Why Start Your Own Seed?

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Many of our gardeners might be wondering why we had our AGM and opened up registration for the season in February already this year.  Here is your answer:  It’s time to start planning your garden in earnest!  Why?  Because it’s time to order and start seed for some of the veggies you are going to want to grow this summer, and when possible it is best to start your own seed.

It is less expensive, you have access to a much larger selection of varieties which means not only can you pick and choose interesting varities but you can pick and choose specifically for our Bow Valley needs, and most importantly you know where your little plants have been and that they haven’t been exposed to chemicals you don’t want to introduce into your garden, and especially our community garden.  So yes, you have to find some space for a tray, which might be tricky if you live in a tiny little apartment, but get creative!  Clear off a shelf on your bookcase, or an end table, or the top of your dresser like I did.  You will need to invest in some lights, but that doesn’t have to be complicated.  Lee Valley and several other seed companies have light setups you can order specifically for seed starting if you want to make an investment.  On the other hand, I bought fluorescent bulbs (the expensive ones that are sold specifically for plants are great but regular fluorescents will work too) and popped them into utility clip fixtures that I already had.  I have my lights plugged into a timer but you can just as easily turn them on when you get up in the morning and off when you go to bed.  As for trays, Sunnyside sells the black plastic seed starting trays for $2.50; you don’t need the lid.  They are great because they have the channels that distribute water throughout for bottom watering but you can also use any waterproof plastic or Styrofoam trays you have lying around.  As for pots, make them out of newspaper.  It is free and abundantly available, it breathes, it wicks up water very efficiently and you pop the whole thing into the ground when it is time to plant so you have minimal root disturbance.  Here is an excellent blog on seed starting:

http://evonnesmulders.com/2013/03/05/a-primer-on-seed-starting/

I want to talk about why it’s important to know where your little starts have been.  Recently we have become painfully aware of the damage the insecticide family neonicotinoids have been causing in the environment and how widespread their use is.  It is a systemic pesticide that gets into all the cells of the plant, and into the soil around the plant as well and it takes years to clear out of your garden, and while it may do a good job killing pests, it does not discriminate between good and bad insects.  It is deadly to our bees and other pollinators.  So obviously we want to avoid this chemical.  The problem is unless you are buying certified organic plants, or plants that were grown by the seller who can tell you where it’s been and what they used on it, there is no way to know for sure if your plants have been treated with neonics or not.  This goes for veggie starts as well as annuals and landscaping plants.  I emailed Sunnyside last summer to ask if their plants had been treated with neonicotinoids, and here is the reply I received:

“Hi Nicole,

I can not positively say if all the plants we receive have been treated with chemicals as they come from various suppliers. We do know that some suppliers do use biologicals for pest management instead.

To be on the safe side assume yes.

Have a great day”

I’m not saying that all plants sold at nurseries are treated with this stuff, just that it is hard to know for sure so best to just buy your own untreated seed and start your own plants.

Here is a neat tool to help you plan:  http://www.johnnyseeds.com/e-pdgseedstart.aspx

The following nurseries start their own plants from seed and do not use neonicotinoids:

Wild About Flowers www.wildaboutflowers.ca 

Bow Point Nursery http://www.bowpointnursery.com/

Vale’s Greenhouse http://www.valesgreenhouse.com/

Winderberry Nursery http://winderberry.ca/

Mountain Lady’s Greenhouse here in town does carry organic veggie and herb starts, just make sure to double-check what you are getting before you buy it.  And while you’re there, let them know you want to buy plants that are guaranteed to have not been treated with neonicotinoids.

For more information on neonics:  http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/07/its-time-to-save-the-bees-and-ban-neonic-pesticides/