Stretching Your Garden Budget With Seeds

Lynne Forbragd, Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County

We’ve all been drawn into the beautiful plants at the garden centers and may have gotten carried away with over spending, especially after a long colorless winter season. As the start of another garden season approaches, now is a good time to start planning your purchases for your garden especially if you are working with a limited budget.

Purchasing seeds instead of plants is one of the most economical ways of stretching your garden budget. Always buy high quality seed to ensure a higher success rate of germination. Vegetables, herbs, annuals and perennials can all be started from seed. Instead of purchasing seed starter kits and flats, try plastic egg cartons or any plastic containers that have a clear top cover. Punch a hole in the bottom of the container for drainage and fill with seed-starting soil mix. The clear plastic top works great as a terrarium to help germinate seeds.

If time and space are limited, there are a variety of seeds that can be directly sowed into the garden. For best results, read the instructions on the seed package to make sure the seeds are planted at the recommended spacing and depth. Soil temperature is important when using the direct sow method so the seed is planted at the optimal time to germinate. A number of vegetables can be directly sowed into the ground. Radishes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, squashes, melons, carrots, Swiss chard, kale and even tomatoes work with this method. However, cabbage, peppers and eggplant should be started indoors due to the warmer temperatures and the length of time they need to grow to harvest. Basil, dill, sage, parsley, cilantro and oregano are herbs that can be direct seeded.  Annual flowers such as marigold, zinnia, nasturtium, sun flower, cleome and cosmos are also easy to germinate in the ground. For perennials, more patience is required when direct sowing as it takes more than one growing season for perennials to flower.

Once you’ve established a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers in your garden, saving seeds can minimize the amount of money spent the following year. For vegetable seeds, open-pollinated varieties work best for a higher success rate of germination. To prepare the seeds for storage, spread them on a cookie sheet or window screen. Let them dry in a warm area, but not in direct sunlight. When the seeds are dry, store them in an airtight container. For more information on saving seeds go to: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/vegetables/saving-vegetable-seeds/

Many annual flowers and perennials will reseed themselves, lovingly termed “volunteers”. Learn to recognize their leaves and transplant them to a more desired spot in your garden or share with your friends and neighbors. Experiment with these different methods to see which options will work best for you.