Editor’s Note: THIS is the continuation in a series of articles on inexpensive gardening. See planning tip #1; Tip #2 on the floor; Compost Tip #3; Tip #4 on tools; Tip #5 on containers.
Gardening can be relaxing. There’s something soothing about working with dirt, watching plants sprout, watering growing life, and touching and smelling the plants in your yard. There is a connection to nature and a healing power to gardening.
There are also potential financial costs. If you have the budget, you can afford the time-saving products and devices within your means. If you don’t have the budget, don’t give up! There are many ways to garden with very little or no financial investment.
Much of what I am sharing here is information I have gathered through obsessively watching YouTube videos, reading many articles and plant studies, and through my own successes and failures. I am not an experienced gardener – quite the contrary! Just sharing what I’ve learned.
We hope these tips help.
Tip #6: Seeds
Seeds are available at any garden center and hardware store. There are a few things to consider when buying seed packs. First is the seed name and type. Make sure it’s rated for our “hardiness zone.” Another is the corporate brand. Some are more reliable for seed germination than others; For example, I’ve had good luck with Burpee seeds. I’ve had bad luck with Ferry Morse seeds. I’ve seen others report the opposite experience! I could just learn that as a very inexperienced gardener; it could be coincidence; or it could be the seeds. You may also want to check the dates stamped on the seed packets. These are not best by dates in the usual sense (you can use last year’s seeds), but they tell you when the seeds are at their freshest. Seeds spoil in heat and light. So sourcing fresh seeds can make a difference in your germination rate. Keeping track of your plan and notes will help you know what works for you.
Before you buy seeds, be sure to watch this awesome video:
- Saipan Complementary Gardening, “Seed Basics”
Cheap and easy. Another source of seeds is the grocery store, the farmers market, and the produce your friends, family, and neighbors give you! You can get seeds from a variety of plants – tomatoes, peppers (green, red, yellow peppers, jalapeños, any of the hot peppers available here), melons (cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon), squash and squashes, cucumbers, and bitter melon, among other. You can get plant starters from your garlic, scallions, and potatoes. You can use dried beans. All of these are seeds that you can save on the foods you buy or eat anyway!
I took a small local tomato that softened in my fridge and sliced it, placed the slices in some soil in cake tins, covered a little and watered. I ended up with 67 tomato seedlings! Some were puny from overcrowding, but after losing those and a few to the boonie hens I ended up with 50+ tomato plants, from one small tomato! The plants have started producing fruit, although the rain has caused some problems (such as blossom end rot and split fruit). But I have a healthy tomato crop (600+ tomatoes!) from a tomato I diverted to gardening.
You can also save your seeds from the plants you grow and like. If you’re successful, these are the seeds you’ll want to use again and again.
Cheap and easy: Make your own seed packets out of junk mail!
- Video: Project Diaries Channel: “How to Make Free Seed Packets (No Scissors or Glue Required).
You can also get tree seeds from fruits like papaya, avocado, mango, lemon, tangerine, calamansi, guava, star fruit, breadfruit (the pitted version), and soursop. Or get hold of some coconuts that sprout. Trees grown from seed can take a long time to bear fruit. They may also produce non-true fruit you started with depending on what type of fruit it is. For example, it’s generally recommended that you use a sapling (growing tip of a successful tree) to graft onto a homegrown avocado tree so you end up with a fruit that you know you’ll like. Mango trees may not be seedfast either, especially if they are monoembryonic. If you don’t graft and just plant and grow your avocado or mango tree from seed, you could plant a tree and wait for years and find out that it doesn’t produce any fruit, or produces a fruit that doesn’t taste great, or has gross fiber content or some other thing Problem.
- Sleepy Lizard Channel: “Should I transplant my avocado tree?”
- Handy Primate Channel: “Polyembryonic vs. Monoembryonic Mango Seeds”
Some plants grow directly from the bulbs or tubers, such as garlic, onions, and potatoes. There’s plenty of help on YouTube gardening channels if you’re interested.
Some plants do well in the dry season; some prefer the rainy season. Some need hot, direct sun and long days, while others thrive better in cooler weather and shady areas.
Some plants will produce seedlings that can be replanted, and others are better left in their original seeded location. When transplanting, some plants can be planted deep and develop additional roots along their stems (like tomatoes) and some should not be planted above their current soil level as the extra dirt and moisture will rot their stem and cause problems.
Some plants do well when planted side by side (companion planting) and some plants fight and don’t get along.
All of this is to remind you to do your research. Go to your plan!
One final tip about seeds is that they should generally be stored in a cool, dry place. That’s hard to do in the CNMI! But you can find a dark corner in one of your closets and put it in a Tupperware or other cramped storage container. One thing I learned about starting mango seeds is to start with a fresh seed; Wash it well and let it dry for a day or two, but don’t let it dry out for weeks or months! The same goes for avocado seeds. Fresh seeds work best! But in your plan, if you’re going to graft on your seedling, once you’ve got it going, make sure you have everything aligned (where to get the seedling; the right time for it; how to do it; it’s; etc.). Remember tip #1 – make a plan!
Good luck and happy gardening.