It’s the most wonderful time of the year – no, not Christmas. Gardening season! And with SJ Mag’s resident gardener, Toni Farmer, by our side, we’re feeling pretty unstoppable. That’s why we’re getting a jump start on our seeds. 

But first, some tips from Farmer to make sure our thumbs stay green all season long.   

Why should I buy seeds? 

Aside from wanting to take your gardening skills to the next level, starting your garden from seeds can give you something a lot of us are constantly searching for: control. (No, not in the “I don’t have control of my life so I’m going to find it here” kind of way.) By trading the garden center seedling starters for packets of seeds, you get to completely choose what you grow, says Farmer. 

“You know how you see those gardeners growing purple carrots and all varieties of tomatoes and peppers?” she says. “Well, if you’re starting with seedlings, then you’ll have to depend on your gardening center to have the specific crops you want. But if you start from seeds, there are so many options to choose from.” 

So many choices

All those options can be a little intimidating, and if you’re someone who can often be indecisive, Farmer has some quick advice. “I always tell people to start by looking at what they put in their grocery cart,” she says. “You don’t want to plant things that you won’t eat because all that food will go to waste. So think about what you and your family eat, and if no one touches the zucchini when you bring it home from the grocery store, don’t add it to your garden.” 

Once you’ve figured out what you eat, Farmer adds, you have to make sure you can grow it here. We’re “solidly in Zone 7,” so check the seed labels to make sure it fits. They may say things like Zone 5+ or Zone 6+, just make sure it includes Zone 7. 

Quick tip: Farmer says that you can buy seeds from pretty much any site or center, but just stay away from Amazon – you often don’t know where they come from and the results aren’t always great. 

One more thing

Before you check out, there’s one “tool” you’ll want to make sure you have first. These seeds are going to need a home – and due to the temps in our area during these few months, that home can’t be your outdoor garden. So make sure you have containers to start your seeds in. 

“The DIY version of these are using old takeout containers – you know, the plastic ones with black bottoms and clear tops,” she says. “If you have a bunch of those, they’ll work perfectly. If you don’t, or if you don’t want to have to juggle a bunch of containers when you move your seeds week after week, you can also purchase seed starter bins.” 

She adds that if you’re thinking of making the purchase, first make sure you’re all in on gardening so it doesn’t end up feeling like a waste. 

So now what?

So you’ve got your seeds – now what? Well, the first step is to check the packaging for growing directions, although you will really only get a few instructions, like how many days until they’re ready to harvest. As far as how far apart to plant them, how deep to plant them, how much water they need and when they can move outside – Farmer recommends consulting an expert. 

Luckily, that’s not as hard as it may seem. There are a number of ways to get all of your gardening questions answered by Farmer: 

First, you can join her Facebook group, Toni Farmer’s Garden Club!, where she and fellow members trade gardening tips. 

Or, you can watch Farmer and SJ Mag’s Marianne Aleardi plant their own seeds in last year’s season of The Goal is to Become a Gardener. 

Watch “The Goal is to Become a Gardener” Here

February 2024
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