After two March Nor’easters (and supposedly another on the way – don’t shoot the messenger!) a garden in full bloom may be a distant thought in your mind, but believe it or not, now is the time to start preparing! Starting vegetables from seed is a cheap and easy way to supply your home with fresh produce all summer long!
First, you’ll need to decide what you want to grow. Generally, the rule of thumb is to grow about ¼ of what you think you’ll need. This gives you ample space when your vegetables are fully grown. Next is the fun part – get a hold of some seed catalogs and make some decisions. Most websites offer the same choices as a print catalogs. Park Seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Burpee and Gurney’s are all popular choices. You’ll be astounded at the options!
As a general rule of thumb, count back about 6 weeks from the last frost date, which is usually sometime in the beginning of May in Zone 6B, and that’s when you’ll want to have your seeds in some soil. Seeds can be started in seed trays or you can get creative! Egg cartons work well – even empty egg shells, if you’re careful about cracking them open. One fun veggie to get ready to plant soon is sweet peas! Tradition says to get them sown directly in the ground around St. Patrick’s Day.
Get some seed starting soil at the local hardware store and find something to label your plants. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to determine what type of tomato or pepper is growing where! It may sound overly simple, but just read the instructions on seed packets. This will give you an idea of spacing, germination, watering, etc. And speaking of watering – don’t let your seedlings dry out but don’t drown them, either! A mister or turkey baster are gentle enough for young plants. Be sure to keep your tender plants somewhere warm with plenty of natural light, if possible. Try to keep them free of drafts – 65 to 70 degrees is an ideal temperature for these delicate plants.
You will thank yourself for taking these simple steps come the heat of summer when your backyard is full of healthy, fresh produce!