Join THE #gardenchat!
BWS tips button
Home Kitchen Garden

Follow me on Twitter: @cityslipper

My Book!

I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

Links to planters at selected vendors:

Garden-Fountains.com

MasterGardening.com

 

 

Sprouts

Amazon.com is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Store

 

 

 

 

Start Your Small Kitchen Garden from Commercial Flats?

I’d like to have one of these in my yard. It’s a commercial greenhouse about three miles from my home, and they’ve laid out row upon row of flower seedlings. Seems like a waste of resources as I’m sure no one will be eating these plants. Still, in a few weeks there’ll be vegetable and fruit starts on many of the benches here.

So many kitchen gardeners in the northern hemisphere are seriously into this year’s growing season. Southerners may already be sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings outdoors—or even harvesting mature vegetables (I know this because so much fresh produce in our grocery stores has flown in from southern California). Northerners are starting to plant seeds indoors.

I encourage new kitchen gardeners to sow seeds directly in their planting beds except for crops that require long growing seasons. For those, I suggest buying seedlings from garden stores and nurseries. Why? Because it’s easy. There’s no sense in making gardening hard when you’re just getting started.

While I encourage you to buy seedlings, it’s important to know that buying flats from a garden store isn’t a panacea. Now, six to eight weeks before you’d buy those flats, is the time to decide whether you’re going to. If you’d rather start your own seeds, you’ll need to do so soon… perhaps within the next two to three weeks.

Some Good Reasons not to buy Seedlings

There are many downsides to buying seedlings in a garden store. Here are several:

1. Your options tend to be limited. A decent garden store may carry a dozen types of tomato seedlings—mostly, hardy hybrids. You may find three or four dozen varieties of tomato seeds at an online garden store. These could include the hardy hybrids, but they’ll also include heirloom tomatoes you’ll never get to taste if you don’t grow them yourself.

2. Nursery plants may be stressed. Nurseries face one overwhelming challenge: they can only guess when to plant seeds. If they guess wrong, their seedlings could be pot-bound and “leggy” by the time anyone wants to plant. For tomatoes, this isn’t really a problem. But many vegetables grow weak stems in the garden when you transplant them from overcrowded nursery pots or flats.

3. Seedlings are pricey. For a four-pack of six-week-old plants, you could pay $3, $4, $5, or more. For a decent seed-starting kit that could start 36, 72, or even 144 plants from seeds, you might pay $4 to $6. A few packages of seeds might cost another 4$ to $6. So, for $12 and minimal effort, you can start nearly 150 plants worth, conservatively, 75 cents apiece.

4. You harvested seeds last year. Harvesting seeds is amazingly satisfying: it provides a sense of continuity from one year to the next. What’s more, if you save seeds from last season’s crop, you don’t have to buy new seeds this season. I’m starting tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and several types of squash from seeds that grew in my small kitchen garden last year.

A garden center may not have facilities to “pot up” seedlings when the last frost is slow in coming. You may find tall, pot-bound plants are your only option when you choose commercial seedlings.

5. Nurseries may sell you trouble. In 2009, late blight destroyed gardens all over the northeastern United States. Disturbingly, the news media reported that late blight was present on tomato seedlings sold in garden departments of big-box stores. This was an unusual occurrence, but it illustrates true risk: when you buy seedlings, you can’t be sure whether they carry diseases or malicious insects.

6. It may be challenging to go organic. If it’s important to you to maintain a strictly organic regimen, you might not find appropriate seedlings at a garden center. Commercial growers may choose potting mixes that include slow-release fertilizers and other non-organic additives. Also, most commercial suppliers aren’t concerned about whether the seeds they start originate from suppliers who produce them organically. If you want to start from flats of organically-grown seedlings, call around now to be sure you’ll be able to buy them when you’re ready to plant.

Still, Commercial Seedlings Rock

For all but one of my gardening years, I bought flats of tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower at garden stores. I had a lot of reasons for this and I’ll share them in my next post. In all the years I bought flats, I was never disappointed: broccoli is broccoli, cauliflower is cauliflower, tomatoes are… well, no. The main reason I thought to start seeds myself was a feeling of deja vu I got each spring when selecting from five varieties of beefsteaks.  Last year was the first season I started my own seeds indoors and I’ll never go back.

If you’re planning to buy seedlings this season, do a little research now: locate gardening centers or nurseries in your area and ask whether they start their flats from seeds. If they don’t, at least try to find a store that buys seedlings from a local grower. The farther your baby plants have travelled on their way to your small kitchen garden, the more opportunity they’ve had to develop problems.

A few articles that mention flats of vegetables:

  • friday fill in #124. – 7. and as for the weekend, tonight i’m looking forward to going to the garden center with ms 12 & mr 9 to get our vegetable flats & maybe planting some of them – weather permitting, supposed to be scattered showers all weekend! tomorrow …
  • Vegetable flats behind our garage store | This Week – Here we see about 1/5 of this season’s vegetable flats as they’re getting ready to go out into beds for this summer. We seed flats continuously, and plant on a rotating basis to keep plenty of vegetables growing …

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

5 Responses to “Start Your Small Kitchen Garden from Commercial Flats?”

  • Ben:

    Starting seeds yourself is very satisfying!
    I’ve been trying to start seedlings this season, but unlike yourself I have been trying to keep mine cool and moist instead of warm. Hot temperatures have caused my seedlings to bolt to seed or just crisp up and die.

  • [...] more here: Initiation Y&#959&#965r Small Kitchen Garden fr&#959m Commercial Flats? | Y&#959&#965r … Share and [...]

  • I broke your rule last year — my 1st year — as a veggie gardener, and I found it very satisfying. But of course, I did make mistakes, started some things too early, others too late, etc. This year though I have the knowledge that I gained from getting in there and just trying.

    Last year I was pretty sure cabbage worms entered my garden via the cruciferous seedlings that I had purchased. (Of course, it’s hard to be certain – it’s just a hunch.) So this year I’m going to try starting everything from seed. The crucifers, greens, and tomatoes already are planted. They will spend a good part of the month of March under lights, but once the temps move up a little more, they will head out to my sun porch and my old station wagon, recently retired into a make-shift green house after a 16-year career hauling kids from place to place.

    The fact that stores carry seedlings too is reassuring, because I could always mess up. But I absolutely love starting from seed whenever I can.

  • admin:

    Cindy: No rules… just observations, suggestions, and encouragement. There are so many right ways to manage a garden. I regularly insist that I’m lazy, and that influences recommendations I make. I was very impressed with the energy you brought to your first ever kitchen garden last season, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things go for you this year what with lessons learned and all.

  • admin:

    Ben: Thanks for bringing this up. There is a fine line between “seed-starting warm” and “seedling-killing hot.” The flourescent lights I use are warm to the touch, but never hot, and leaves can lay against them for hours without drying out. Three-to-six inches below the lights, the temperature hovers in the seventies. People setting up seed-starting spaces should keep this in mind: incandescent bulbs put off a lot of heat. Put an incandescent bulb close enough to provide adequate light for a seedling, and heat from the bulb will probably cook the plant.

    Your point about moisture is also important. Ideally, I’d like the air around my seedlings to be humid, and I’ve considered wrapping plastic around the space above my seed-starting shelf to keep the humidity up. Still, as long as the temperature remains pleasant (70F to 80F degrees), watering to keep the soil moist should keep your seedlings happy.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe…

...in a reader:     

...via eMail:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

contests & sweeps for moms
Contests & Sweepstakes

 

Business Directory for Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Associations