Every spring, I buy about four flats of annuals (impatiens, pansies, the purple ones Lela pointed at…) to plant Mother’s Day weekend. This investment gains throughout the summer to finally tank in the fall.

This year, I decided to invest instead in a project for Lela and I, a seed starting kit and a handful of seed packets.

While I accomplished one goal of a hands-on, get-dirty project for Lela, I lost a few seedlings in the process - I'm estimating a 60% success rate thus far. I know now what I’ll do next year to successfully cut the cost of my spring plantings:

One plant type per starter kit

I purchased two seed starter greenhouse kits but four different kinds of seeds. The convenience of the greenhouse effect of this kit was lost when the seeds sprouted at different rates. While the zinnias were an inch high, I was still waiting for the coneflowers to sprout. Consequently, I had Lela moving the quick-starters to Dixie cups, simple enough a toddler can do it. But this one extra step nixed the watering benefit of this mini, Pauly Shore-free biodome, and I lost some plants to countertop drought.

Stick with annuals

With perennial plants being pricey if not begged from a friend's garden, I thought I was so smart choosing to plant a mix of annual and perennial seeds - ‘cuz, you know, I need 48 coneflower plants. I now have more perennials than landscaped space. Next year, I’ll choose one border plant or save some seeds for the next spring, when I’ve prepared more perennial space.

Research and wait

Even though I looked up the proper planting dates for my seeds, I still planted too soon. The problem wasn’t the data. Instead, my ag-free brain was convinced the seeds would take longer to germinate. Plus, I was excited about having a cooler project for my preschooler than her daycare ever had.

To avoid death by frost in our area, it’s safe to plant Mother’s Day weekend. Since I didn’t wait, I’m stuck either taking a chance on our overnight temperatures or nursing my Dixie cup stock a few more weeks. I’m sick of looking at my laundry room display of greenhouses and tiny paper cups, so I’ll probably take Lela out to stuff ‘em in the ground this Earth Day.

The real test will come this summer when I’m charged with escorting these plants to maturity. I’ve learned that saving money by starting my own seeds takes the dedication I haven’t even been able to offer a houseplant. Hopefully, in a few years, I’ll be writing about sharing perennial stock with friends and neighbors. At least the greenhouse is reusable, and I can start over with annuals, herbs or produce.

Have you been successful starting your own seeds or do you buy nursery stock?


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