4 Ways To Grow Seeds Like a Boss Gardener

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ways to grow seeds like a boxx

You cover seeds in your garden with soil, you water them, they should sprout and grow, right? Well, sometimes it is that easy (snapdragons, sunflowers and sweet peas, I’m looking at you.)

However, there are some steps we can take as nurturing gardeners to give our seeds the best chance at a good long life. There are 4 ways to grow seeds that I can see.

Why You Should Think About Growing From Seed

I’ve become very focused on starting perennials and annuals through seeds. I’ve also found that it isn’t necessary to buy potted plants (usually in their second year of growth) at $20 a pop. I think you’re really paying for the plant’s rent and upkeep, not really the plant itself.

Also, there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching your seeds germinate, sprout, grow up, grow out, flower and fruit! Then, harvesting the plant’s seeds to continue the plant’s company in your garden continuously? *Getting teary* Just magnificent!

The following four pictures show the life cycle of my hollyhocks. From sprouting in seedling cups in a mini-greenhouse, to planting the seedlings into the garden bed, then seeing them mature in the spring and reach seven feet in height in the middle of summer! I’m currently collecting its seed pods to save for next season!

4 ways to grow seeds
Hollyhock seedlings emerging early spring
growing hollyhocks from seeds planting in garden
Seedlings hardened off, planted in bed
growing hollyhock seeds mature bush
Hollyhock maturing into a strong plant
home grown hollyhock seeds getting tall
Tower of blooms in mid-summer!

Each method has its advantages based on the plant type, local climate, and gardener’s preferences. Direct sowing can be simpler and more in tune with natural cycles, while indoor seed starting allows for precise control and a head start on the growing season.

Direct Sowing Outdoors:

Direct sowing is when you plant the seeds in your garden right where they will live. For wildflowers and most perennials, seeds can be sown directly in the fall. This gives the seeds time to “cold stratify” in-ground over the cooler months.

Cold Stratification: Direct Fall Planting

cold stratifying directly in the garden in fall

Directly sowing the perennial seeds outdoors in the fall means that the new plants have a better chance of flowering and developing the following spring.

Hollyhocks, Cone Flower, Dianthus and Milkweed are likely best grown this way;.

Direct Spring Planting

direct planting seeds in spring

Annual seeds do not require cold stratification. For annuals, direct sowing can be done a few weeks after the last threat of frost has passed.

Sweet Peas, Sunflowers, Alyssum, and Snapdragons are best planted this way.

Now, some annual seeds can germinate, sprout, and grow quite healthy if they do spend the cooler months in the soil – I think we all have examples of mystery flowers blooming where we didn’t recently plant them. Just this summer, some sweet peas, pumpkins, and snap dragons have just shown up, leaving me scratching my head how long ago their seeds have been dormant.

Indoor Seed Starting:

Indoor seed starting offers more control over germination conditions and allows for an early start to the growing season. Using mini or full-sized greenhouses provides a stable environment with consistent temperature and humidity levels, giving seeds a better chance to germinate successfully. It’s especially beneficial for plants that require a longer growing season or tender varieties that might not withstand outdoor conditions until they’re stronger.

Cold Stratification: Get an early start

cold stratification indoors seedlings

Many perennials and wildflowers require some time in cold weather before their seeds will germinate. Place these kinds of seeds in the refrigerator for at least 30 days before you intend to sowing in seedling containers. The exterior of the seeds need to be exposed to cold to crack, and some simply require this cold-before-the-warmth to trigger that it’s time to grow!

Regular early spring seed starting

regular indoor early spring seed starting

This requires starting seedlings in seedling cups about 4 – 6 weeks before you intend to bring them outside and plant in their permanent location in the garden.

I like to start a lot of my annuals this way, like Snapdragons, Godetia, and Stocks. And, perennials can be started this way, but know that without cold stratifying perennials, their first year growth won’t be terribly impressive. You probably won’t see perennials bloom the first year.

Ways to Grow Seeds: Direct Sowing Best Practices

Sowing seeds directly into the garden soil is a natural and often simpler approach. It works well for seeds that have specific requirements for cold stratification (exposure to winter temperatures) to break dormancy. Some seeds, like wildflowers, naturally disperse and germinate outdoors, mimicking nature’s cycle. This method is excellent for plants that are hardy and can withstand outdoor conditions.

Sowing seeds directly in the spring time is also how you’d plant annual plants and flowers. Since you plant the annual’s seeds after all threat of frost has passed, the larger concern regarding young seedlings’ well-being is pest control – slugs, snails, and critters that might feast on tender plants.

Ways to Grow Seeds: Sprouting Indoors Best Practices

Perennials and wildflowers have slightly different requirements than annuals (be it flowers or vegetables.) Annuals can move directly to Step 2 below!

  1. Cold Stratification (perennials/wildflowers only): Your seeds need a touch of winter. Pop them into an airtight container or baggie, then nestle them in a dark, chilly, and dry nook. The refrigerator is your seed’s favorite winter retreat. Most seeds should hibernate like this for at least 30 days, soaking in this chilly environment. It mimics the seeds being outdoors through the winter.
  2. Emerging from Chill: After their refrigerator hibernation, your perennial and wildflower seeds are ready for their next act. Time to move them to seedling cups! You’ve got options: get some readymade seedling cups or give recycled containers a second life. For the crafty and frugal, you can fashion seedling cups from newspaper with the help of the base of a small glass jar. Wet the paper, form around the glass jar, allow to dry.
  3. A Mini Greenhouse Haven: Here’s a pro tip: mini greenhouses are the magic ticket to flourishing seedlings. If nighttime temps flirt with freezing, introduce a gentle heat source. Utilize small lamps with halogen bulbs, set to light via a timer. Alternatively, brighten things up with grow lights if sunlight’s a bit scarce.

What to Do Next?

The potential of life in a tiny seed is really a wonder of nature. I’ll never be called a Pollyanna, nor am I spiritual, but the power of seeds, sun, and water is unmatched. If you’re encouraged to give seed planting a try, I’d recommend starting on some tried-and-true strong growers, like Sweet Peas, Nasturtiums, California Poppies, or Petunias.

Speaking of tried-and-true strong growing:

Shop My Personal Seed Store!

Visit My Webstore Now!

buy hand harvested seeds from home gardener grower

My seed shop is now open! Currently available are

  • Tall Shasta Daisies
  • Dianthus (“Sweet William”)
  • Hollyhocks
  • Gaillardia “Blanket Flower”
  • Swamp Milkweed

I’ve grown most of these beauties for a few seasons now, and hand harvest their seeds.

I’ll add more plants and flowers as I grow them successfully. Coming: Rucbeckia, Anise Hyssop, Columbine, Dusty Miller, Lupines…

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Author

After years of denying it, Donald finally admits one passion in life is gardening. More specifically: growing seeds, plants, flowers and edibles and helping them to be the best possible. Neighbors call him a Green Thumb. He lives in Western Washington with his wife of 24+ years and three cats.

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