All things SEEDS!

Winter can definitely feel like the hardest time of the year for the gardener. We go from spending hours a day outdoors to being stuck inside for a week straight due to the wind chill! There is a bright spot, though, to the long winter months. Planning for the upcoming garden season! 

Around the end of December seed catalogs begin to fill our mailboxes. At this point, the garden overwhelm of August is in the past and we are eagerly awaiting the first fresh morsels of spring. We have since forgotten that we planted far too many cucumber plants, and begin to read again about fun plants like tatsoi and mizuna. 


Seeds are such a fun way to prepare for spring for several reasons.
  1. They're relatively inexpensive. Your family can plant a packet of cosmos for under $5 and enjoy whatever sprouts. 
  2. It's educational. As a teacher, I've done mini units with students where we planted a sunflower seed in a cup. The amount of interest from our students was so encouraging! They loved the responsibility of watering their plants and checking for new growth each day. 
  3. Sprouting plants bring joy! Even when Shane and I were in our apartment in the city, we loved growing a couple tomato plants to hang on the porch, or experimenting with herbs to plant on the patio of our second story apartment. In my opinion, seeing the little green leaves pop out of the ground reminds me that spring is just around the corner!
If you haven't started seeds since you were in 2nd grade, no worries. We were there a few years ago too! Here are answers to some of the questions we commonly get about starting seeds:

How do I choose which seeds to buy?

We typically opt for organic seeds, mostly because we know that the plants that gave the seeds were hardy enough to grow successfully without the use of pesticides and harsh fertilizers, which is important because we don't use those practices either, so we need plants that are strong!

Personally, we buy the majority of our seeds as heirloom varieties. This just means that the seeds are open pollinated, from wind and insects, from the same variety rather than purposefully cross-bred for other traits. Heirloom vs. Open Pollinated just means that the varieties have been around for many years. The great thing about open pollinated or heirloom seeds is that we can save our own seed from our plants! I can save seeds from a watermelon we grow to grow more watermelons next season! 

Hybrid seeds are also an acceptable choice if there's a certain characteristic you're looking for! Just know that if you try to save seed from these plants, it is likely that you will not get another generation of plants with these same attributes, as the hybridization can affect the integrity of those traits in future generations. 

We choose to avoid seeds that are GMOs or chemically modified in any way because we don't feel there is enough longitudinal research that shows the safety of regularly ingesting these foods. 

Where do you buy your seeds?

You can buy seeds from many places! The majority of stores in our area have a rack of seeds available for sale at this time of the year. 

We love to buy our seeds through the catalogs of a few companies we trust. In the past couple of years, we've ordered seed from:
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the reputable seed companies, just a few that we have ordered from in the past! We also like to participate in the Ark of Taste's Plant a Seed campaign that works to re-integrate "endangered" seeds into gardens around the country to bring back some of the heritage food that we are losing as we streamline our hybridization process. 

What do I need to start seeds?
There is a huge array of supplies that you could use to up your seed starting game. However, in this post, I am just going to outline the basics. When Shane and I started seeds in our apartment we had a few supplies:
  • Seeds
  • Organic soil - look for a label that mentions starting seeds or propagation
  • Water
  • Seed trays or something to plant your seeds into (we've used yogurt containers with great results)
  • A sunny window
Honestly, there are many things that make starting seeds more efficient, but we've produced great seedlings from basic ingredients. A seed is created to be the vessel that contains all of the nutrients a plant needs to grow at first, so really the sunlight and water is all you need to add to the equation!

How long does it take to start a plant from seed?

This really depends on the plant you want to grow. Radishes can be planted from seed and harvested in less than 25 days! Pepper plants require much longer. In general, a seed requires 4-14 days to sprout, and then needs to be cared for as a baby plant for a while before it can be transplanted. 

If you start seeds indoors, and decide to move your plants outside, make sure you "harden off" your plants! Otherwise, like the people of Wisconsin during the first sunny days of the year, your plants will get sunburned and can even die from the shock of the exposure! A little bit outside each day, gradually increasing the time, can help your plants move outside once the risk of freezing is over. 

There is so much more information that I could share about starting seeds with your family! Let me know what else you want to know! We'd love to do some classes or write more blogs to help your family move forward in your journey. If there is a question you have that you'd like answered in more detail in its own post, send us an email at

Happy Gardening!