Writing again


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And now, the post.

I’m starting seeds indoors this year. Pictured are 2 kinds of pumpkins, pickling cucumbers, 2 kinds of zinnias, and native sunflowers that might or might not be absurdly tall and might or might not be perennials. (sources disagree)

Strong sprouts have germinated in all categories! I’m right chuffed about that, I admit. I don’t usually bother starting seeds indoors. I garden for fun, and the fun-to-work ratio of seed-starting isn’t optimal. From a strict cost/benefit analysis, it sucks.

Anyone who says otherwise is selling something or has an agenda–and lots of people do say so. (this might be turning into a little rant…)

Every year in late winter I get really annoyed with gardening websites that breezily assure readers starting plants from seed is easy and cheap and all Real Gardeners ™ should do it!

There are loads of helpful tips and handy affiliate links to The Perfect Products You Need For Success, but there’s a critical difference between a thing being intrinsically easy and being easy IF you have money, time & energy enough to spend on it.

I swear someone wants to make people hate gardening or something. My aggravation with chipper “Anyone can grow plants from seed! So Easy” declarations is right up there with my loathing for the cabal responsible for sizing women’s clothing and my annoyance with recipes that insist onions can be carmelized in 5 minutes.


If you’ve ever tried to grow plants from seed, carefully following the instructions from the package and/or online and/or from green-thumbed friends only to see your seeds:

  • never sprout
  • sprout but grow leggy & weak & then shrivel up
  • grow great for a couple of weeks, then wilt away
  • thrive until the night gray fungus eats them alive

I am here to tell you that you didn’t fail. You were operating on bad information.

To successfully transform seeds into transplantable plantlings, you need:

  • a location with the exact balance of heat & humidity to germinate seeds & keep tender sprouts happy. And that balance changes constantly as things grow!


  • clean growing medium (usually soil, right?) completely free of that many insects & fungus species that love to munch on seeds & baby plants


  • adequate light in that location to sustain plant growth in late winter


  • the mental focus and time to monitor your plantlings daily and adjust water, light, heat and warmth as they grow. Yes, DAILY.

That’s a lot. Even if you can afford the materials to make the conditions happen, you still have to put in time. (“Only a few minutes a day!” those Internet Garden Experts will assure you, and that’s true, but it’s also One More Chore which can quickly become One Chore Too Far. )

If you forget or don’t have the time one day across the 4-6 WEEKS it akes to get sprouts ready to plant, you quickly learn that seedlings, like any babies of any kind, do not handle neglect well.

Starting seeds is a satisfying and educational project if you do have time & space, and some seeds are MUCH easier than others. (hello, 2nd, 3rd & 4th graders with your bean plants, I see you) All that said, I’d still like to see the world stop treating it as a gatekeeping Gardener’s Rite Of Passage.

Unless you’re into obscure heirloom varieties, or simply want to try it and see what happens, (HELLO IT ME) there’s every good reason to leave seeds in the hands of those who have greenhouses & get paid to tend them.

Yes, in case you’re wondering, I do want to buy a little greenhouse. For next year.

My seedlings make me happy. That’s the only reason to bother with seeds.

That’s all I’m saying.

By K. M. Herkes

Author, gardener, and cat wrangler.