Seed Plan

I have been immersed in the world of vegetables.

As I am planning my very first vegetable garden this year, I have spent the last two weekends studying, like a student, how to grow vegetables. It brought me back to my university days. For several nights I have sat at the kitchen table after the kids have gone to bed, with my library books and my notebook, busily learning.

The culmination of this effort is a page of notes for each vegetable I want to grow: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, mint and spinach. I have learned a lot. For example, cucumbers like hot weather, but they like their fruit to stay cool and shaded under their large leaves. Their roots are vulnerable at the seedling stage so it is best to plant them in a pot that can go directly into the ground outside.

Now peas hate the heat, and so are the very first to be planted in the spring – a full 4 weeks before last frost date! Hot weather converts the sugary goodness within their pods into starchy blandness, so one hot afternoon on the vine in the middle of summer can make all the difference.

As for beans, there are two types – little guys that grow in little bushes (bush beans), and then big trailing types that grow up poles (pole beans). I am going to try both. The pole beans can be grown up a 6′ tripod of bamboo or wood stakes; I think this will look so pretty that I am going to put them in my front yard.

Carrots take the longest to germinate, so much so that gardeners forget where they have planted them. So some people plant them mixed in with radishes, just to mark the rows (radishes sprout and grow quick, but since you have to pull them all out after the carrots finally do come up, I think that this is too much work and a waste of radishes).

Tomatoes are the divas. They are well loved, but high maintenance. I learned that there are two main types, those that stay in a bush (determinant) and those that climb on a vine (indeterminant). I will try some of each. For those that vine, you have to give them a trellis or stake support, and tie them as they grow, at every 12″ or so. You also have to prune off the little suckers, so that the plant only maintains 2 to 3 main stems to focus its energy. You need to side dress them with compost when the flowers come out, and keep them well watered but not too much or else their skins will split. They are very frost sensitive so they should go out one week after last frost and then be covered up with blankets if there is any risk of frost thereafter. This is where container gardening has some advantages, as you can just whip in all your containers inside if there is a chance of frost!

Then there is the lettuce, it grows fast and aplenty and if you plant a few seeds every week or so you will have lettuce all season long. Great!

Some plants are started from seed outdoors, and some have a longer growing season so have to be started early indoors from seed, and then planted outside as a seedling later on. Every plant has a different plant date according to the kind of weather they like (peas like cool, cucumbers like hot) and they all grow at different rates and have different harvest times as well. It can get bit confusing to keep straight, so I decided to pull out my nerdy spreadsheet skills and map this thing out:

So it looks like next weekend, we will be planting our first seeds indoors, parsley, lettuce, oregano and mint to be exact. The weekend after that – peppers. The weekend after that – our diva tomatoes. Interestingly enough, the weekend after that we will be starting our basil indoors from seed at the same time we are supposed to be planting our peas outside from seed (April 9th). This seems ridiculous since this is only a few weeks away and there is still currently 3 feet of snow outside. Melt baby melt! That part of the schedule might have to be adjusted. It looks like I will be busy harvesting in July, and for some crops, will be able to put in a second planting before fall. Lettuce I will plant all summer long. Tomatoes will be saved for last, ready at the very end of the growing season (like all divas, they make you wait).

This will be my first crack at raising seedlings indoors, so if it doesn’t work, I will just buy seedlings at the nursery. I figure it is worth a try and will be fun for the kids to be involved too. I am sure they will love to help plant the seeds, and see how they germinate and grow. I am hoping to have two little helpers in the garden all season long. It will give us something to do together outside, and who knows, maybe they will eat all these new vegetables that they had a hand in growing…

So my planting dates are coming up quickly, and I needed to get my hands on some seeds. Since I did not have time to order them from a seed catalogue this year, I browsed varieties using online seed catalogues, looked up which varieties were recommended for my area, and then took all this information to my local nursery to buy packets of seeds off the rack. It was fun!

So much potential, those little packets. What goodness will they bring?

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11 thoughts on “Seed Plan

  1. Sherry, it’s so great to hear about how excited you are to get growing this season!

    Do you – or do you any of your readers – know of good books I can learn from regarding indoor vegetable gardens? My situation is uncommon: last fall I moved into an apartment above a store, nestled between others stores with apartments above them. So my only windows are at the south and north ends, with sky lights in the windowless rooms in the middle of the apartment. The south room has an enclosed balcony. So it’s warmer than outside but colder than inside. I have no clue when to start planting. In the middle of the summer, it will be as hot as a greenhouse (great for tomatoes and cucumbers), but for now it’s still quite chilly.

    I wish I could find a book that could help me plan!

    • You could probably grow all sorts of stuff on your enclosed southern balcony, especially heat loving plants like peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. These all take well to container gardening. You can make self-watering containers yourself for free using large plastic pails from restaurants (see http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/, he grows everything on his balcony and has videos on how to build these containers). The main books I read are Square Foot Gardening (http://amzn.to/eqTZMy) as well as Small Plot High Yield Gardening (http://amzn.to/gzouVg). The former tells you how to set up your containers and growing medium, the latter focuses more on growing the individual plants themselves.

      I will be doing a lot of container gardening too, as my south facing exposure is all concrete patio and driveway. I am probably going to build my own containers out of wood as per the Square Foot gardening book, but will also have some pots as well. It looks like your frost free date is May 9, so you could pretty much use the same dates as me! I bet you could start seeds indoors under your skylights.

      Did you know that one tomato plant can provide between 50-200 tomatoes? It is amazing!

  2. It’s amazing how much there is to learn — about everything, really. You’ve really embraced this opportunity to learn more about what you eat! In a way, it’s strange that we know so little about the food we eat. I was out on a walk the other day and thought, “Generations ago, native Americans seeing some of the same plants would have known exactly which ones were edible and useful.” Although I don’t have any outdoor space, I’m thinking about getting into wild foraging…

    • So true, we are so disconnected with our food. Where did it all come from? I made a curry rice pilaf the other day, and was taking a bite and stopped to consider a pea, a raison and some rice on my fork. What journey did each of these three small elements travel to get to me? A world-wide journey I am sure!! I am hoping gardening will change some of that.

  3. Oooooh, how I love a good nerdy spreadsheet! Very nice. You should give the kids one of their own little trays of seedlings each so that they feel like the plants are their very own, you know? I think I’m going to do that for J this year, with a container plant or two, for when she’s helping me with the garden chores. If I ever plant anything, that is. There’s currently about 7 feet of snow on my planting bed. It’s where the driveway shovelled heap is. I chucked at the thought of planting anything outdoors three weeks from now. As if!

  4. I am so impressed by your organization! I expect lots of photos of the garden. Every year I plant a garden with my kids-although our space is getting smaller and smaller as the trees grow and shade our little patch. Hard to tell how large or small the space will be this year since we are also still knee-deep in snow. Gardening truly is a wonderful accomplishment. To know where your food comes from and to be a part of the process is incredible. Good luck!

  5. Great job! It’s definitely a lot of work to grow food, especially if you’re just starting out. I’d like to start growing a few things too soon, once I get a planter set up. Can’t wait to see your progress! Good luck!

  6. I love your spreadsheet! I love excel, excel is my friend (and access) lol.

    I plant to try planting veggies in pots this year. First time I’m attempting vegetables too. In fact, yesterday I planted some spinach and lettuce seeds to start inside and I plan to move them outside when the time is right. I need to figure out when that is too..and create my own handy dandy spreadsheet. I saved some egg cartons that were made of recycled cardboard, and I planted one to two seeds in each spot. I figure when the time comes, I can cut it apart and plant each section as is…since the cardboard will break down. We’ll see how well this goes.

  7. Pingback: Seedlings | One Earth to Live

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