Extra warm spring weather and lots of time home…… a great combination to try your hand at planting a veggie Victory Garden. My gym is closed and I want to limit my trips to the grocery store which has lots of empty shelves, so I am ramping up for a large produce-filled garden this season. In the next couple of posts, I will guide you through seed starting, preparing your soil, planting edibles in the ground as well as containers, and what vegetables you should grow that are easy and quick, kind of a rapid response solution to our pandemic.
Read my post on Growing Healthy Microgreens for instant food.
Quick Growing Veg For Early Spring Planting
- Arugula 30 days
- Snow Peas 60 days
- Broccoli 60 days
- Green Onions 3-4 weeks
- Turnips 60 days
- Baby Carrots 30 days
- Radishes 22-50 days
- Cucs 50 days. plant when soil is a bit warmer
- Beets 50 days
- Bush Beans 40-65 days, plant when soil is a bit warmer
- Bok Choy 30-60 days
- Summer Squash 35 days, plant when soil is a bit warmer
- Kale 50-65 days
Studies have proven that growing your own food is good for your physical health, nutrition, and mental clarity. Also, in a uncertain time, you can feel more in control if you start doing something to solve your problems. Growing food fits the bill! Even if you have a good supply of food now, what will happen later? Could there be food shortages and will it be hard and time consuming to find? My solution is to revive the Victory Garden which was the U.S. governments encouragement during the World Wars for Americans to grow their own food to relieve shortages and was promoted as a family friendly activity. If you have kids, this is a great time to involve them in planting and maintaining a garden. With my daughter, she was out in the garden with me from the time she could crawl and now that she is grown, she is doing a Victory Garden at her own place now. So, habits like these rub off to the next generation.
If you don’t have a suitable sunny area, then do it in containers on your deck or patio. Even though I have a large garden ready to be planted and seeded, I love the convenience of going out my back door and grabbing a bunch of herbs or lettuce without trudging through rain or mud to get it. You need a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight to have good results. Greens and parsley can do fine in a bit less.
Starting Seeds Indoors – 5 Reasons
Seed starting in spring is a rite of passage for me. Fingering all the seed packets, shaking them, and admiring the beautiful covers is all part of the process. If I don’t have at least a hundred seed packets stacked up, I get restless and start browsing more seed catalogs.
It is a lot of work to start them, and it requires some equipment to do it right, but when late winter/early spring rolls around, it is kind of like Christmas with the new shoots poking though.
You even have seeds in your pantry. You can grow any of the dried beans or chick peas or peas that you have for a crop. Think outside the box for your seed sources. Even sesame and coriander in your spices can be grown. If you have dried chili peppers, the seeds can be removed and planted. Here are the reasons you should be seed starting:
1. More Choices
At a nursery which might or might not be open, they might sell 20-25 varieties of tomatoes. From seed you can grow at least a thousand more. The varieties that you can grow are mind boggling, and only a fraction of these are grown and sold at a local nursery.
2. Save Money
A packet of tomatoes will set you back $2.50 to $4. If you bought all those transplants at the nursery that one packet can start, you pay that many times over. Plus, if you grow heirlooms, you can save the seeds and regrow every year.
3. It’s Easy
Most vegetables should be started directly into the garden. Planting transplants of cucs, beans, peas, beets, carrots, lettuce – the list goes on – is expensive and time consuming, and not practical. Starting seed directly into a vegetable garden avoids transplant shock and gives veggies a head start.
4. Save the Bees
Many transplants and soils have been treated with insecticides that negatively impact bee visits. Some nurseries are careful and transparent, but some are not, and many times aren’t labeled with the insecticide treatment. Go to my post on Pesticide Free Nurseries. You are controlling your quality of new transplants by starting them yourself.
5. It’s Fun !
There is nothing more satisfying than sticking a tiny seed in soil and watching it grow! Don’t over water and make sure they get lots of light (the more the better) to grow sturdy and healthy. Seedlings tend to elongate and get floppy if there isn’t enough light.
My most important piece of equipment is a PVC light stand for my grow light. Go to PVC Light Stand for easy to follow, inexpensive directions for a light stand. I put this together myself, so anyone can construct one. Yes, you can use your window sills for light, but a light hung a few inches above seedlings is vastly superior and will make your seedlings fat and happy, not thin and spindly. There are too many cloudy winter days for seedlings to get their required allotment of light. I just use a simple LED shop light, available at any hardware store. LED is the key word here, as it gives off a much stronger light than fluorescent.
Most seedling benefit from bottom heat and will shoot up much quicker. You could use a radiator or other warm surface, but I like the heat mat as it fits exactly under a flat and you can control the temperature. Inexpensive also, heat mats are available on Amazon.
Flats are simply low narrow trays that you can fill with soilless medium. Once filled, you nest into another waterproof tray to catch any excess water and you can also use the clear lid to create a moist environment to enhance seed starting. Some trays are divided into cells, so you are growing a seedling in its own contained root run.
How many times have you started seedlings, and found to your horror that they fall over and die? This is the consequence of “damping off”, a far to common occurrence which is a fungal disease that occurs under damp, moist conditions. Right! Your seedlings are damp and moist because you are misting them to encourage them to sprout! So, I use a small fan attached to my light stand to circulate the air to discourage “damping off”. And it works. Simple solution, but effective.
I like to water with a mister, as it disturbs the seedlings the least. But it requires a lot of time to mist all my seedlings by hand, so I have graduated to a larger Dramm watering can with a fine mesh “rose”. A “rose” just diffuses the water so it falls gently onto the seedlings and is much more efficient than a mister.
Additional Lighting Units
The LED grow lights are wonderful, but sometimes every seedling won’t fit under the grow light. So, I supplement with LED spray lights.
You need a source of sterile soilless medium to start your seeds. I use coconut coir, which is a coconut fiber extracted from the husk of coconut. The beauty of coir, which is sold in a compressed form, is that I am not lugging home heavy bags of potting soil. Instead, I buy small compressed blocks of coir, 3″ x 6″, hydrate it in water, and I end up with 8 quarts of potting medium. Much less expensive and more convenient, you can find this online or at Home Depot, or other hardware stores. There is no nutrition in this soil medium, so as soon as your seedlings are up and running, you need to fertilize.
Next up: Growing Veg in Containers