Whew, it has been one eventful growing season over here! 2020 brought a lot of new gardening challenges, chief among them was my quest to grow from seed. As a general novice in this gardening field, I decided to dive right in this spring by starting a bunch of seeds indoors. Mainly because I was really jonesing to plant something, but also because gardening social media was chock full of seed starting posts. I had some successes & a few failures, but more importantly, I learned a ton. Now, it’s my turn to teach you what I’ve learned in the hopes that you’ll get a leg up in your own growing from seeds adventures.
Growing Vegetables from Seed
Back in the spring, I had big plans to buy a bunch of vegetable seeds, but that didn’t pan out. The pandemic changed a lot of plans for me this year, especially my gardening plans. I ended up only purchasing snow peas & green dragon cucumber seeds, as far as veggie seeds were concerned. Luckily for me, they turned out to be some of my best seed purchases. There’s just something so special about eating veggies that you not only grew yourself but also that you grew from seed yourself. It’s downright magical, people.
The snow peas were the first seeds that I planted in the spring, since they thrive in cooler weather. Seeing as how I had never even grown peas before, I wasn’t sure if it would pan out. A few days later I got my answer because every single pea seed that I planted sprouted! Soon they grew up & out, flowered & boom, I suddenly had a bunch of peas. They grew fast & plentiful. I harvested handfuls of peapods every day until mid-summer when the plants couldn’t take the heat anymore & retired. I ended up planting a round of pea seeds in the fall too, including peas that I harvested & saved from my summer crop. All of these seeds sprouted too, making for a 100% germination rate. So far, they have grown strong too. The plants have a bunch of flowers & a few tiny pea pods, but it remains to be seen if I’ll be able to get a significant harvest out of them before winter comes knocking.
Pumpkins are my thing. I love them, but I haven’t had the best luck with growing them. I saved a few seeds from pumpkins that I bought last year & planted them in two different areas of my garden this year. The vines grew huge & quickly overtook the flower bed that I planted them in. I was hopeful that this meant that I would get a ton of pumpkins from the plants. However, that was not to be & I only ended up with one pumpkin. But boy, I am more proud of that pumpkin than anything else that I have ever grown. I had to pick it early while it was still green because the cold nights would have taken it. Thankfully, I have been able to successfully ripen it near a sunny window the past few weeks. My goal was to make a fresh pumpkin pie out of a homegrown pumpkin for Thanksgiving & that looks like it will happen now.
Next up are the cucumber seeds that I planted in May. Now, we’re big cucumber fans over here & I have no problem eating a cucumber a day. Therefore, I was a little apprehensive about only growing cucumbers from seed considering that I had never grown them from seed before. Because of that, I ended up buying & planting a cucumber plant just incase the seeds didn’t take. Turns out that was completely unnecessary since the cucumber plants that I started from seed caught up to the store-bought cucumber plant in record time. Needless to say, I was cucumber wealthy this summer. I tried planting the seeds again in late summer, but a couple of early chilly nights zapped the sprouts. Even with that happening, I have made the executive decision to only grow cucumbers from seed from now on. That’s how successful it was for me. Out of all of the veggies that I grew from seed, cucumbers are the ones that I recommend hands down.
Growing Tomatoes from Seed
With that segway, my grown-from-seed tomatoes didn’t fare so well. I had big dreams of growing a bunch of brandywine tomatoes. I even decided to experiment with different methods of seed starting & recorded my journey with a series of articles about it. Alas, it didn’t work out the way that I planned. For the most part, I had no problem with the seeds sprouting, but the plants themselves struggled to mature & produce tomatoes. Only one of the four tomato plants that I grew from seed produced tomatoes & said plant only grew three tomatoes. I assume it’s because they didn’t get enough sun since they were crowded by tomato plants that I bought from the store. But I’m not sure. I still plan on planting tomatoes from seed next year though. I even went as far as harvesting seeds from tomatoes that I grew this summer so that I can plant them in the spring. Let’s hope that they’ll fare better!
Growing Flowers from Seed
Flower seeds gave me both the biggest successes & biggest failures this year. I started a bunch of gazania & impatiens seeds indoors this year. Nearly all of them sprouted & then nearly all of them shortly died. Out of all of the seeds that I started, only two impatiens seedlings ended up growing to maturity. But boy howdy, those two seedlings grew into the most massive impatiens that I have ever seen. We had a pot full of red impatiens all season long that brightened up our patio. I have grown a lot of impatiens before, but none of them have ever thrived like those strawberry impatiens. When I finally removed them a few weeks ago, the stems had grown so large that they resembled the trunk of a shrub!
I ended up growing celosia flowers from seeds that I accidentally ended up saving from last year’s crop. Like I said in my tutorial on how to dry celosias, I had originally intended on drying last year’s flowers to use in Christmas arrangements, but I ended up harvesting them too late. They dried a crispy brown instead of a brilliant deep red as a result. I left them hanging in my garage & moved on with life until the seed starting bug got to me. I figured it was worth trying to harvest their seeds & plant them. I’m glad that I did because even though they were slow growers, they more than made up for it with their stunning color show.
Marigold seeds were the last seeds that I planted in the spring. I ended up planting them mere hours before a downpour of rain, so I wasn’t quite sure how they would turn out. It took awhile for them to sprout, to the point where I thought that none of them would grow. This made me mighty nervous since it’s a tradition of mine to grow marigolds. They were my grandma’s favorite flower & I always make sure to plant them in her honor. Thankfully, they did eventually sprout & once they got going they really got to growing. I’m telling you, these marigolds grew like no marigolds that I have ever grown before. I usually end up with marigold plants that have a few flowers each, but these marigolds grew into straight-up bushes full of flowers. You bet your biddy that I saved their seeds, so I can grow them again next year. I will never purchase a marigold plant ever again! No surprise here, marigolds are also the flowers that I recommend growing from seed.
All in all, growing from seed was one heck of a journey. Sure, I would have loved it if every seed that I planted thrived, but I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the plants that did thrive as much too. The way I figure it, the failures that I had this year will just make my gardening adventures even more successful next year. I am already planning on growing a ton of melons & pumpkins next year. I also plan on leaning hard into the winter sowing method, even though that method was certainly a rollercoaster for me this year. After all, gardening is a bunch of trial & error, that’s what makes it so much fun! Happy gardening, everyone!