Garden Variety is an occasional column about growing plants without grief.
If seed packets are calling you—their covers adorned with impossibly pink watermelons and lush, billowing blooms—but you don’t know what to say, may I offer some thoughts?
There I sit also, scrolling through the seed catalog, knowing I’ve killed more seeds than I’ve ever grown, but I buy a packet or two anyway. Maybe those tall red poppies will grow on my latest try?
Think about dandelions: When kids make a wish and blow, most of the seeds will never grow. The ones that do grow are the ones that land on the right soil, settle at the right depth, and get the right amount of water and sun and warmth. Give seeds that, and your vocation as a seed-starter begins.
Marigolds are a good pick for Georgia’s spring and summer. If the plant is destined for a pot, pick a short variety. Otherwise, pick any variety. They come in orange and yellow, from big and puffy to tiny and dainty.
Start the seeds indoors around mid-March for blooms as early as possible. If you’re a beginner, buy seed-starting soil—it’s very fine and holds just the right amount of water. For pots, buy or reuse small nursery plastic pots or six-pack containers.
Fill up the pots and put, say, two seeds at the top. Cover with just a sprinkling of dirt; most seeds just want to be lightly pressed into the soil, not buried.
Put the pots on some kind of tray and water the whole setup. Keep everything in a sunny place and keep it watered. If you don’t have a sunny spot indoors, consider grow lights.
Or just wait a couple of weeks—until, say, late April—and start your seeds outdoors. You’ll still want a sunny place, fine seed-starting soil, and plastic pots.
Either way, sprouts should appear within about two weeks. When the plants have six or eight leaves, they can go into the ground or a decorative pot.
Plenty of things can still kill them: mystery soil problems, heavy rain washing them away, a dog digs them up, a slug eats them. But it’s a joy watching these seeds sprout, growing plants the nursery doesn’t sell. A lady in my gardening chat group just shared pictures of her babies; we gave her all the heart and love emojis. My own success rate is getting pretty good; I finally managed to grow those tall red poppies.
Maggie Lee has been gardening in metro Atlanta for half her life and now runs Yonder Farm, a cut flower and herb farm in Fairburn.