Spring Gardens: Seeds or Saplings?

A spring-garden report from Bob Beck, our gardening expert at Waverly Ace Hardware:

Germinating Seeds

Wow! Just the other day I went home and thought I had wandered into an alien land. There, before my eyes was green grass and well, MUD. Just when I thought we would have snow and ice in our gardens through Memorial Day, the longer and warmer days gave us a welcome and much-needed gift.

Spring is my favorite season. It’s not only a time to clean up last season’s remnants and winter’s drama and trauma, it’s a time to look ahead to this year’s garden, both vegetable and ornamental. Consider what vegetables provided the best crops as well as the ones that didn’t work out as well last year. For your flower garden, did the color scheme you chose for the front yard work or did the neighbors point and laugh? Use these mental notes to formulate a plan for this year.

If you’re starting from seed, the time to germinate is now. But before you bust through your favorite local hardware store’s door to stock up on arugala and heirloom tomato seed packets from Renee’s Garden, ask yourself a few questions:

1. How many plants of each variety will you need? If you have a small plot, you may not be able to squeeze in too many.

2. Will the quantity required warrant the cost of seeds,  supplies, and the time involved? (Meaning, if you don’t have enough space to plant the number of saplings that will result from the seeds that you germinate, then buying the saplings is a better route.)

3. Will any varieties be available locally?

Unless you choose hard-to-find varieties or those with specific growth habits to fit your needs, you can find garden-ready plants for sale at the proper planting time. Farmer’s markets are always a good bet.  If you only need two or three plants of a given variety, purchasing the plants instead of planting seeds makes more sense.

For those intent on germinating, start a collective with gardening friends and neighbors share and trade  their extra seedlings. If this is the case, group planning is key. After all, it could be a long, boring season everyone decides to grow yellow marigolds and red salvia. 

Groups of gardeners can also share ideas about the successes and failures of their gardens, likes and dislikes, and in general, what it is that makes their gardens grow. Also, keep a gardening diary to record as many details of every activity, chore, etc. as you can. Next spring, when you begin the planning process, the notes you thought meaningless when written could prove to be valuable. It’s all about the nuances in gardening.

Essential garden reading (includes illustrations!): The Gardener’s Year – Karel Capek


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