Wise seed choices for novice gardeners
Garden seed suppliers are reporting an extremely high surge of seed orders. In many cases shipments are being delayed due this unprecedented demand.
This tells me there’s going to be a lot of vegetable gardeners this year. Many will have little or no gardening experience.
Some of those folks may be buying seeds that will never be planted, or if planted, may never produce a crop.It may sound silly to experienced gardeners, but not everyone knows that a tomato seed planted directly into the soil in Michigan will most likely never produce a tomato. Generally, our growing season is too short. That of course can vary from season to season.
Instead, tomatoes and other long-season plants normally are sown indoors and later transplanted into the garden. I’m afraid many long-season seeds will be purchased and never properly planted causing a seed shortage for those who know better.
Conversely, other vegetable crops do better if they are seeded directly into garden soil. For example, I’ve seen many novice gardeners purchase flats of plants like corn or beans started in the greenhouse. Then are transplanted into the garden. Not only is that the most expensive way to grow those types of crops, but the transplanting process itself can adversely affect plant growth for the life of the plant in some cases.
Common vegetable plants that must be started indoors include: tomato, pepper, eggplant, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and early crop kale. All of these must be started inside soon -- I mean like right now -- in order to be ready to transplant into the garden in a timely manner, usually around mid-May in southeastern Michigan.
Vegetable seeds that can be planted directly in the garden soil include: beans, beet, carrots, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, squash, peas, pumpkin, radish, rutabaga, spinach, turnips and watermelons.
There are some exceptions to these general categories.
Some crops, such as cabbage or kale, can be sown into the garden for harvesting at the end of the season. This is good to keep in mind if you want a fall crop. Kale, for example, can be left in the garden until December, whenever there's a mild winter. Cucumbers, melons and squash are quite often started indoors for transplanting later. Beets can be started inside too. I'll often start spinach indoors, as well. Iceberg and bib lettuce is also grown from transplants started indoors.
Sweet potatoes are grown from small plant cuttings called “slips.” Slips are generally purchased at a garden center then planted into the garden after the soil warms up.
Regular potatoes are planted using seed potatoes which are not seeds at all. They’re small potato tubers that are cut to size and placed directly into the ground.
The moral of the story is to carefully read the seed description before purchasing and decide if you will be able use the seed in your garden.