Planting Seeds

Freedom from the state and self-sufficiency go hand-in-hand. One of our latest projects here at Voluntaryism in Action, “Rooted in Voluntaryism,” aims to assist more people to increase their self-sufficiency through gardening.  A VIA follower and volunteer, Roger Perry, is a master gardener with a lifetime of experience.  Below, he offers a basic explanation for planting seeds.  We hope this will be a helpful accompaniment to your seed starter kit if you signed up for our program, or that you’ll share with friends interested in starting their own vegetable gardens!      

Planting seeds is less expensive than buying nursery plants.  A packet of seeds may cost between $1.00 and $3.00 (check out the options from our friends at True Leaf Market) and will produce more plants than the average home gardener can use. Seeds can sometimes be received free at garden shows, food banks, and other community resources.

A packet of seeds may also be shared between family, friends, or neighbors reducing the cost to almost zero. Planting seeds allows you to extend the growing season as you can plant seeds indoors several weeks before it is safe to plant outdoors.

Before you start to planting seeds, it is important to take a look at the seed packet for important information about the seeds.  The front of the packet has general information such as:  the company name of the seller, cost, name and variety of the seed.  It may also show things like:  number of days to harvest, if it is suitable for growing in a container, if it is NON-GMO (not modified genetically), and the weight of the seeds. 

The reverse side will have a general description of the item, planting instructions, a map of the United States and four climate zones (this is kind of small and hard to see), and the year for which the seed was packed (although seeds are packed for a specific year, they will normally be viable (able to grow) for at least 2-3 years).

When planting seeds indoors you will need a growing container of some type.  Almost any container will do.  It should be fairly shallow, have drainage holes in the bottom, and a plate to catch the water.  It may be covered to retain moisture and warmth.  Recycled nursery containers (see below) are perfect.   They are shallow and have plenty of drainage holes.  They can sometimes be obtained from nurseries, friends, or from items you have purchased. 

planting seeds
Two examples of nursery containers, and a makeshift nursery container from a margarine tub.

You can also use recycled household items (below). 

planting seeds

Clamshell type items can be cut in half (below). 

planting seeds

Put drain holes in one part and use the other as a plate to catch the water (below). When putting holes in the containers be careful not to injure yourself!  

planting seeds

A cover is not necessary, but if you want one you can use plastic film, a plastic bag, or top of a plastic clamshell.  Put a few small holes in the plastic cover to prevent mildew or overheating.  Even with the holes, remove the cover for a few hours a day and make sure the plastic does not touch the soil.

You do not need to buy a special soil mix for planting seeds.  Most yard soil will do; however, if your soil is especially heavy and wet, you will have better results if you can add some potting soil and or sand.

Now you are ready to plant!  Wet the soil and let it drain.  Follow the instructions on the packet for how deep to plant.  Try to allow more space between seeds than the packet indicates to make it easier to transplant when the time comes. If you are planting more than one variety of seed, it would be a good idea to add a marker with the kind of seed and the date they were planted. 

Planting outdoors may be easier and less troublesome.  Whether you are planting seeds or transplanting your seedlings, the process is about the same.  Prepare the soil.  Again, most soils will do without adding costly, processed amendments.  If your soil is especially heavy clay, you may want to add sand, compost, or other organic matter. 

Using a shovel, hoe, trowel, etc. dig the soil up, breaking big clods and adding any amendments as you go. Rake the soil smooth.  Water lightly and let it drain.  Plant seeds according to package directions. Plant seedlings at the same depth as they were in the seed bed.  Adding a light mulch will help retain warmth and moisture and will deter weed growth.

Now, water and weed as necessary until your crops are ready to harvest!

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