It’s time to think about vegetables.
Not so long ago, I wouldn't have been able to tell you anything about seeds and spring planting. But a few simple experiments later, I'm a newbie gardener who gets excited to tell everyone about all things soil and compost.
Finally, after months of waiting for snow drifts to melt off my garden boxes, a cool spring has arrived. I can now follow the directions on the back of some of my seed packets: “Plant as soon as the soil can be worked.”
That means now, even if the weather feels too cool and frost still descends overnight.
This week I planted spinach, lettuce, snap peas, carrots and all cool-weather vegetables that will flourish before hot summer days arrive.
"It's been our very own science experiment. We have all watched the miracle of one tiny seed turn into a plant and eventually, food we can pick and eat for dinner."
But wait, these directions don’t apply to all vegetables.
On the back of other seed packets it says, “Do not plant until after the last frost.”
These are important directions for planting outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start on planting.
Start your plants inside. It’s easy:
- Buy soil from a Walmart, Lowe’s or any other store that sells soil
- Buy plastic containers to put the soil in. You can even buy easy-to-plant containers that go right in the ground with your plant (or use your cardboard egg cartons).
- Put soil in individual containers
- Make a hole in the soil
- Put 1 or 2 seeds in each individual hole
- Cover with a little soil and water lightly
- Water lightly once a day and let the seed germinate
- In a few days the seed will sprout and you can start exposing your seeds to sun
- After a few weeks you will have small plants to put in your garden
I am not yet a master gardener, but every year it gets easier as I learn new tricks about growing vegetable plants. This I do know: Wait until after the last frost to put your carefully tended plants into the ground.
Last year in New Hampshire, an unusually warm spring tricked me into thinking I could plant vegetables earlier than usual. The next week, I mourned the loss of more than 32 tomato plants when a late May frost killed them all. I learned the lesson the hard way.
Check your local forecasts and local gardening websites. They’ll let you know when it’s time to put those plants in the ground.
My family has greatly benefited from this planting venture. Financially, Burpee Seed Company estimates that for every $1 spent on seeds is $25 saved on fresh produce. Not only is it cheaper, it's healthier, fresher and extremely satisfying to enjoy the fruits of your own labor.
I have been amazed at how much I look forward to this time of year. My youngest children like to put the little seeds in the holes to plant, another child likes to water, and we all like to pick and eat fresh produce. Except for the zucchini. We’re still working on that one.
It’s been our very own science experiment. We have all watched the miracle of one tiny seed turn into a plant and eventually, food we can pick and eat for dinner. Gardens take time and work, but summer can be a wonderful time to slow down, spend more time at home with kids and work together on a project that benefits everyone.
This spring and summer the menu will include peas, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and spinach blends, cucumbers, melons, beets, beans as well as some new planting experiments including peanuts and potatoes. If the thought of gardening overwhelms you like it once did me, stop worrying. Start with one seed packet. You’ll be amazed how easy it really is.
Amy Makechnie is a writer, runner, and full-time mother from New Hampshire.