You Don’t Have to Seed Start to Start a Garden

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Welcome, my friends. It’s another week in January, and the snow and tundra have returned. That’s what I like to think, which is what I love about winter. I love how it tucks us away and reminds us to be slow, present, and right here. Part of that is that we’re thinking about the gardens., which also means thinking about seed starting. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. I love seed starting. We’ve had these conversations before on the podcast about seed starting. We have a lot in the online community. If you are not a member, you can join at any time. Membership starts at $84 for three months, or you can choose any one of the other options that may fit you better if you would like to join annually.

Our beginner garden e-Courses is easy to work through on your schedule. We have a library of past events and teachings from me. Along with very quick lessons. We also have our downloads that are always being updated and added to; I’m updating them this week. Becoming a member has a lot of advantages on top of also having the opportunity to hang out with some really cool people. We talk about seasons. We talk about gardening. We talk about all this stuff. Plus, on top of that, I share my weekly meditations and reflections with the community and encourage the community to do the same. It’s great, especially if you want a break from social but still want to connect online with like-minded individuals. I hope you check it out.

Today, we’re talking specifically about why I actually don’t do a lot of seed starting anymore. And I talk about this sometimes in the community; the overarching conversation within the community lately has been a lot about this.

So I think continuing this conversation outside of the community is important because why is this a trend?  First, I want to step back and say that not everything can be directly sown. So what does direct sown mean? It means you’re taking a seed and putting it directly into the outside soil. The timing can be a little iffy. I won’t lie, but it is one of my preferred methods of getting plants into the ground. The most preferred is that the plant has reseeded itself, and I don’t have to do anything. The second is that it would be a start that’s already done, but I am no longer doing a significant amount of seed starting. It’s a ton of work, first of all. Also, I want to preface and say that many people we see on Instagram are farmers or grow at a farming level. And some people would think that I do, but I don’t actually grow at a farming level.

When you are a farmer, you have to seed start. There is no option. You won’t make money. So you have to do seed starts. So, so many of these farmers are doing that because then it allows them a unique opportunity in the market. There are so many reasons why they do it, and it saves money because they’re not buying those plants as starter plants. If they did, it wouldn’t be economical at all.

As home gardeners, most of us have no real reason to dive too deeply into seed starting. If you want to. You know, try a few varieties. Maybe there’s a flower you really want, and you found seeds for it, or there’s a tomato you really want. All of these things are perfect reasons to seed start. But once again, this does not have to be an immense operation.

For me, all I do is one shelf. With maybe four to five trays. And that’s it. There are so many ways to do it in such a compact way. If you’re in zone five, six, or four, it does help to jumpstart your season.

But, as I said, you don’t have to go that big. First of all, if you’re only managing four to six raised beds at most, maybe most of you are probably too, which is a lot of our members in our community. Going to your local farm or your farm market in the spring is not astronomical. And pick out your plants.

And what I love about this is it connects you directly with a farmer. These farmers know these plants are additional plants, and it’s also a wonderful way to give them an early amount of funding at the beginning of their season. And you’re going to get a deal on them compared to larger nurseries, especially regarding perennial herbs and flowers.

This isn’t a popular opinion, but to me, seed starting is the fastest way to burn yourself out as a home gardener. I know, it sounds funny unless you really love science and keeping track of everything. If you’re a busy person and you have a full-time job, you’re also maybe a parent. Maybe you’re retired, and you maybe are still working a full-time job and not yet retired. Whatever it may be, seed starting can be rewarding, but it can also be an immense amount of work that isn’t necessary. And I think that so many people see things on Instagram and social media, or we look at seed catalogs full of these beautiful things. I love that. But I also think that we have to be able to step back and say, what is my season? Where am I in life right now? And what is my goal here?

If you’re like me in the garden, my goal isn’t necessarily to solely feed our family. That’s a really great bonus. We do not solely feed ourselves out of our garden, in the summer. We’re close to doing it sometimes, but I am incredibly thankful for having so many small and local farms that I don’t have to worry about this.I don’t hold that homestead mindset. I don’t have that mindset with our garden, which is rare I feel like as a gardener these days.

My goal is for our children to experience firsthand what and where their food comes from. To see what happens when you work hard, take care of the earth, each other, our bodies, we do it out of love and care and tenderness and awareness. That’s why I garden. It is a huge bonus that they also, and I, get to enjoy what a fresh tomato tastes like straight off the vine that we have grown from a seedling or sometimes the seed. It’s also a huge asset that we harvest bowls full of raspberries from August to November. And my kids then go to the grocery store, begging me to get them at the grocery store and then we eat them and they say, gosh, these don’t taste nearly as good. Because they don’t. And it’s huge it’s. It’s very a positive outcome of the other goals that I have. So I say that when we’re thinking about whether I seed start? Should I be doing this? The answer is going to come from you. Is this the right time for you? Does this align with why you’re growing a garden? If you’re growing a garden because of you want a homestead, and you want to produce food? Maybe your kids are at home with you, and you’re doing homeschooling, and you want to teach them how to grow a garden from. Maybe you’re just a really curious person. Those are reasons to seed start, and the other reason would be that you want maybe a couple of varieties and you want to try them. But I say, hold it very loosely. Because there is a good chance that, especially if you’re a beginner or even if you’re not it may not work out. 

Many people think seed starting will save you money as a home gardener, but that isn’t necessarily the truth. In some ways it may be financially advantageous at scale, but it’s still on the edge.

Anyways. What I’m getting at is that it can be a lot of money, even with a simple, simple setup. Your light is one light that will cost you 25 to $35. Some say you can if you have the right sunlight from a south-facing window, particularly Southwest, and you put aluminum foil around it so that you can get away with it.

I think that that might work, but you still don’t get the heat. And so you still need a heat mat. Even in a house that sits at 65 to 72 degrees. It may not. The soil may not be warm enough. To actually germinate, those plants. And then you need the covers. You need the trays, and you need containers.  Then you need the soil which can be costly as well.  It will have a lot of nutrients because we’ve got to encourage these things to start off on the right foot. So you can’t just like seed start in some some cocoa coir. It all starts adding up and it can expensive.

I think. That. That’s okay. Like so many people feel like, okay, well I can’t see the start. So this is going to be too expensive. But I really, really would say that it’s not; you go to the farmer’s market. You may find that it is not. And those farmers are going to really appreciate that too. So if you’re already saying.

I will seed start because the seed packets are only $3 apiece. Make sure to price out everything else you’ll need along the way. And. Then think about it. Will those plants be any cheaper than $3 a piece once they get into the ground?

That’s the real question.

What I’m getting at here is that I don’t want people to feel so overwhelmed with seed starting that they don’t begin. I want you to feel like you win. I want you to feel really good in this process and I know that that comes best when you buy healthy plants starting from a local farm.

If you do start seed and you don’t have success do not write it all off. Do not write off gardening in general because that may mean nothing. If you’re not good at growing plants from seed indoors.

So joining the community will be great because it will be really fun. So you could join just for that three months, which is $84, and get access to it. All of this, including the beginner gardener course, the intensive is four weeks in February. With replays of the videos and homework, it is a community-driven experience. It is going to be a lot of fun!

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Hello! I’m Megan Gilger,

A strong believer that nature and the seasons are our greatest teachers. We live on a hill in Leelanau County, Michigan just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. This land we are responsible for is where we are focused on building a life around the seasons and intention. We spend our days here building a regenerative model of living and focusing our garden on native plants and intensive polyculture planting styles. My focus is less on self-sufficiency and more on community-sufficiency through how we grow and connect through the seasons.
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