1) You Get What You Plant
When you sow your own seeds, you get exactly the plants and produce that you want. The seed producers are very careful as to what goes into the package and I’ve always had good results from them.
One year I bought some acorn squash seedlings and they all turned out to be spaghetti squash. One can only handle so many spaghetti squashes, but I guess it was better than them all turning out to be zucchini.
Another time, I bought corn seedlings from a nursery and they were just marked “corn” nothing else. And it turns out the nothing else was what we called “cow corn” or “field corn”.
I found this description
“Although field corn kernels start out soft like sweet corn, it’s not harvested until the kernels are dry. Field corn is used to feed livestock, make the renewable fuel ethanol and thousands of other bio-based products like carpet, make-up or aspirin.
Sweet corn is harvested when the kernels are soft and sweet, making it ideal for eating. If you grab an ear of field corn and try to take a bite, you’ll probably break your teeth. It’s hard and dry (and only tastes good to cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys and some wild animals).”
Minnesota farm guide
Needless to say, it was the wildlife that got the corn that year.
One of the nice things about growing from seeds is you also get to control the quality of the plant. Whenever possible I buy non-GMO and organic seeds. Let me restate that. I never purchase GMO seeds and if the seeds I purchase don’t say organic on the package, it’s usually because the farm is waiting to be certified organic.
When in doubt, you can contact the seed company and they are very helpful and informative.
If you go into a garden centre and want to purchase some bean seedlings, you will normally have a choice of bush beans, pole beans and maybe a drying bean if you are lucky.
Beans are so easy to grow from seeds that you can have any kind you want and in looking through one of the places that I purchase my seeds from they have over 39 different varieties. Now that’s not anything that you are going to find in a nursery.
4) Suited For Your Area
One of the reasons that I like to purchase seeds locally is that they are grown in the area I live in and do well in the climate.
There is no sense in buying a plant that does will in Arizona only to plant it into my west coast garden. The soil and rain requirements are so different that the seedlings would wither and die.
A great place to get local seeds are what are called around here “Seedy Saturdays“. It’s where all the local seed savers come together and swap and sell seeds. There is a huge variety and just about all of them are of an heirloom type seed as hybrid seeds don’t always ring true when you are saving seeds yourself. They will revert back to the parent variety.
Case in point, I saved some squash seeds from a hybrid plant one year (can’t remember what it was but it looked like an acorn) that we really enjoyed.
The following spring I planted them and to my surprise, I got two different species of squash. One was a definitely a kabocha and the other was a hubbard squash. It was called a mystery until the fall came and you could distinctly see their colour and shape.
Large greenhouses and places that start plants, don’t always have disease free soil which in turn can contaminate your garden.
I know this one first hand as last year when I purchased some Brassica which is just a fancy latin word for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts and kohl rabi.
The cauliflower wasn’t doing as well as expected and the broccoli was almost non-existent so I pulled up a few plants so I could plant some more. The roots of the plants were covered in what looked like knots or growths.
In doing research I found these are caused by something called nematode which is a microscopic worm and very hard to get rid of organically. It is also known as root knot.
I always have done crop rotation, so I must have had some poor seedling stock last year. Needless to say, I am starting my own Brassica this year and planting them in different beds. Only 2 beds were effected, but I treated all my beds like they were.
I planted a cover crop of winter rye this year and I’m hoping that will do the trick. I will let you know how that worked.
6) Succession Planting
When you grow your own plants it’s a lot easier to do succession planting. That is when as soon as one plant is finished you put in another.
As we have a long growing time on the west coast, this makes an extended garden season. A lot of plants overwinter and I’m still eating kale and pulling leeks from my last years garden as I type.
I’ve always found that when I want another plant to replace the last one, I can never find anything at the nursery. They have either quit bringing in plants or just have the basics like lettuce and kale.
If I’m doing my own planting from seeds then I can have a seedling ready to plant, and I get the variety I want.
There is nothing more satisfying than looking through the seed catalogues, picking the seeds you want, starting the seedlings, planting them into the garden and watching them grow. This is when you truly get to see the miracle of life.
Plant a seed, add light, warmth and water and watch it grow. Amazing!
One day I’m going to save all my own seeds and get exactly the plant and produce that I want.
Just an update:
Last fall I saved seeds from:
- snap peas
- shelling peas
- scarlet runner beans
- pole bean
- black beans
They all seem to be sprouting and viable seeds and I will plant them in the garden this year.