last and final garden of the year.
Just as they got a “head start” on the spring planting season with warm weather crops, they get a “head start” on the fall growing season to maximize their harvest.
Reason 6: Gardeners Get Satisfaction from Starting Seeds Themselves!
Another reason gardeners like to start their own seedlings is because of the “reward” factor! While it’s convenient to pop into a greenhouse center and purchase already established seedlings, there’s something special about walking through the growing process from start to finish!
You get to choose your vegetable varieties. With your own hands, you plant the seeds and label each tray. Then you get to watch things germinate and grow.
One day, you start exposing seedlings to the sunlight, slowly at first and then increasingly so. Once accustomed, these starts are planted in the garden. There you water, weed and look after them.
As the gardener, you observe the first fruits and watch things ripen. At the right time, you harvest. And the sense of satisfaction that sweeps over you is immense, because you did it all.
In the end, the reward is high. And that’s why gardeners start seeds indoors!
Why do gardeners start seeds indoors? They do it because it helps them make the most of their growing season, enables them to beat pests on a bad year, is frugal and because they enjoy the process of growing food for the table!
What do you think? Have you ever started seeds indoors? Are you going try next time you have the chance?