Experienced vegetable gardeners who start their own seeds indoors plant in February, depending on the type of plant. Depending on the gardener’s space and needs, they very likely may not use all of the seeds in the packet. What to do with the extra seeds? Some seeds can be saved for a few years, under ideal conditions. Early this spring, when Ohio started practicing social distancing, my friend shared that she had delivered extra seeds to her community’s little free library. What a great idea!
Here’s a springtime tip for novice gardeners. You are NOT behind schedule if you did not start your own seedlings months ago. We are so fortunate to have farmers and greenhouses in the area that can sell us beautiful seedlings for herbs, tomatoes, peppers, greens, etc. now that it is time to plant outside because the threat of frost is over. This year, because of the stay-at-home orders, I did start my own tomato seeds indoors. It is pretty exciting how a tiny little seed sprouts underground, in the dark and then grows into a plant. It’s almost like magic but it’s science!
This year I’m following my friend’s lead to share some seeds. In my example, it will be flower seeds. While respecting social distancing, I’m going to distribute some extra seeds from my seed packets. There’s no way I would ever use the hundreds of seeds in a packet in my small growing space. Just in case you don’t find any seeds at your neighborhood little free library, you should be able to find these seed packets at most local grocery or hardware stores that sell seeds. The following flowers are all bright, beautiful, and fairly easy to grow. Most of them are edible and most of them can grow in a container, a corner of the vegetable garden, or landscaped area of the yard. Below are photos and a link to an Extension document that will give more details on each plant.
- Calendula is also known as a Pot Marigold. It can grow in the ground or a container. The leaves are edible. You can sprinkle the petals on top of your favorite food dishes.
- Nasturtium the leaves and flowers add a peppery taste to your dish. They can be tossed in with salads. I think the plant is a little wild and whimsical.
- Sunflowers come in all varieties. The most common packets of sunflower seeds at the store are for the large ones. If you have a packet of seeds for any tall or Mammoth sunflowers, these will not grow well in a container. For a container plant, you’ll need to look for dwarf varieties (although these are not as common at the stores. I’ve ordered my seeds online before). Obviously the seeds are edible for people and also well-loved by wildlife.
- The Zinnia is not edible but it packs a punch in a homegrown bouquet. One year, my son came home from school with a cup of soil and a small plant. Somewhere between his lesson and home, either the label was lost or he forgot what they planted in class. Without knowing what it was, we transplanted it from the cup into the side yard and waited to see what it was. The tall pink zinnia plant is such a happy memory for me that I love to plant them now every year.
Since most young children were not in school at the end of this year and didn’t arrive home with an unlabeled seedling, I’m going to try to get seeds to children in my little corner of the world. I’d love to hear your garden plans and see photos this summer! Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow our county office on Facebook at The Ohio State University Extension Lucas County. Happy Spring!
An Introduction to Seed Saving for the Home Gardener https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/2750e/
Growing Sunflowers in the Home Garden
How to Grow Calendula https://extension.unh.edu/resource/how-grow-calendula-calendula-officinalis
Little Free Library https://littlefreelibrary.org/