Melissa had a ton of comments and  questions about my post on perennials from seed, and a  short reply, twitter or tweet just won’t do.  Seeds are complicated.  Sorry.  I love that Melissa is jumping in with both feet–dabbling in  one of the aspects of gardening I enjoy most– but books have been written on seed starting.  After all–It’s the sheer variety of seeds that makes them so very cool–

On the other hand–my very first gardening success at the age of 8 was with seeds.  Simple–but complicated.  Does that make any sense?

First–as Melissa says, it is easy to get out of control with seeds.  After all–they are little miracles.  But no one ever went to prison or lost the family farm buying flower and vegetable seeds.  It is a small fault.  If they put on my tombstone–“She was a Sucker for Seeds” I will be happy.  It is a nice place to lose your heart.  I do overspend each winter–but less than the price of a single pair of shoes.  Besides, seeds are very American.  When our forefathers first came to this country–among their most precious cargo–seeds from home. 

So honor your ancestors.  Respect your seeds.  When the packages arrive, at least read the back.  Some have standard gain-of salt printing but many seed packs come with good info–like days to germination, height, annual or perennial.  Look for the words or letters, HA for Hardy Annual, HHA for Half hardy annual or HP for hardy perennial.  That will give you a clue about Melissa’s question, “What seeds do you start outside, and what do you start inside under lights?”. 

Rule one–anything that says HA for Hardy Annual needs to be started outside in winter.  Hardy Annuals are the great secrets of the South.  We can grow English flowers like Larkspur, Sweet Peas, and wonderful Shirley Poppies  if we start them outside in the fall.  These plants don’t like hot weather and hate transplanting…which leads to another seed subject–transplant shock.  Sounds terrible and it can be for fast growing annuals like Zinnias, Cosmos and Marigold.  These HHA will always do better is if they are sown in the ground where they are to grow once the weather warms up.  Sounds really simple, doesn’t it?  But,  unless you have a field for cut flowers, do you want weeks of bare space in your garden?  I compromise, growing Zinnia and Marigolds  in big pots outdoors until they are presentable, them putting them in the garden and treating them really nice. 

I use Professional Growers Medium for all my seed starting.  I buy this at a quality nursery or Seed and Feed Store (Big Bloomers, Campbell Road Nursery, or Stone Brother and Byrd in Durham).  Stay away from cheap potting soil–“Moisture Mix” and “Feeds for 6 Months” blends.   Get your professional potting mix moist before you start–then bottom water when the surface is dry.  And mix a tiny bit of Peter’s or other water-soluble plant food  in the water.  Your seedlings need a little food–too much will make them spindly.  But that is another post–“Spindly seedlings and how to avoid them”.  I’m out of time and words.  Just remember–experience is a great teacher with seeds.  Melissa is doing the right thing–jump in and give them a try. 

So what about you?  Any seed hints or big successes to share?