Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time to Start Seeds for the Summer Vegetable Garden!

Why grow your own food?
A great way to get fresh, local produce is to have your own vegetable garden.  Harvesting foods from your own yard is wonderful, for adults and kids alike. Because you can harvest your foods at the peek of ripeness, the flavor of your garden-grown foods will be so much better than the produce that is typically found at the store. And when you grow your own food, there is no wondering about what chemicals may have been used on your food. 

Why plant from seed?
Small vegetable plants can be bought at the store, but I prefer to start all of my plants from seed. This is a great way to save money as seed packets cost only one to three dollars, and will yield many plants.  I am still using some remaining seeds from packets that were bought two years ago!

My daughter and I also get great joy from watching the tiny seeds turn into plants. Plus, you have an endless selection of seeds to choose from, whereas most stores will only stock a few varieties of each plant.

What plants should you start early?
Although the time for planting summer gardens is still a few months away, now is the time to start some plants from seed. This will allow your seedlings to be ready in time for planting outdoors once the last chance of frost has passed.  The plants that I like to start early are those that take a long while to produce, including:
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
Here in the desert southwest, we have a very long growing season, so I can start the remaining garden plants (such as zucchini, squash, and cucumbers) outside in a month or two . If you live somewhere that you have a very short growing season (or just want to get a jump-start on the garden), you may want to even start some of these plants indoors as well.

How to start seeds
Basically, the seeds will need soil, moisture, and light.  I have started seeds in either a seed tray or just in small pots.  I have a friend who has had good luck even just using paper cups. I don't use any fancy store-bought soil; rather, I just scoop some compost-enriched dirt from my garden out back. I also don't use any growing lights (although I'm sure the plants would be happier if I did).  Instead, I just put them in a sunny windowsill. As for seeds, I buy all of mine from Botanical Interests (a great family-operated business). Once they are planted, you'll have to keep the seeds moist until they germinate, and then make sure they don't dry out too much while those tiny roots are growing.

If you are ready to take the plunge, there is a good seed starting tutorial here.

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade!


Patty said...

This is one of my favorite times of the year,,,pulling out seed packs and ordering new varieties! We are going to start out tomatoes and peppers this weekend, actually a little later than past years, but still within the window of opportunity here in the south. Thanks for sharing all the good reminders!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist said...

We are going to do a garden this year and I am so excited to get started! Thanks for sharing this inspiring post at Monday Mania this week! :)

Sarah Smith said...

Sarah, good luck! The first year is so exciting!