Growing vegetables and herbs from seed is easy, inexpensive, and fascinating because you get to witness the growth cycle of a plant from beginning to harvest. You can do it yourself or get family or friends involved in the plotting. All you need is a space that gets at least six hours of sun, has nearby access to a hose, and (wait for it … ) seeds!
✓ Bags of garden soil and/or compost
✓ Pencil or small stick
✓ Gardening gloves and hat
✓ Drinking water, sunblock, family and friends
In spring (as in, now), you can sow most seeds directly in the garden. But before you start doing what I like to call the “Sprinkle & Shake,” you need to prep the planting area. If you’re planting in the ground, remove weeds and apply a six-inch layer of compost. Compost boosts soil nutrition and helps retain soil moisture. In other words, your plants will love you for it. With a digging fork or long trowel, work the compost into the existing soil, breaking up any big clumps. You want the soil to be nice and finely textured. Rake the garden bed smooth and and lightly water it if the soil is dry. Aim for moist not soggy. With the heavy work now out of the way, you’re ready to plant.
If you haven’t selected your seeds by now, you can do this at the nursery while the compost and moisture settle into the garden bed. Buy seeds for what you want to eat, of course, but also consider how much space the plants will ultimately need, which ones perform best in your area (check with your local Orchard Nursery), and what vegetables grow well together. A reliable rule of thumb: veggies and herbs that taste great together can usually be grown together successfully. Leafy greens are typically easy to grow from seed and can thrive in each other’s company. Try a mix of kale, Swiss chard and lettuces. Other great easy-grow combos include cherry tomatoes, peppers and herbs like basil or thyme; and carrots, beans and radishes. Look for disease-resistant varieties, too, of which there seems to be increasingly more and more.
Follow directions on seed packets for spacing requirements and how deep to plant. Make furrows with a hoe if you’ve got room to do long, traditional rows. For smaller plots, you can simply press a pencil or stick into the soil to create furrows, gently sprinkle the seeds, then pinch the soil over the seeds, pat lightly and water. You can snip off a corner of the packet and carefully tap the seeds into the furrows or distribute the seed by shaking it gently from your hand. Either way is easy-peasy. Scatter pinches of seed as evenly as possible but don’t worry if it’s not lined up. Be extra careful with very small seeds on a windy day. Larger seeds, such as for pole or bush beans, can simply be pushed one-by-one into the soil with a finger.
Water the furrows with the mist setting on your garden hose. Keep top of soil moist but not soggy until the seeds sprout. When seedlings emerge and have put on 2-3 “true” leaves, thin out the plants. This prevents overcrowding, benefits development, and is just easier to do while the plants are still young. If you thin the plants carefully, you can use the seedlings you pinch out elsewhere in the garden. Feel free to even start another row with them. The more veggies, the merrier.
Get all of your seedling, soil and planting needs taken care of when you visit your local Orchard Supply Hardware.