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Updated: May 18, 2021

There are so many benefits to starting your own seedlings but many gardeners fall victim to this #1 mistake. How do I know? Because I was one of those gardeners. As a person who has overcome this mistake, I want to share my secrets with you!

But first let's talk about the benefits growing your own seedlings can give you.

My Story

When I first started my garden, I very quickly learned that if I was going to grow certain vegetables in my growing area, I was going to need to purchase seedlings. I love living and homesteading in Wyoming but one drawback of this is that I have only 107 day growing season. That means if I start my seeds outside in my garden after the last frost date, that plant only has 107 day to grow and produce a harvest before the first frost in the fall.

This limited me to only vegetables that could produce fruit in that short length of time. I could not raise tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins. Really this list is too long for me to share with you.

This made me dependent on purchasing seedlings from my local growing center. The seedlings would have been started in their greenhouses, which I did not have, earlier than when they needed to be planted outside. And of course I was a beginning gardener and a busy mom so I thought this situation was a win win for me and it can be a perfect solution for you too.

But here's the rub, it has its limitations. I think you will be able to see its limitations when I get into the benefits of growing your own seedlings.

Benefit 1: Variety

Getting seedlings from my local growing center was great because they provide perfect varieties for my growing area but they only sold about 5 different varieties of tomatoes. I remember only being able to get only one variety of paste tomatoes. They also grow only a few different varieties of all the different vegetables. And I am sure you know after looking at a seed catalogue that there are hundreds of different varieties of just tomatoes.

Growing your own seedlings is going to let you pick through all those varieties you will find in that seed catalogue and not be limited by what your growing center provides. You do still need to work within your growing area constraints, your total amount of growing days.

Benefit 2: Grow How You Wish

When I went to my local growing center or a big box store, I was stuck with the product they sold me as well as how that seedlings were raised. If they used chemical fertilizers or practice of growing that I am not a fan of it didn’t matter. I was stuck with what they did.

But if I raise my own seedlings then I could choose how they were grown. What fertilizers were used. I personally am an organic gardener and I want my seedlings to be grown in this manner.

Benefit 3: Save Money

Growing your own seedlings can help you save money in many ways but this simplest example to show you would be the different between buying a seed packet to buying seedlings. A packet of seeds can range from $3 to $6 and can come with 25 to 100 seeds depending on the variety. Where a 4 pack of seedlings can range from $4 to $12.

But there is also another side to this. Those seedlings are worth that amount of money because of the work needed to plant and care for that seedling until you purchased it. So even though the price tag on growing your own seedlings can be lower it is lower because you are the one doing the work.

Benefit 4: Health of Your Garden

Just like in benefit #2 when you grow your own seedlings you can control how they are grown. Another step to that is that you can control where they are grown. When you buy seedlings at your big box store those seedlings are shipped in from somewhere else. Some other undisclosed locations, they definitely will not be grown in your local store.

This can add additional problems. For example maybe where they were grown has different bugs then you have in your growing area. And when you bring those seedlings home you could be introducing these different bugs to your backyard and garden.

There are lots of regulations in place so this doesn’t happen. But the only sure way to stop this from happening is to spray your seedlings you get from a big box story with a bug killer as they travel from state to state. And then you could be adding this bug killer to your garden.

Benefit 5: Growing A Fall Garden

When you as a gardener decide to take on the advantages of growing a fall garden you also take on the disadvantage of low germination rates of cool weather crops germinating in the heat of the summer.

This can be solved by starting your fall seedling in air conditioning. But here is the drawback if you don’t grow your own seedlings. Your local growing center or big box store is not going to provide you with seedlings for a fall garden.

A company will only do something that can make them a profit and growing a few seedlings for the very little amount of gardeners who grow a fall garden is not worth their time or resources.

That leaves it up to you to fill that need if you chose to grow a fall garden.

Benefit 6: Teaching Children

The last benefit is that if you have a household full of children, like I did 14 years ago, growing your own seedlings can become a family activity. Teaching our kids where their food comes from is priceless.

#1 Mistake Most Gardeners Make When Starting Their Own Seedlings

Now let's get back to the most common mistake gardeners make when growing their own seedlings. I told you before that I know about this mistake because I ran into it myself. It was very easy for me to get caught up in the details of how to start my own seedling and what supplies that I needed that this mistake didn’t catch up with me until about 6 to 8 weeks into growing my seedlings.

Now that I look back on that year, my only excuse that I could possibly give you is that I wanted the venture of growing my own seedling to work that I didn’t even think about much past the first week. Have you guessed the mistake I committed that first year?

Well, here it is I started my seedling way before I needed to. I got so caught up in the process of starting them that I didn’t sit down and figure out the proper time I should have been starting them for my growing zone.

Why This Is Such A Problem

I discovered this truth when my plants began to outgrow the little 2” cell trays that I had started them in.

At first I didn’t see this as a problem so I just pot them up. Which means I moved them into bigger pots and new soil. This fixed the problem for a while but then the seedlings out grew those pots as well. So I had to pot them up a third and fourth time. You might be thinking how could this be a bad thing. I was going to have very large and healthy plants to put in my garden and I would be able to get my harvest quicker right.

That is what I was thinking too until I looked at the money I was spending on all the pots and soil. One of the benefits of growing my own seedling was that I was going to be able to save money. But when I crunched the numbers I had already spent 5 times as much as I would have if I would have purchased my seedlings from my local growing center.

And the work was not just a little bit more but tons more. Because my seedlings were so big and the temperature was still not right to plant them outside. I had to come up with a solution for finding enough light for them. My solution was that it was nice enough to take my seedlings outside during the day but would have to bring them in at night. This did help with hardening off But it also meant I would have to carry these seedlings in their huge pots in and out of my house for about months instead of the usual 7 days for hardening off. And let me tell you carrying a tray of 20 seedlings out is a lot easier than carrying out 20 individual pots.

And the room I need to grow these seedlings tripled. Growing seedlings takes space of about 2 by 3 foot area but 20 huge pots with huge seedlings in them take tons more. I had seedlings on every flat surface in my house!

How I Avoid This Mistake Today

One huge benefit that I didn’t mention above was that when you purchase your seedlings from your local growing center they have already helped you avoid this mistake by calculating the exact date your tomatoes should have been started for your growing area.

As a gardener that decides to start their own seedlings, the need to learn how to calculate these dates for themselves.

This can be done by using your last frost date and counting backwards from that date the amount of weeks that is started on the back of the seed packet for what you are growing. For example: Pepper says they need to be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost date when you are starting your seedlings indoors.

That means you will need to count back 6-8 weeks to find the appropriate time to start your peppers in your growing area.

This is easy work but very tedious work. For the first two years I spent quite a few hours with my calendar to get all my data figured out. That is when I decided to develop a database that would help me calculate these dates in seconds. It took me a while to develop but it has been so worth it.



01:13 My Story

02:40 Benefit 1: Variety

03:30 Benefit 2: Grow How You Wish

04:41 Benefit 3: Save Money

04:57 Benefit 4: Health of Your Garden

06:08 Benefit 5: Growing A Fall Garden

07:30 Benefit 6: Teaching Children

09:25 #1 Mistake Most Gardeners Make When Starting Their Own Seedlings

21:09 How I Avoid This Mistake Today

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