Proof, above, that deer will bite into daffodils. You can see the poor remains of a flower that was trying to come up. The deer in my yard, after that trial, have left my daffodils alone, and I have too many daffodils to use my expensive deer spray on.
More on seeds:
If you grow annuals in pots, early spring is the time to freshen the soil with compost. Or, if you dump the dirt from your pots into your flower beds to top them off, as I do, it’s the right time to buy new topsoil and fill pots again. I use bags labeled topsoil rather than potting mix, because topsoil, as the commercial suppliers make it, has a lot of wood chips, and none of the added fertilizers. I think it’s better not to overfeed your potted plants.
Most annuals can live outdoors in early May. A few, like dusty millers and bachelor’s buttons, have thick, hairy leaves, and can endure a frost, but this is no rule of thumb, as other hairy-leaved annuals, like tomatoes and sunflowers, can’t endure cold temps at all.
Be prepared to carry pots indoors or cover them—but in a typical year, late April is the frost-safe, as opposed to frost-free, time. Early May (6b) is when, historically, frost doesn’t occur.
Do home-gathered seeds germinate better than commercial ones?
I don’t notice a difference when starting seeds indoors. Gathered seeds, in my observation, germinate better than commercial seeds when sown directly outdoors. That’s probably because they were “born” with fungal or bacterial influences drawn from my locality, and so root happily in the home soil.
A six-pack of annuals, dotted here and there, is underwhelming, but a swath of marigolds, crowded in with cosmos, zinnia, tithonia, salvia, sunflower, etc., is a beautiful sight. Create swaths at the edges of beds and paths by scraping a hoe across the surface, loosening lawn grass and weeds (and discarding them!). Then sow seeds densely and tamp them in, so they don’t immediately attract birds. You can cover a sowing with straw, lightly applied. Mulch is too heavy, and will inhibit germination.
Can you start a garden entirely by direct sowing?
The first consideration is timing. You would want to research which plants can grow to blooming size in your zone in the space of 120 days, most of the frost-free planting season. Rudbeckias, Gaillardias, Butterfly Weed, Heliopsis, are some perennials that have bloomed for me their first year from seed. Annuals give far more choices, but even zinnias and marigolds may not actually bloom until July (in 6b, + or – in 5b, 6a, and 7a), if sown directly. Another consideration is creatures. Ants are large consumers of seeds, and have the military organization to find them. Scratching birds may also discover a good portion of your seeds.
For vegetables, a lot of the good stuff is typically direct-sown, as corn, beans, peas, squash, potatoes, onions. (I mentioned last post the advantage of starting corn in pots, if you have squirrels.) Tomatoes, timing-wise, are on a thin margin, and won’t work well. Some skinny peppers may fruit; bells are unlikely to fatten up without starting under lights.
The two points to consider, then, are: How soon do you want to see flowers (fruits)? How much of haphazard results are you willing to tolerate? You can save a ton of money with all-direct-sowing, and can try the experiment in just a portion of your garden.