Starting Early

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I love to garden. I think it has something to do with the authenticity of it – the feeling of dirt under my nails, the sun beating on my hair, the athleticism of climbing around a garden. There is a smell to a garden that is visceral, especially the scent of newly picked herbs or vegetables like tomatoes or cucumbers. I love how those smells linger on your skin as the oils of the veggies sinks into your very body.

All romanticism aside, these days a garden is not only a hobby, but becoming ever more prevalent and practical for people who care about their food sources.

Food grown in your own backyard or window boxes allows you to use your own fertilizer (we use an organic kind, and while it doesn’t quite keep any pests away, it at least is food safe!), and have a hands-on approach to making sure the food is kept pure the entire time it grows.

We use a lot of seeds from Botanical Interests. They have excellent heirloom and organic seed options. A lot of our metal pieces for climbing vines, beans, peas, cucumbers and the like come from Gardener’s Supply, which makes a lot of its items in America (a bonus!). Once we decide what to plant, we start growing inside.

I’ll be the first to admit that the seedlings are touch and go. We have a ton of natural light in our kitchen, but some seeds certainly still do better than others. Right now our cucumbers and mouse melon plants are thriving the best. There are some great little seed boxes available. This year we are trying Burpee’s mini super growing pellets.

In the Midwest, planting season is short and fast, so indoor planning for the avid gardener is a must. While I am certainly looking forward to getting fast-growing lettuce in the ground, the slow and steady growth of seedling starters is essential, or many plants won’t make maturity before the fall frost hits.

The trick seems to be sprinkling water, lots of light – even more than just natural light – and making sure there are only 1 or 2 little plants per cube. Once the plants get crowded, they start to wilt.

This year we are planting many edible flowers, courtesy of the daughter. That means beside the red carrots, basil and beans that we’ll have columbine, chamomile, feverfew, nasturtiums and lavender along the rows. Likely I’ll add pansy’s for color and splashes in salads.

It’s still April, but gardening fever has hit hard! There is still time to get started on your own seedlings if you live in cooler, temperate climates such as the Midwest, Northwest or Northeast. Join us on the adventure of growing our own food!