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8 Reasons Starting Your Own Seedlings is a Complete Waste of Time & Money

Photo collage, seedlings under grow light, and a hand holding up a tomato seedling
Don’t do it, you’re going to regret it.

Every year, well before the growing season starts, gardeners everywhere decide to waste their time and money starting seedlings for their garden.

These gluttons for punishment never seem to learn that there are perfectly good seedlings waiting for them at every big-box home improvement store and garden center. Read on to find out why starting seedlings is a waste of time and why you should stop.

1. Starting your own seeds is not fun.

Trust me on this one; there is nothing at all delightful about spooning seed-starting mix you made yourself into tiny seed-starting trays. And don’t even get me started on soil-blocking. I can assure you there is nothing at all immensely satisfying about those perfectly lined-up blocks with their little dimple in the middle just waiting for a seed. All those colorful seed packets with photos or illustrations of flowers and vegetables? Awful, simply awful.

Seeds being grown on tables in front of a large window
Absolutely no fun to be had here. Keep moving.

All that anticipation and hope for the coming growing season, pfft, what a waste of time.

We won’t even discuss what happens when the seeds start germinating. Actually, no, I better warn you.

2. Germinating seeds will completely ruin your day.

Seriously, there’s nothing more depressing than starting your day with a hot cup of joe and a perusal of your seed trays. I can’t tell you what a letdown it is to find beautiful rows of tiny, brand-new sprouts poking up out of the dirt.

tiny basil seedlings
Well, that’s my day ruined.
(Aren’t these tiny mini-basil seeds so cute?)

I mean it. Your eyes aren’t meant for that much fresh green in February. Walking around with a spring in your step because your seeds have germinated could lead to neck and lower back pain.

3. Change is terrifying. Stick with what you know.

Does the thought of trying something new give you the heebie-jeebies? Is vanilla your go-to ice cream flavor at the place that offers over 39 flavors? Are you annoyed by all of the new seed varieties popping up in seed catalogs each year? Then, by all means, don’t start your own seeds!

A hot pepper seedling
This is totally not a new hot pepper I wanted to try simply because it’s purple. (Buena mulata) Nope. We stick to the basics in this house. It’s probably not even a hot pepper, it’s probably a bell.

Stick to whatever cultivars the wise folks at Bonnie decided to grow this year. Surely, they know what’s best for all of us. Remember, your favorite tomato variety is the one you’ve been growing for years. It’s the one labeled “Tomato.”

4. Sowing seeds in the winter is incredibly difficult and has poor results.

There’s a reason so few gardeners swear by this practice. It’s because it rarely ever works, and it’s a very difficult skill to master. It’s what we call a “lost art,” if you will. No one knows much about how to successfully start seeds or even what seeds you can start indoors, and finding useful information to help you successfully germinate seeds and avoid leggy seedlings is almost impossible.  

Several trays of seedlings hardening off in the sun
As you can see, by all of these many and varied plants, my efforts clearly did not pay off, nor did I enjoy a bountiful harvest later in the season.

We’re pretty sure most of the information concerning this type of gardening was lost in the dark ages.

Those who have tried and failed are much too ashamed to share their seed-starting mistakes. It’s best just to buy the seedlings that are magically conjured by those learned in this dark art employed at garden centers across the nation.

5. Starting seedlings yourself can lead to an unhealthy sense of control over your own food supply.

Sowing seeds indoors could lead to a heady sense of freedom and control over what you put in your body. We certainly don’t need any of that.

By choosing what seeds you start, you are taking responsibility for the whole process.

Seed packets scattered on the floor.
So much power in such tiny paper packages.

You can choose what seed company you buy from. You’ll also get to pick whether you grow a hybrid or an heirloom, organic seeds or non-GMO. You are the one who decides what types of fertilizer you’ll apply to the new plants.

Are you even qualified for any of this?

I’m pretty sure you need some sort of affiliation with a four-letter government agency to be making these kinds of decisions. You could get us all in trouble. Just buy your seedlings, for heaven’s sake!

6. Starting seed indoors is prohibitively expensive.

Seedlings growing on a windowsill.

Everyone knows that you need thousands of dollars in equipment to grow seedlings. It’s not as if you can grow them in old toilet paper rolls or recycled yogurt cups. If you think you can buy a quality set of grow lights at a reasonable price or an inexpensive indoor greenhouse, you’ve got another thing coming. (Those are most certainly not the same grow lights and greenhouse the author uses because she’s not foolish enough to start her own seeds.)

And you better believe you have to have fancy equipment to get the job done. There certainly aren’t thousands of gardeners out there who successfully start seeds in plastic cups on their windowsill every year.

7. Planting seedlings you grew yourself in your garden is bad for your health.

Seedlings sitting on the ground in a garden, ready to be planted.
Whoa, nelly, just what do you think you’re going to do with that flat of homegrown seedlings?

The act of starting seedlings indoors is bad enough, but the thought of transplanting them out in the garden is just bad for you. As you stand back and survey your successfully transplanted tomatoes, it could lead to a dangerous swelling in your chest as you fill with pride. This could also lead to excessive smiling, which causes wrinkles. Furthermore, a sense of accomplishment can improve overall self-esteem, and let’s be honest, who needs more of that?

8. Growing seedlings in the winter is not an effective method of beating the wintertime blues.

Brussels sprouts seedlings growing in a window.
Seriously, there is nothing to smile about here, people.

Do you suffer from SAD? Does that period after the holidays leave you feeling listless and rundown? Is the cabin fever starting to set in? Good! That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We’re all supposed to suffer in silence and be miserable until spring.

Don’t go thinking that starting your own seeds will cheer you up or lead to improved mental health and well-being because it won’t. There is absolutely no scientific research linking interaction with indoor plants to less psychological stress. That whole houseplant boom during the pandemic was just a fluke.

A trunkful of plants
That’s much better. It’s nice to see you’re getting in line.
These are totally not plants bought at a local mom-and-pop nursery in addition to the ones I started at home. Certainly not!

Look, can’t you just get in line and grow the same old beefsteak tomatoes on offer like everyone else?


Well, I’m not surprised. Neither can I.

It’s no big secret – starting seedlings indoors is one of the greatest joys of gardening. Whether you enjoy growing new or hard-to-find varieties, you appreciate having control of your food supply, or you enjoy the distraction of starting seeds in the middle of the dreary winter, the benefits are countless both in and out of the garden. Who would want any of that?

(If you got a chuckle out of this article and want another, send it to someone you know who will be incensed by the title. And why not join our newsletter for more garden fun like this?)

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,