by Sandy Swegel
Gardening can be frustrating for people who hate to wait. It’s not easy to speed Mother Nature along, so on a fine warm day, we find ourselves at the garden centers spending a lot of money on bedding plants or transplants. Seed lovers know that is not always a good use of money. Sure, if you didn’t start long season plants like tomatoes, it makes sense to buy a plant because you want lots of tomatoes soon, but here are some crazy plant starts I saw for sale this weekend:
Lettuce starts. Once the weather is warmer lettuce seeds will be growing in two or three days from seed.
Chard and kale starts. One grower was selling weak-stemmed red chard starts for $3. Sure they were organic, but you could buy an entire bunch of organic kale for less than that.
Bean starts. Beans germinate so easily that they are a reliable seed for kids to germinate for science projects.
Cucumber plants. Another seed that comes up so easily all on its own.
Zucchini. Another plant that germinates quickly and then grows a foot when your back is turned. It doesn’t need a head start.
Pre-sprout your seeds if you’re in a hurry. If you’ve soaked peas overnight before planting, you’re already half-way to pre-sprouting your seed. Take any seed and soak it overnight in water. Then pour the damp seeds onto a paper towel or coffee filter and put in a baggie or put a plastic lid over it. As soon as you see the first white roots coming out, you can (gently) plant them in your garden. This works great for slow germinators like carrots, or old seeds. My neighbor pre-sprouts all the big seeds like corn, beans and cucumber. She wants an orderly garden without having to do a lot of thinning…so when she puts pre-sprouted seeds every three inches….she knows that exactly where plants will come up. This saves time thinning too.
Pre-sprouting doesn’t save me from spending some money on garden center plants. Besides tomatoes, I sometimes buy a winter squash that takes a long time to grow to maturity. And I can rarely resist buying some flowering plants in bloom. Little yellow marigolds and hot pink dianthus in full bloom are making my garden a happy place.