With a seed packet costing three to five dollars, it’s possible to grow some of your own delicious vegetables. What could be more pleasing than watching your seeds grow and then enjoying the “fruits” of your labor? 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 ready-to-eat chicken make little greenhouses, with their attached lids. They’re perfect for starting cherry tomatoes, for instance, provided you make holes in the bottom to ensure drainage. Toilet paper rolls and newspaper, with a little creative folding, become containers for your sunniest windowsill. But don’t forget that, the smaller the container, the more restricted is space for root development and the faster will the soil dry out. A window facing south or southwest offers the best growing conditions. Better still, the addition of artificial lighting prevents seedlings from withering, especially when natural light is not ideal. Kale, basil, nasturtiums and calendula 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. Take the time to assess roughly how many hours of sunshine fall in different locations in order to choose the ones that correspond to the needs of your plants. It’s also possible to use free apps like Sun Seeker and Sun Surveyor, which will tell you how many hours of sun you’ll get based on the GPS data from your cellphone. 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 tailored to your region (consult our vegetable planting calendar for the Montreal region). Some seeds should be started indoors in March, while others (spinach, arugula) can be sown in the ground right up until early September.
If you’ve got a very sunny location, your only expense, aside from the seeds, will be the soil to put them in. Good-quality organic seed starting mix is the foundation for the project and costs about ten dollars for enough to get you started. Follow the instructions on the seed packet concerning the depth and spacing of the seeds. Keep your seeds moist (but not drenched) and warm under their plastic lid until tiny plantlets are clearly visible. Next you have to think about removing the dome after the seedlings germinate to ensure proper aeration and avoid too-high temperatures under the lid.
Growing plants from seed is extremely gratifying. Try it for yourself and see. Start small, with one or two vegetable 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!