You can save money on gardening by growing your perennials from seed

You can save money on gardening by growing your perennials from seed

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Perennials are returning summer guests who pop up with gifts every year. Plant it once and you will see it grow larger and more prolific each summer season. This is an upside.

The downside is that they tend to only come in two flavors in the nursery – a small plant in a 4-inch pot that will struggle through the summer, or a fully grown gallon-sized plant. Both are more expensive than annuals or vegetables, and take up a significant portion of the budget.

But now is the perfect time to grow them yourself – you’ve already got your seed-starting equipment from early summer; You have plenty of heat and sunlight outside to grow them; And you have space, because you probably won’t grow anything else. We have six to ten straight weeks to get these seedlings started and potted and in the garden before fall.

Perennials worth growing

While a gallon-sized perennial plant will cost you anywhere from $15 to $40 at a nursery, a packet of seeds costs a few dollars. With this packet of seeds and bag of seed mix ($15), you’ll be able to grow an entire tray of 50 baby plants (called starters). While there are countless perennials to consider, the easiest to grow, most colorful, and most likely to benefit pollinators are echinacea, yarrow, veronica, agastache, and sage.

Echinacea — or coneflower, as it’s also known — has been bred to come in a variety of colors and shades, from stunning pink to blazing orange. Coneflower is a reliable plant that comes back and gains size every year. If you cut the flowers they will bloom again, and they are an absolute favorite of the bees.

The tall (36-inch) flower spreads quickly and can look like yarrow, and it has gained popularity because it is the workhorse of the garden. In addition to being loved by pollinators such as bees and birds, taproots break up the soil. Roots also collect nutrients, so they can process things like lead in the soil. Yarrow will bother other plants and self-seed, so you should plant it with the understanding that you will need to do some manual control of its spread often.

If you’re having trouble growing your own tall, spiky flowers like delphinium and hollyhock, two flowers that are notoriously difficult to grow from seed, Veronica is a great alternative. It comes in a dazzling array of colors, and is still a thorny flower, less than twenty-four inches in size. Veronica makes a great border plant because of its structure.

Agastache, also known as hummingbird mint, repeatedly attracts game with its delicious blooms on long spikes. The real magic is that agastache is not uniform in color, but tends to be dark. While you can have shades in every color of the rainbow, each plant will flash a stunning array of colors in this color range.

There are both annual and perennial versions of salvia, and it would be smart to have perennial versions in your garden. Salvia is known for its intense colours, and can be found in shades of grape, blue and the popular red. The red color will attract hummingbirds for miles. Salvia tends to have only a few spikes per plant, up to 36 inches long.

How to grow perennial plants

In each cell of your seed trays, sow a few seeds, pressing them gently onto the surface of the moist soil. Cover the tray with a plastic dome, then place it outside in the sunlight. Water it daily with your hose on a mist. You wouldn’t want to pour water on these seeds, just keep them moist. Domes must have condensation on them at all times.

Within two weeks you should see some germination. Although not all seeds will germinate, most should. Once the tray is 75% germinated, remove the dome, but be sure to always water the tray. You can add a bottom tray or rimmed cookie sheet underneath your seed trays and fill them with water, so your plants always have access to them.

Once your seedlings are 2 inches tall, it’s time to transplant them into 4-inch pots. Add an inch of potting soil to the bottom of the pot. Carefully place your seedling and add soil around it. Place the seedling in the shade for 24 hours to recover from transplant shock and then slowly move it back into sunlight. Keep the seedlings watered daily during the heat of summer.

When the seedling is five to six inches tall, it can be transplanted into the garden in a hole twice the size of the four-inch pot, with some fertilizer. There should be enough time for rooting before fall.

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