How I Cured My Black Thumb with a Seed Subscription Box

updated May 18, 2020
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Who else needs a little spot of sunshine right now — a cheerful little sprout to remind us the world turns and the seasons shift? The image of a garden emerging in spring is a tonic for the homebound soul, but what if you have actually never grown anything before? After over two months of quarantine, we’re all starting to do things we hadn’t considered before — sewing, baking, whittling a menagerie to have miniature dinner parties with until we can see friends again. Faced with empty grocery store shelves and the increasingly apocalyptic shadow of our lives, many people are tempted to start a garden

Even before the pandemic confined my family to our backyard, I had vowed to spend this year nurturing a connection to the seasons by starting a garden. I’m not a gardening person, though. When I think of “gardening” people, I imagine experts in sun needs, soil types, and fertilizer blends. I picture a hearty straw-hatted lady on her knees, picking over flower beds for hours a day. It felt like real gardeners belonged to a secret club that was impossible to join unless you pruned roses at your grandmother’s knee and picked ears of corn straight out of the field. 

My secret is I did grow up shucking corn and shelling peas until my fingers were raw. I left the farm I grew up on to study agriculture in college. I took classes in crop management and toured perfectly managed gardens and farms all over the state. I earned two degrees in agriculture, and I still couldn’t grow a blade of grass. Over the last decade of my urban existence, I lost touch with my connection to food production. I wanted to get back outside, soak up some vitamin nature, and reacquaint myself with the rhythms of the growing season. With all my farming background, I had still never started my own garden from scratch; I hadn’t sustained so much as a succulent for more than a few months.

I earned two degrees in agriculture, and I still couldn’t grow a blade of grass.

In order to start my garden, I knew I needed support to bridge the gap between black thumb and seed-whisperer — but the huge home and garden store was too overwhelming. How would I do this gardening thing if I were back at home on my family’s farm? I wouldn’t try to do it alone, that’s for sure. I would defer to the experience of people who knew what they were doing. They could teach me how to grow okra in a large sunny plot in south Alabama, but who would teach me how to grow something edible in a pot in my small Texas backyard?

Start a Garden Now with a Seed Subscription, No Experience Needed

A connoisseur of subscription boxes, I knew you could get a monthly cactus or house plant, so I figured there had to be something that could hold my hand through every step from seed to salad. Last December, after doing a bunch of research, I decided to try out a seed subscription from Urban Organic Gardener. I liked that it was customized for climate, experience level, sun exposure, and garden type. 

Each month is like a new phase in the natural world, and a monthly subscription can help you tap into that rhythm. Maybe the weather goes wonky or you forget to water those fresh little sprouts? Next month a new package comes and you try again. Gardening is the hobby we need right now (and fresh material for Instagram since you can’t get out of the house). Starting seeds today will help us avoid the trap of not being able to see a few months into the future, when things will hopefully be rosier.

I started my garden back in January, planting beans, lettuce, carrots, and garlic. My kids and I watched every day for little green threads to nose their way up through the soil. By February they had sprouted and withered from neglect. I replanted and vowed to pay closer attention. Since March, we’ve been home constantly, and our little garden of paper cup seedlings and big clay pots of peppers and herbs are alive, if not thriving. We “bombed” the flower bed with butterfly-attracting wildflower seeds and are waiting to see what comes up. I’ve even imagined what our tiny lawn would look like with neat rows of raised beds. Maybe next spring!

The Best Seed Subscription Boxes for Beginners

Here are a few gardening subscription boxes that are especially suited for beginners. 

1. Urban Organic Gardener 

This is the super-customizable box I chose. Tell them you have no experience, where you live, and whether you want to grow plants indoors, in pots, in raised beds, or in the actual ground, and they will send seeds that are just right for your situation. They even offer an option for hydroponics, aquaponics, and tower gardens, but I suspect if you know what those things are, you are not really a beginner.

Also, check out their blog for juicy content about how gardening can get us through this tough time.

Buy now: Urban Organic Gardener, starting at $5/box

2. Bloomin’ Bin 

This Austin-based subscription company ships in-season seeds for food, flowers, or both. You can also sign up for an extra gardening project or surprise tool to accompany your seeds and (beginner-friendly) instructions.

Buy now: Bloomin’ Bin, starting at $8/box

3. Succulents Monthly

I gifted this one to my mom for Mother’s Day (her thumb is slightly greener than mine). The box came with a little succulent, a cute pot, instructions, and everything she needed pot it. Total mom comment: “Thank you! Maybe I can keep it alive.”

The same company (a family that has been in the nursery business for four generations) also produces My Garden Box. Each monthly box contains everything you need for a beautiful and creative in-season gardening project. And watch for their upcoming Tikes Garden box, which is a beginner-friendly box targeted for kids.

Buy now: Succulents Monthly, starting at $19

4. Seed Bombs 

This is a bonus pick, just for fun. What could be easier than a ball of clay and seeds you just toss at your flower bed? Not only will these bombs bring blooms into your life, but they also include flowers that are especially attractive to pollinators (butterflies and bees). 

Your seed bombs will be customized to grow well in your part of the country. This is a one-time kit, not a subscription, but the flowers are perennials (gardening vocab alert!), meaning they will come back every year without replanting.

Buy now: Seed bombs, for $6

Have you ever tried a seed subscription box? Do you have one you recommend? Let us know in the comments!