This Monday, May 4, 2015 photo shows pea plant seedlings on display in New Paltz, N.Y. A lot of "six-packs" of pea transplants would be needed for a row of peas, so just plant seeds instead. (Lee Reich via AP)

This Monday, May 4, 2015 photo shows pea plant seedlings on display in New Paltz, N.Y. A lot of "six-packs" of pea transplants would be needed for a row of peas, so just plant seeds instead. (Lee Reich via AP)

Believe in seeds: They’ll expand your gardening horizons

“Plant seeds” may seem like an inane suggestion for a gardening column. But I’m serious. More and more people who garden these days put plants rather than seeds into the ground.

In the old days, the arrival of warm weather would have us all dropping bean, beet, marigold and zinnia seeds into moist soil, then eagerly waiting for those first green sprouts. Go into any garden center these days, though, and you can buy “cell packs” of robust bean, beet, marigold and zinnia plants. And these are what many folks are planting.

Buying transplants does, of course, give you a jump on the season. You’ll taste your first beans and smell your first marigolds sooner if you set out plants that were jump started in a greenhouse. And many annuals — tomatoes, peppers, impatiens and pansies, to name a few — must have growth well underway in spring if they are going to put on a reasonable performance in summer. But a lot of plants — including nasturtiums, bachelor buttons, corn and peas — don’t really need that jump start.

The main reason fewer people plant seeds these days is, I think, more serious: a lack of faith. People have trouble believing that dry, apparently lifeless specks the size of a comma or this letter “o’’ will grow into fat, juicy carrot roots or 6-foot-high hollyhock towers.

Once you have the faith and plant seeds, however, you reap practical benefits. Most obviously, seeds are cheap. For the same price as a single delphinium plant you could buy enough seeds to create a garden full of delphiniums. Most flowers look better planted in abundance anyway.

With some vegetables, it’s just not practical to grow transplants. Beans, for instance: At the recommended spacing of 2 inches apart, a modest, 10-foot row of beans would require about 60 plants, which is hardly a packet of bean seeds. So a cell pack of six bean plants, even a few cell packs, won’t put many beans on your plate.

Another plus for planting seeds is the much greater selection offered. Rather than planting Tendercrop, the one bean variety you might find as transplants, you could plant seeds of Blue Lake or Kentucky Wonder or any one of a number of other, better varieties available from the same establishment that sells you the transplants.

Connecticut Yankee is the delphinium variety that you’ll probably find potted up, and plants might be white, lavender or blue. If you wanted only white delphiniums, sow a packet of Galahad seeds; for only dark blue flowers, sow a packet of Black Knight.

By circumventing that seed-sowing step, you miss out on one of the great things about gardening. As wondrous as gardening is, it is more so when you see a seed sprout.

So how do you get the faith that plants will grow from seed? Realize, first of all, that over 3 million years of evolution — the amount of time seed plants have been around — have been geared to making seeds better and better at sprouting. If that doesn’t convince you, then just plant extra seeds wherever you want plants. Seeds are cheap, and you can remove excess plants once they’re all up and growing.

Success is further assured by starting with good seeds, planting them in soil that is moist and well aerated, and timing your plantings accordingly.

Most of the seeds that gardeners grow — or used to grow — are of vegetables, and annual or perennial flowers. Once you believe in seeds, there’s no reason not to set your sights higher.

A few years ago, in fall, I dropped some pea-size seeds into soil in flower pots. When the plants were a couple of feet high, I transplanted them into the ground, and those plants are now about 7 feet tall.

These sprites will one day become full-size black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) trees, soaring over 50 feet tall, with leaves that are among the first to color up — to an intense scarlet — in fall. And all from seeds!

More in Life

Frenchy Vian, who posed for many photographs of himself, was acknowledged as a skilled hunter. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 2

In fact, Frenchy’s last name wasn’t even Vian; it was Viani, and he and the rest of his immediate family were pure Italian

File
Minister’s Message: Share God’s love even amidst disagreement

We as a society have been overcome by reactive emotions, making us slow to reflect and quick to speak/act and it is hurting one another

This image shows the cover of Juneau poet Emily Wall’s new book “Breaking Into Air.” The book details a wide array of different birth stories. (Courtesy Photo)
A book is born: Juneau author releases poetry book portraying the many faces of childbirth

It details “the incredible power of women, and their partners”

Lemongrass chicken skewers are best made on a grill, but can be made in the oven. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion
On the strawberry patch: Tangling with waves

Lemon grass chicken skewers top off a day in the surf

This photo of Frenchy with a freshly killed black bear was taken on the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 1

The stories were full of high adventure — whaling, mining, polar bear hunting, extensive travel, and the accumulation of wealth

File
Seeing God’s hand in this grand and glorious creation

The same God of creation is the God that made me and you with the same thoughtfulness of design, purpose and intention

Chewy and sweet the macaroons are done in 30 minutes flat. (Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Sophisticated, simplified

When macarons are too complicated, make these delicious, simple macaroons

Michael S. Lockett / capital city weekly
Gigi Monroe welcomes guests to Glitz at Centennial Hall, a major annual drag event celebrated every Pride Month, on June 18.
Packed houses, back to back: GLITZ a roaring success

Sold-out sets and heavy-hitting headliners

Michael Armstrong / Homer News 
Music lovers dance to Nervis Rex at the KBBI Concert on the Lawn on July 28, 2012, at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer.
Concert on the Lawn returns

COTL line up includes The English Bay Band, a group that played in 1980

Marcia and Mary Alice Grainge pose in 1980 with a pair of caribou antlers they found in 1972. The sisters dug the antlers from deep snow and detached them from a dead caribou. (Photo provided by Marcia Grainge King)
Fortune and misfortune on the Kenai — Part 2

In Kasilof, and on Kachemak Bay, in Seldovia and later in Unga, Petersen worked various jobs before being appointed deputy marshal in 1934