seedlings

You can’t buy these seedlings in a shop

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Celeriac seedlings, with a bit more growing to do yet
Celeriac seedlings, with a bit more growing to do yet

There’s a lot to be said for growing vegetables from store-bought seedlings. It’s quick and easy, and you can be confident that the seedlings are ready to plant right away. It can also give an earlier start, and therefore earlier harvesting times.

The one big drawback, however, is that you’re limited to what’s available in stores.

Every year, the “classics” will be available in any gardening centre: herbs, onions, cabbages, beans, peas, etc. These will typically be the same varieties from year-to-year.

There will also be some less common stuff, based on the latest trends, or on what’s been showcased on national TV gardening shows.

That still leaves a lot of plants that never appear in garden centres, including the majority of the heirloom varieties.

This is where it pays to grow things from seed, purchased from one of the many seed suppliers. The seedlings above are celeriac, for example, which is a tasty addition to the winter table.

I’ve also grown a bunch of heirloom brassicas, parsnips and french red shallots. Yum!

You can, of course, mix-and-match. Which is what we’ve done — I don’t think that’s “cheating”!

Growing from seed

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Seed packets from Diggers Club
Seed packets from Diggers Club

A lot of what we’ve grown has been from seed, rather than seedlings. What has been interesting is that plants from seeds have consistently grown quicker and stronger than seedlings. For example, our sugar snap peas from seeds are gowing incredibly, while the seedlings of snow peas from the local garden store have barely moved (very disappointing).

Dollar-for-dollar, you can’t beat seeds. At $2-4 per packet, that’s the price of a single vegetable from many supermarkets. Packets contain 50-200 seeds, depending on the variety. This may seem a lot (it is!), but it gives plenty to share around with neighbours, or to trade for other seeds.

Most seeds last for 2 years, giving a good chance to get value out of them. I’ve also been lazy: instead of planting in punnets, I’ve sown seeds directly into the ground, with complete success. (No doubt this is due to the warm Sydney climate.)

There are many suppliers of seeds in Australia, mostly organic, including:

Note that a lot of these suppliers concentrate on heirloom seeds, old varieties no longer seen on supermarket shelves. These are great, well adapted to local conditions, and often both tasty and unusual. Seek these out wherever possible!

Where have you been getting your seeds from?