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Sowing the seeds of success

Helpful hints for growing your own plants from seed

Feb. 25, 2021

There are advantages and disadvantages to starting plants from seeds. A definite advantage is that you can grow selections of veggies and flowers that you may not find as young plants at the garden centre. If you’re planting a large selection of veggies and flowers, seeding can be more economical than buying the plants.


We are all tempted to start lots of seeds and grow a myriad of vegetables, but narrow it to a list that is your family’s favourites. Even though peas or beans may be easy to grow, if you do not typically eat them, don’t let them take up your valuable garden space and time.


No to discourage you, but if you are a true beginner at gardening and are looking to only start some basic varieties, consider purchasing most of your plants and start out seeding only a few things this year. You will be an expert in no time!


Indoors vs outdoors? Keeping in mind as you plan and research, many veggie and flower plants do very well and prefer direct sow (planting seeds directly in the garden). Definitely my personal preference for gardening - no muss, no fuss! Do your research, make your choices and plan accordingly! For timing and which veggies can be started outside refer to the seed packages or click here to check this handy chart.



  • Timing is very important! Refer to seed packet or the chart listed above for information on when to sow and when to plant out.


  • Seed packets have lots of good info. They will tell you when to plant, how deep and more. Some seeds may even need to be soaked before planting to soften their shell.


  • Plant more than you want to grow, anticipating that there will be seeds that don’t germinate or sprouts that won't make it.


  • Always start your seeds in clean containers with proper drainage holes. Don’t forget to label them well to avoid confusion!


  • Once seeds are planted water gently. Even a good long misting can be enough moisture for the soil. Cover with a clear dome to keep in humidity, but remove once sprouts appear.


  • Over watering seedlings is the fastest way to kill them! This is called damping off. Mold may appear and cause rot. Try misting heavily or watering from the bottom where possible.


  • In most cases, the winter sun is not strong enough to grow strong plants, so investing in a grow light might be necessary. Rotate your pots or trays so seedlings receive equal sunlight. If using a grow light, it should sit a few inches above your tallest seedling.


  • Slow growing veggies such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers should be pinched to make them sturdier and stronger once the seedling has 3 strong leaves and the fourth is emerging. Simply trim back to just above third leaf.


  • Plant the following very hardy vegetables directly in the ground as early as 4-6 weeks before frost; Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Spinach, Collards, Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower.


  • Hardy vegetables to direct sow 2-3 weeks before frost: Beets, Carrots, Radishes, Parsnips and Chard


  • Warm loving vegetables to plant 2-4 weeks AFTER frost: Cucumbers Beans, Melons, Pumpkins, Squash, Corn and Celery


  • Plan your layout carefully before planting. Rows are easier to define, but some things can be planted in patches (square foot gardening). Always refer to your seed packet for info on how far apart and how deep to plant the seeds. Taller things should go behind shorter so they all get the light they need.


  • Your soil should be rich and fertile. Work some compost into your soil in the spring, digging down about a foot to loosen. The compost will also add valuable nutrients to the soil.


  • Don’t forget to water lightly after sowing.


  • Label, label, label! Seedlings often look alike and it’s hard to remember what was planted where!

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