Growing plants from seed is an addiction without a cure

By 
Erin Schanen

 

They say that the first step to working through an addiction is admitting that you have a problem. So I’m fessing up — I am addicted to growing plants from seed.

I don’t even know how I got here. Not too long ago I wondered why anyone would bother growing plants from seed when you could just go out and buy them without having to do any of the hard work. And then somewhere along the way I thought I’d try to grow a few sweet peas, which need to be started inside for our short gardening season and are nearly impossible to find at garden centers.

Fast forward not too far to today, when I own five (soon to be six) grow lights plus a collection of seed-starting equipment including heat mats, soil blockers, a large selection of plant trays and several humidity domes. A spreadsheet listing everything that will be started by seed tells me when and how to plant it all, and in a couple months I’ll be making multiple trips a day to the mad scientist’s laboratory in the basement.

But here’s the thing ­— I’m not really looking forward to it. Sure, it’s a way to scratch the gardening itch at a time when there’s nothing to be done outside, but the work continues well into the real gardening season when all those seedlings continue to need attention.

And yet I continue to do it. Certainly a big part of the attraction is that I save a lot of money growing plants from seed, even after you factor in all the paraphernalia I’ve invested in. And I’m able to grow varieties I’d never be able to buy, like six types of Nicotiana that I plan to grow this year.

Seed starting on the scale of what I now do is all encompassing. Going on vacation when seedlings are really growing requires hiring a plant sitter along with a dog sitter, and if you find a hero who can do both, never let them go.

There is a benefit to this negativity, which I assume, based on past experience, won’t change the trajectory of my seed-starting plan. I’m far less likely to make one of the most common seed-starting mistakes — starting too early. Once you have a plant growing, you have to keep it moving or risk setting its progress back.

Plants are a bit like trains, once they build momentum they want to keep moving. If they have to slow down, say, because they are trapped in pot that’s too small or lack for nutrients, everything comes to a halt and getting them going again takes a long time.

That’s why it’s best to start seeds at the right time, by counting back from the last estimated frost date for your zip code (typically in the first couple weeks of May in our area), allowing for the growing time listed on the package.

That gives me some time to get excited about it again. But, even if I don’t, I know I’ll end up with hundreds of small plants emerging from the basement come May, because this is one habit I just can’t quit.

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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