A green space for urban gardeners

Seed obsession: it grows on you

In the future (very distant, I hope) someone will be going through the basement of my last known residence and they’ll come across box upon box, filled to overflowing with packets of seeds. Pleased to make your acquaintance, I’m a hoarder.

It all starts innocently enough: I’ll see a pretty, colorful picture adorning a seed pack online or at the local garden store that I just can’t resist. …Or perhaps I’ll succumb to a two-for-one sale.

I always have every intention of planting the seeds that season, but when all is said and done I realize that my eyes most often are bigger than my balcony. Inevitably, those seeds wind up in a bag  marked “next year.”

Of course, when “next year” rolls around, the process repeats itself — all over again. True to form, I’ve once again bought more seeds than I can possibly hope to plant in my 5 x 12 container garden.

Add to that all the partially used packets from prior seasons, plus the seeds gathered and collected from last summer’s garden, and the depth of my obsession sinks in.

As hoarding goes, though, I suppose it could be worse. Seeds are fairly inexpensive, don’t take up much space, and eventually, I will use them. Cross my heart.

This year I’m trying to build just about the entire garden from seeds, rather than purchasing a lot of more costly nursery plants. (I’ve only bought a few small plants — grape hyacinth, blue lobelia and a cheery little lavender bush that wooed me at the grocery store.)

Of course, there’s always that percentage of seeds that — for whatever reason — never sprout or don’t survive, so I may wind up supplementing the seeds more in the end, but for now I’ve still got high hopes.

I’ve planted approximately 38 seed varieties fitting my planned color scheme — blue, orange and black. I’ve also planted five seeds outside that palette for a few surprise accents, 10 varieties of produce and 10 different herbs. And, yes, the cat will have his playpen again — only with a slight twist.

Oh, and thanks to all for suggestions of black (or near-black) seeds; I incorporated as many as I was able to get my hands on into the mix. (I’ll talk more about them in a future post.) Here’s hoping they turn out well, because black isn’t standard at my local nurseries…

Have you ever planted seeds that never sprouted? If yes, do you have a theory as to why they didn’t? Please share!

[Photos: Lemon cucumber sprouts (top) and grape hyacinth.]


  Andrea wrote @

Martha Stewart sent a tip out this week to staple seed packets to index cards, to be filed in a box. You can make notes on the index cards, too!

  City Diggity wrote @

That’s a great idea, because you could put notes on the card about how the seed performs, how long it takes to sprout, etc. Martha always knows best!

  Stephanie wrote @

What a brave mission! Well, not all seeds sprouted for me. I have a packet of 5 plumeria seeds. I have sown 4 already (one after another) – all failed to sprout. The last seed that’s still in the little plastic bag would be the last chance I have… reason unknown to me. Love to know as well coz my earlier bag of plumeria seeds (of another variety), sprouted and growing well.

  City Diggity wrote @

I planted seeds for sky blue petunia last year and nothing. Then I read the instructions that said not to cover them, but just press them gently onto the top of the soil. I tried again, and they sprouted and I just stuck the sprouts in the planter and forgot about them. I was happily surprised when beautiful blooms popped up!

  Stephanie wrote @

Oh ok! Thanks. I’ll see how to improve then. 😀

  Wendy wrote @

wow, you’ve started a lot!

I must have missed why you need black or near black seeds, but looking forward to learning why.

I haven’t started too many flowers from seeds – basically just marigolds, salvia, and this year, gomphrena (but that’s b/c I couldn’t find plants anywhere). I do relish in the amount of money I save by starting annuals/perennials from seed.

  linda wrote @

Can’t wait to see how it looks Avis! I bought very little this year either – a very few choice plants, and a few seeds. Everything else was started from my seed stash or overwintered in the basement.

You must make great use of your space to be able to grow so much on your balcony. Very impressive!

  City Diggity wrote @

Actually, I just plan for the worse case scenario — that a lot of things won’t make it 😉 And I’m about a month behind, so my garden’s going to be pretty wimpy for a while with so few pre-started plants. If tomorrow’s nice I’m going to let all my sprouts sun for a while to make up for lost time.

  MrBrownThumb @ Chicago Garden wrote @

Ha, I can relate. You know how hoarders have piles of clothes on the floor? Well, I have piles of clothes on the floor and seed packets.

It is a disease.

  mimi wrote @

How long can you keep seeds before they go bad?

  City Diggity wrote @

Hi Mimi,
You know, there are stories of seeds tucked away that bloom decades later. I’m a romantic, so I like those stories. Some seed packets specify that you should plant them within a certain time frame, but I’m not sure that those are always correct indicators. In my own experience, I’ve saved seeds and used them two or three seasons later and so far haven’t noticed any problems. If you have seeds you’ve been holding for a long time, go ahead and plant them — part of the fun of gardening are all the pleasant surprises that come with it. Cheers!

  Garden Seeds wrote @

I really enjoyed and glad I came across your article on seeds. I found an old pack of cherokee tomatoes more than 5 years old and planted some to see if they grew and by god they did =)
Best Seed Company is Urban Farmer Seeds =)

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