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by Carole Schwalm Picture of a number of garden seeds organized in bowls.

"…Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." - Henry David Thoreau

Group of harvested cucumbers It is spring, past your local freeze date, and you eagerly go for that long-awaited (over the long winter) annual trip to the garden center. This is where you buy one of this, three of something else, et cetera et cetera. It is almost 100 percent fun. The almost part surfaces when you are at the checkout. Twenty-five plants at a low-cost of $1.98 per, and that is a low, totals $49.50, beauty worth it but wait … there’s more.

What if you bought seeds and started your own plants? Two weeks ago, I started tomatoes, asparagus beans, cucumbers, snapdragons and nasturtiums. The seeds for a lot more than twenty-five plants totaled $6.00. A little dirt, water and a lot of love, and voila, I have the same amount of flowers and veggies. All my plants occupy two southern exposure window sills. I have more to do, but really have a nice start.

United States frost zone map legend SEASONS LAST FREEZE

One day last year I had a conversation with one of the workers at one of my local Albuquerque nurseries. It was a slow morning but he told me the weekend was a zoo with people loading up with wagons full of plants. And the people will be back, he felt sure, to replace most of what they bought after a surprise killer frost and at least one spring hail storm offs almost everything they bought. Hungry for planting time many of us can’t wait and pop things in the ground a bit too early.

Research your local last freeze. Where I am, in the central New Mexico area between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the date is May 20 or after the last Full Moon - which ever happens to come first. However, I add a week just to be safe. Be sure to acclimate your plants, too. Nights are cold, and nursery stock is usually protected, and your seedlings were too. Garden shops have been known to be victims of the above, as in the case of one of our big box home centers that lost hundreds of plantlets last spring.

United States frost zone map United States Frost Zone Map, provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Click here to download a copy of the USDA Frost Zone Map.

Share your garden seeds experience or if you'd like more information.