Growing plants from seed ensures getting what you paid for

Feb 23, 2014

With vegetables readily available at any grocery store, one may forget that growing them at home is even an option. While growing plants from seed takes more time and effort than just buying them, one expert believes that not only is it worth it, but it’s actually easier to do than people may think.

This week on Take Care, Amy Jeanroy talks about the basics of growing plants from seed. Jeanroy, an expert herb gardener and contributor to About.com, has written many books on the subject, including Canning and Preserving for Dummies, 2nd edition.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Amy Jeanroy.

When it comes to growing something, many gardeners will buy a mature plant and transplant it straight into the ground. Jeanroy encourages gardeners to take it one step back, and grow it directly from the seed. While this may mean extra work, she believes it is much more advantageous.

“Growing a plant from seed really ensures that you’re getting what you pay for. When you start from seed, you know that they are not going to be genetically modified, they’re not going to be a hybrid, and what you see on the packet is what you’re going to end up with,” she says.

The only way to get these results is to purchase heirloom seeds, which Jeanroy describes as, “a seed that’s very old. It’s been growing for generations and passed down from farmer to farmer. It’s probably the same tomato, for example, that your grandmother grew in her garden.”

Heirloom seeds are usually not available from large retailers, but can be found online or from catalogs that specialize in selling them.

For first time seed gardeners, consultation may be needed. Jeanroy recommends seeking out experienced gardeners, or to contact the local Cooperative Extension Office. These offices will give out information such as what seeds grow best in the area, what garden zone you’re in, and when the last frost was.

This information, in addition to the information that comes with the seeds, will give specific directions on germination. Most seeds can begin to grow inside the home until large enough to transplant outside, as long as they are kept moist and in sunlight.

In terms of what to grow your seeds in, Jeanroy says making containers out of egg cartons or newspaper work best, as those can be put right into the ground when the time comes. After the plants are outside, Jeanroy says to keep the plants watered and weeded.

For newcomers to this process, Jeanroy has two pieces of advice.

The first is to plant more seeds than needed, as some will have to be taken out if they are not growing properly.

“You really only want the best seedlings to go in your garden. And that’s kind of hard because gardeners tend to say, ‘oh I want to try to let this one recover, the poor little thing,’ but that really bites you in the end because then you have overcrowding in your garden and you don’t end up with the best plants,” she says.

The second piece of advice: start small.

“People get such grandiose ideas. I’m guilty of it myself. Just start small, and then you won’t have a garden you’ll be overwhelmed with,” she says.

To start your own garden, Jeanroy suggests consulting these websites, which offer heirloom seed varieties: Baker Creed Heirloom Seed Company, Botanical Interests, Sustainable Seed Co., Horizon Herbs, and Richters Herbs.