Starting From Seed

by Peg Keenleyside

The way to get that really abundant look in your summer garden without a big budget to shop with is to do some seed starting.

Starting flowers (and veggies) from seed does not have to be the daunting process you might think. There are a ton of online and in-person resources to get you started. Just one of those resources, West Coast Seeds, is located right here in South Delta.

The West Coast Seeds store is at 4930 Elliot St. in Ladner Village, and they have an information rich catalogue you can pick up there that tells you about starting dates for seeds in our planting zone area.

They carry seed starting gear, including easy to put together lights to put above your starting trays if you want to seed start inside. Other resources for seed starting gear are Lee Valley Tools on Marine Drive in Vancouver and online sites like the Green House Mega Store.

If you’re just getting started as a gardener or you’ve never started plants from seed, the best recommendation I ever got from green-thumbers, was to start with easy-to-grow annuals.

These are seeds that will reliably germinate and carry on into the transplant stage without a lot of fuss and just some basic tending on your part. (But you have to water! That’s rule one — never let your seeds dry out in their starting trays!)

A Quick List of Easy-to-Grow Annuals

Early Starting - Most need to be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date

  • Sweet Peas
  • Lupins (can also be perennial, meaning they’ll come back next year)
  • Snapdragons

Late Spring/Early Summer Starting - Can be started (“direct seeded”) outdoors

  • Nasturtiums
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias

Sweet peas, those old fashioned fragrant favourites, come in all kinds of colours and while traditional varieties are tall and need a trellis to climb on, newer varieties are low growing and look — and smell — great at the front of your garden.

Lupins were my first-ever seed starting experiment and they are so easy that you will probably end up having to give a few plants away! Tall purple spikes of flowers are their main claim to fame, but they also come in other colours. Look for the variety “Russel Hybrids” for pinks and yellows. Plant them in groups of three for a great effect.

Snapdragons can give you all kinds of long lasting annual colour and will pop right up out of your seed starting pots or trays in no time. Plant transplants out fairly close together so you get a big eye-catching mass of colour. They are also great candidates for window or railing boxes

For all my seed starts I like to use the little jiffy peat pots set in trays. The great thing about peat pots for the first time seed starter is that the transplant — the one to two inch plant you’ve grown from seed — does not like to have it’s roots messed with, and the jiffy pot can be put out in the ground as is.

Edible nasturtiums are just the thing for around the vegetable garden or raised beds. They are great in pots as well and will ramble here and there for a great cottage-garden effect for just the cost of a pack of seeds.

Sunflowers are always a welcome sight (for birds and people) and you can put some seeds in the back of your garden bed up against a fence or wall in the early summer and, with a little constant watering until the stalk emerges from the ground, just let them carry on to maturity.

Zinnias, like snaps, give you a whole lot of colour bang for your buck. Lots of people direct seed zinnias in late spring right into the garden, forgoing the seed starting pots altogether. They are superb in a mixed border of perennials and annuals where their big daisy-like flowers come up like happy exclamation points.

If you can’t resist starting some seeds this year, now’s the time to go online or get out to West Coast Seeds and get started!

Here is a video from Lowe's Home Improvement series: How To Start Seeds Indoors