Seed Starting: Why, When, How

Why Start From Seed?

  • Savings! The cost of buying a packet of seeds versus buying transplants is quite significant. Depending on the seed, you have the potential to start 30 or more plants from a seed packet for $4.99, compared to getting 6 transplants for $6.99. If you want to grow a lot of plants, it’s cheaper to buy seeds than starts.
  • More control. You get to choose your materials, soil mix, fertilizer, and watering schedule, as well as be in control of the growing environment.
  • More diversity. There is a broader selection of plant varieties when choosing from seed than there will be from what’s available as transplants. The possibilities are endless!
  • It’s exciting, magical & rewarding! It’s really one of the best feelings in the world to start a plant from seed. There are so many wonderful feelings, thoughts, and experiences that are discovered through the process of growing plants from seed.

When is the Best Time to Get Seeds?

January is a great time to buy seed because new seed is stocked on the racks. Here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, January and February are also the months when many spring vegetables should be started as seed indoors so that you can transplant when temperatures begin to rise in March.

This is also a great time to plan your garden. When buying seed, take into consideration the mature plant size, and days to harvest.

Our friendly and knowledgeable staff are happy to help with your seed starting questions so we can assist in guiding you to varieties that will fit your plan.

What Supplies are Needed?


Jiffy pellets are easy to use and great for large seeding projects. Use of peat pots, coir pots, tray pack and plug trays, or plastic pots are all good options for starting seed. It may just depend on your personal preference or the amount of seed you’re starting.

Seedling Mix

It is important to start seeds in a sterile seedling mix because the delicate roots of a seedling are not yet equipped to take on the microbial richness of potting soil.


If you don’t have adequate lighting, then the use of LED lights would be beneficial as most vegetable and herb seeds need 6 to 8 hours of direct light to grow.

Use blue, daylight spectrum lightbulbs for seeding and orient the light bulb to be at least 6″ above the pots when starting and adjust the height as needed to prevent burning of the new leaves. Adjusting the light closer to the pots will also help to prevent the plants from having to reach and stretch for the light which results in them growing floppy long stems, aka getting “leggy”.

Other Helpful Supplies

Other beneficial supplies to have are a heating mat, seed starting saucer tray, labeling tags, and a good watering can with a narrow spout for easy and efficient watering. Depending on your seed starting setup, all or some of these items could make all the difference to your success and our helpful staff is here to guide you to what will work best for you.


Don’t forget to fertilize! When seedlings develop their first 2 true leaves, feeding with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer will give them a boost to get to their next stage of growth.

What Plants Can I Start Now?

It is a bit too cold outside to direct sow many vegetable seeds in the garden, but now is the ideal time to start your own transplants inside from seed.

It is important to consider when you are actually ready to put them in the garden. Plants in the cole crop group resent handling almost as much as they do being left in the tray too long, so don’t wait too long to transplant and do it gently. Tender plants like tomatoes and peppers will need to be potted up a size or two before transplanting outdoors.

Vegetable plants you can start now:

Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Kale (cole crops): Ready to plant out in about 6 weeks. Rather cold hardy, sow seed in February to transplant in March- April.  Plant very gently, before roots emerge through the bottom of the pots.  Dis-likes being potted up.

Onions and Leeks:  Ready to plant in 8 to 10 weeks. Cold hardy, sow seed in January or February for transplanting March-April. They plant much better if you don’t wait much past the ready date.

Lettuce: Ready in 4 to 5 weeks.  Rather cold hardy, sow seed in February to plant in March.  Better resistance to bolting if you don’t let them get root-bound.

Eggplant: Ready in 8 to 10 weeks.  Sow in March to plant out late May at earliest – one of the most cold-sensitive.  Can be potted up before planting.

Peppers: Ready to plant in 10 to 12 weeks, sow seed in January or February for planting late May. Can be potted up before planting.

Tomatoes:  Ready to plant in 6 to 8 weeks, sow seed in February or March for planting late May. Can be potted up before planting.

View our complete Seed Starting Schedule.

How Do I Get the Seeds Started?

Watch these short videos to learn more about the various seed starting supplies that will help you be successful.

From tray packs to heating mats, you’ll learn that there are a  combination of ways keep your seedlings organized, and give them the very best start this season!

Watch this video for a quick overview of our seed starting supplies:

Watch this video for a deeper dive into when, how, and what to do to successfully start your plants from seed:

How to Choose an Apple Tree You’ll Love to Grow

Been dreaming of growing apples in your backyard but aren’t sure if you can, or what to consider when choosing a variety to grow?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when seeing all the varieties to choose from. Allow us to guide you through what you need to know, and help you choose an apple variety you’ll love to grow and eat!

First Thing to Know – You Need Two Different Varieties of Apple Trees to Get Apples

To keep it simple, two different varieties of apples must cross-pollinate, which is done by the hard work of foraging bees, in order to get good fruit production. Trees should be planted within 100 feet from another for best pollination.

For example, one Fuji apple tree will not pollinate itself, but it will pollinate a Gala apple tree, and vice versa. Apples can be pollinated by most any other apple tree as long as both are blooming around the same time.

As mentioned, fruit tree pollination is dependent on the work of bees, so please take care to not apply any pesticide, fungicide, or herbicide products on or near fruit trees when trees are in bloom.

Other Important Considerations to Think About

How much space do you have?

Dwarf trees grow between 8 to 10 feet tall and wide, maintained by pruning every dormant season (late winter to early spring).

Espaliered apples have branches growing laterally allowing them to grow along a wall or fence. Fruit trees can be trained to an espaliered form with special pruning techniques.

Another option for limited space is a columnar apple tree which grows like a column making this a neat option for the home gardener with a small garden in an urban or suburban environment. Columnar apples still grow to about 10 feet tall but only about 2 to 3 feet wide. Less growth means less pruning, so columnar apples only need pruned as needed to remove damaged branches.

Semi-dwarf apple trees can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet and grow as wide. The general rule of thumb is however tall your tree will get, then plant your trees as many feet apart or more to provide ample growing room and good air flow between trees.

How many apples do you want to harvest?

One box/bushel of apples is equal to about 42 pounds. One mature dwarf apple tree can produce 1.5 to 3 boxes and a semi-dwarf could produce 4 to 7 boxes.

What qualities do you want in an apple?

Do you want a juicy sweet apple for an everyday snack? Are you planning on using your apples for pies, applesauce, or to make homemade apple juice? Though most apples are great for many uses, some apples offer more tart or sweet flavors, or others have greater storage life.

How much time for maintenance do you have?

Apples trees will have better production if pruned every winter when they are dormant. Watch our class recording on Pruning Fruit Trees to learn more.

Another maintenance consideration is spraying fungicide for disease prevention or horticultural oil for pest control. Some cultivars are bred with disease resistance, so if you know you’d rather not worry about some common disease issues, then choose a cultivar with known disease resistance.

Interested to try something new?

Lastly, as a home gardener you have more freedom to experiment!

Consider growing less common varieties that you don’t see in the store in effort to improve the sustainability of apple production and diversity in crops. Growing less common varieties of apples that you don’t see in the grocery store can be fun and rewarding.

Apples Varieties for the Home Orchard

Here are some great apple varieties for the home gardener based on performance, and disease resistant traits.

Braeburn – Ripens in mid-October. Light red blush or stripe on green. Excellent blend of sweet and tart, very crisp and juicy. Some susceptibility to scab and mildew. Great storage life.  Good for applesauce.

Chehalis – apple scab resistant. Ripens in late September. Good lively flavor, fine texture but a little soft. Some susceptibility to scab and mildew.
Empire – Ripens late September to mid-October. Dark red, medium sized fruit that is juicy, crisp and stores well.

Freedom – Ripens in early October. Red apples that are sweet and tart. Very good disease resistance.

Fuji – baking; sweet & juicy flavorful, stores well. Ripens in mid-October. Yellowish apple with orange-red blush. It has an excellent rich flavor. Some scab resistance. Excellent storage life.

Gala – dried & cider; early ripening; sweet & good flavor; heat tolerant. Ripens in mid-September. Red blush or stripes on yellow. Strong sweet flavor and firm, crisp texture.

Gravenstein – Ripens in late August to early September. Red striped on yellow apples that are firm, crisp and juicy. Excellent apple for all uses. Fair storage life.

Honeycrisp – scab resistance. Ripens in late September. Large crisp, juicy red apples are heavily produced and ideal for fresh eating. Excellent storage life.

Jonagold – pie, applesauce; firm and sweet; big, good flavor, cool climate; great pollinator. Ripens in October. Red blush on large yellow apples. They have an outstanding sweet flavor. Excellent variety for fresh eating or processing.

Liberty – scab resistant. Ripens in late September. Medium apples are red, crisp, firm and sweet. Excellent disease resistance. Produces well on young wood.

Mutsu – great pollinator. Ripens in late October. Moderately sweet green skinned apple. Large apples are excellent for fresh eating and baking.

Pristine – scab resistant and powdery mildew resistance. Ripens in early August. Yellow skinned apple that is firm, crisp and tasty. Disease resistant.

Yellow (Golden) Delicious – firm and sweet; yellow, flavorful, very productive. Earliest variety of apple in the Northwest ripening in early-August. Yellow apples are crisp. Finely textured and somewhat tart. Excellent cooking apple. A good fresh apple, does not store well.

Give us a call at 541-929-3524, come in-store or order online for store pick-up or local delivery!

Between now and early March is the best time to plant many of the plants that produce your favorite fruits and berries because they are available to purchase as bare root.

Buying and planting bare root means:

  • Great low pricing compared to container stock.
  • No heavy pot to lift – Easy handling.
  • Plants won’t be root bound.
  • Plants will not have experienced heat stress like many container plants are subject to.
  • The soil is soft to dig into during winter.
  • Planting in winter will give new plantings time to get well established before summer.

Check out our blog on planting bare root for simple planting guidelines, and our blog with fruit tree growing guides to learn more about the varieties, and the type of conditions they need to grow successfully.


How to Plant Bare Root Trees & Shrubs

Planting Guidelines for Bare Root

1. Remove all wrapping and packaging material.

2. Check that roots are moist and alive. Trim out any dead (brittle, dry) roots.

3. Dig a hole large enough to fit all roots horizontally without bending, and deep enough so the base of the trunk sits where the soil line is. For fruit trees, make sure to not bury the grafted root stock knuckle.

4.  Combine 1/2 of the excavated native soil half and half with a planting compost mix. Mix a granular fertilizer into the soil mix (read the application instructions on the fertilizer bag for amount).

5. Set the plant in the hole at the correct depth and backfill with amended soil (50% native soil from the hole, 50% compost mix and fertilizer).

6. Form a berm around trunk (a ring as wide as the hole) using soil. This allows water to soak in slowly rather than washing soil away.

7. Mix root stimulator with water in a watering jug, and water in the plant slowly and thoroughly. Water again with root stimulator mix after one week.

8. Prune up to 1/3 of the top from the plant to help balance the top growth and the root system.

Additional Important Bare Root Planting Tips

  • NEVER allow the roots to dry out before planting.
  • With grafted plants, make sure the graft is at least 1 inch above the soil-line after planting. You NEVER want to put a graft at or below the soil line.

Soils Amendments, Fertilizer & Root Stimulator

Please give us a call to ask about amounts needed at 541-929-3524, or ask an associate at the store check-out.

#1 Essential
Root Stimulator

When planting woody shrubs and trees, and herbaceous non-edible plants, apply Fertilome Root Stimulator to reduce transplant shock, promote early root formation and strengthen root development. This product is not intended for vegetable or culinary herb plants.

Fruit Trees

G&B Organics Planting Mix is great for a variety of in-ground planting projects, including planting, amending or mulching – holding moisture and improving drainage. The G&B Organics Starter Fertilizer increases transplant success and feeds for several months.


Use G&B Organics Acid Planting Mix and Rhododendron, Azalea & Camellia Fertilizer for planting as these plants grow best in acidic soils.

Shade & Flowering Trees

For large plants with deep roots, the G&B Organics Soil Building Conditioner breaks up hard clay soils, improving drainage and adding micro-nutrients to the soil. It can also be used for mulching and top dressing. The Starter fertilizer is a great choice for this group of plants too.

Other helpful items for support:

  • Chainlock
  • Stakes
  • Tree Gator Water Bags

Shop Our Bare Root Selections

View the wide variety of bare root selections that we carry and are now available to purchase at our store location. You can also order online for store pick-up or local delivery!