Because if there was a seed-growing test at garden school I failed out for sure.
Seeds are so….fussy. They might sprout, mine typically do, but then if I forget to keep them moist for even one day, pau. They are done. And don’t even think about putting those tiny little things directly into the garden: it is survival of the fittest at our house.
(Though when I do put them in the garden, I use this old picnic cover to protect them until they are bigger.)
There are some real advantages though, if you have the patience for seeds. They are cheap, and you can often find rare or “heirloom” varieties that are not going to be available in live plants.
There are other advantages to seeds too. You might not find live plants that are actually suited to your climate zone, as is often the case for me. I have to look for local seed companies that sell varieties that will actually grow here.
While live plants give me that instant gratification, there might also be lingering disease, fungus or viruses in those plants that you’ve just brought home and cozied up to all your healthy ones. Doing a thorough check of each plant can prevent many contaminants from being brought home with you. If the plants aren’t too wet, pull them out and check roots too- you will find evidence of root rot more than you would like to think. (This tomato has a problem. It is probably Tomato Rust, a common fungus problem, but it could be a bacteria or virus. I’m not bringing this one home.)
So what to do? Well, I do both. Some varieties of plants that are hard to find that grow well here, I get the seeds from Cooperative Extension service and sprout them. Bell peppers, lettuce and heat-resistant broccoli are being sprouted right now.
For other things, I get the live plants. Most herbs are easy, and my favorite garden centers carry live plants that grow well here (virus, heat, bacteria resistant varieties). And this is how a gardener stays balanced: forcing the patience needed to tend to those little seedlings with the instant happiness that comes with putting live plants in the soil.
Breathing in the fragrance of live basil or lavender can help even the most impatient of gardeners feel a bit more centered.