With a simple $3 seed packet, you can grow some of your own vegetables all season long. What could be more gratifying than watching your seeds grow and then enjoying the “fruits” of your labour? Anyone can grow plants from seed, even if you live in an apartment.
Reuse what you have on hand
You don’t need to invest in all kinds of equipment just to give the experience a try. Disposable plastic containers from salad greens or rotisserie chicken make good greenhouses, with their attached lids. They’re perfect for starting cherry tomatoes, for instance, provided that you make air holes in the lid to control the humidity inside, and in the base to provide proper drainage. Egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and newspaper can be fashioned into creative little containers for your sunniest windowsill. If you can set them near a window facing south or southwest, the growing conditions will be ideal. Kale, basil, nasturtiums or pot marigolds are all good choices for starting your first plants from seed indoors.
Skip some steps with direct seeding
If you don’t get enough sun indoors, you can sow your seeds directly in outdoor containers or in the ground, starting in May. Reserve the sunniest spot on your balcony or in your garden for them. Free apps, like Sun Seeker and Sun Surveyor, can use the GPS data from your cellphone to tell you how many hours of sun you’ll get. Peas, beans, cucumbers and zucchini are good examples of vegetables you can plant from seed in full sun, while lettuce and other leafy greens (that you can cut with scissors) will also tolerate partial shade.
Choose your timing
Make sure to sow your seeds at the right time, by consulting a planting calendar like the one below. Some seeds should be started indoors in March, while others (spinach, arugula) can be sown in the ground right up until early October.
Your only expense, aside from the seeds, will be the soil to put them in. Good-quality organic seed starting mix will cost about $8 for enough to get you started. Follow the planting depth and spacing instructions on the seed packet. Keep your seeds moist, but not drenched, and warm under their plastic lid until tiny plantlets are clearly visible. Then they can tolerate slightly cooler temperatures.
Growing plants from seed is very gratifying. Try it for yourself and see. Start small, with one or two varieties. If you enjoy the experience, it might be worth investing in fluorescent lights and planting even more seeds next year. There’s no magic formula, but through trial and error you’ll see and taste the results of your efforts, as you watch tiny seeds grow into tasty vegetables!