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Should I use seeds or starter plants? Using potted plants or starter plants may be the easiest choice for small garden areas or beginner gardeners, as the plants are already established and are lower maintenance to keep alive. However, for larger areas, more advanced gardeners, and those with lower budgets, seeds can also be a good option. Read on for more information about both approaches!
Seed starters. Ambitious seed starters should start their seeds indoors as early as March or April. Keep in mind each plant is different, so consult your local greenhouse or use the instructions printed on the seed packet to know the ideal time to start each seed. To start your seeds, you’ll need plastic flats, a good soil mix suitable for seedlings, a natural light source, and moisture from either humidity or watering. Generally, allow your seeds 4-8 weeks of growing time indoors before transplanting outdoors after the risk of frost has passed.
Direct seeding. If sowing seeds directly into the ground, you will first need to prepare your soil in early spring. Clear your garden of weeds and debris, then cultivate or till the soil to a fine consistency. It’s best to work the soil when it has had time to dry out, as soil tends to clump when worked while it is still moist. After the danger of frost has passed, you can sow seeds in your garden about 1/4-inch deep and 12–18 inches apart. Seed mixes may also be used and may be more cost effective in larger areas. When using seeds, remember that plants need time to mature. You may not have mature flowering plants until the following growing season.
Starter and potted plants. If using potted plants, plan your garden and prepare the bed before purchasing plants. Butterflies are attracted to large splashes of color in the landscape. Planting in groupings of 3-5 of the same plant is important when creating these color splashes. Purchase plants of difference heights, creating tiers within your landscaping.
Once you have purchased your plants, keep them well watered prior to planting. When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole as deep and as wide as the pot the plant came in. Drop the plant in the hole and fill in soil as needed. Provide deep watering while the plants become established. The idea behind deep watering is to let the water soak deeply into the soil and then not to water for several days. Deep watering, followed by a lack of water in the soil near the surface, encourages roots to go deeper into the soil, enabling the plant to draw moisture from the soil more readily.
Sourcing plants. Make informed decisions on what you’re buying and where it came from. Ask your greenhouse or nursery if their plants are grown locally. Native cultivars are preferred. One of the most important questions to ask is if herbicides or pesticides were used when growing the plants. We want to provide a safe place for the pollinators to reproduce and collect nutrients.
Photos courtesy of Nathan Brockman