By Richard Davies
Spring is in the air, even if there's still snow on the ground. Either that, or you're just getting the gardening itch, possibly with spring months off for you. Seed retailers know this is a common occurrence in winter, so they send out catalogs galore right before New Years. Such pretty pictures and tantalizing descriptions. I know I was tempted to buy countless varieties. Like most, I came to my senses and chose only the varieties that grow best in my area, from companies that have test farms in my climate. That way I know they'll do well here.
As Mel stated, you can save money by buying seeds rather than seedlings, so much so that you can buy 50 seeds for the cost of a single seedling in some cases. Last year, I went the seed route on everything, except my tomatoes. I just wasn't comfortable growing tomatoes from seed my first year gardening. This year, I'm taking the plunge.
So, assuming you went the seed route, whether or not you bought them from a rack, online or a catalog, you now have to plant them. Depending on your climate, you may start them indoors to get a jump on the season so you can transplant them outside closer to your Last Spring Frost. I know mine is much later than some gardening buddies in the South, and I'm not certain Southern California even gets frost in the winter.
The way I see it, you have tons of options on how to plant. You can plant indoors under lights, or a sunlit window, or you can go outdoors in cold climates with winter sowing or wait and direct sow. Confusing you yet? The beauty is there are options to meet anyone's needs and some techniques work better than others for different plants. For me, I'm going to go with a simple light system for my tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and maybe some greens. Once I decided to plant indoors, I had to decide where to plant them. Should I go with the popular peat pellets/pots, Dixie Cups, or a cool soil block maker. The answer is, whatever works for you and your budget. Once your seedlings are ready to be transplanted, make sure you ease them into the garden gently. Hardening off is a simple, time-consuming, yet necessary step to acclimate the plants to the wind and the cool spring temperatures.
Of course, not all seeds lend themselves well to indoor sowing, or winter sowing for that matter. Carrots are a great example. For those, my kids like to pick them from my hand and put a single seed into each hole they have poked with their finger. Tiny fingers easily pick up single carrot and lettuce seeds. That's my way of confirming that little kids love to help mommy or daddy in the garden. I'm even going to give them little gardens of their own this year to plant with whatever they want. I know my eldest will plant carrots, he's a fiend.
So, you've got the gardening itch and all those colorful catalogs only made it worse. Go out and do something about it, and involve your family. Someday your kids will take their youngsters out to their garden. Then we will have truly become what is needed going forward... a self-sufficient, sustainable culture.
Richard Davies gardens in the Seattle area (Zone 8b). At 37, I hope to improve the variety and quality of the food my family eats. My 5 and 2 year olds and I are excited to grow food for our family all year long and work to eat better. Along the way, I hope to learn all I can about vegetable gardening and pass along the knowledge to future generations. Enjoy your garden!
Visit his blog at: http://ft2garden.powweb.com/sinfonian/
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