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Indoor seed starting for our spring garden

By on March 9, 2016

Last week we introduced our new raised garden bed project, but what are we actually going to grow in it? Since we’re in Plant Hardiness Zone 6A, and our last spring frost date is around April 20, we did some indoor seed starting a couple of weeks ago to get a head start on the growing season. E and I filled a few plantable peat pots with seed starting mix on our dining nook table, and made DIY plant markers from wooden ice cream sticks.

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

I showed E how to sprinkle the seeds and cover them with a bit of the seed starting mix.

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

We sprayed carefully them with water (at this stage, it’s best not to disturb the seeds too much), set them out on our windowsill, and waited for the seeds to germinate. Within a few days, we had seedlings! Here’s what we planted:

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Kale – Tuscan and Red Russian
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

I bought two kinds of kale because we eat a lot of greens in our house. I’m planting it in our spring garden, and I’ll plant more in the fall and see if I can get it to overwinter. I’ve grown kale in containers before and it’s done pretty well.

Swiss chard – Neon
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

John and I grew chard in our first container garden, and it was one of our great successes. It produced like gangbusters in both cool and hot weather, and we just kept cutting and eating it for months. Rainbow chard (also known as Bright Lights) is the most eye-catching, but this year I’m trying a variety called Neon which looks pretty much like the same thing.

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Mizuna – Kyoto
Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

I’ve actually never eaten or grown mizuna before, but it was on sale for $1 at Johnny’s when I was ordering a few other things, so I decided to try it. It’s a member of the mustard greens family and used a lot in Asian cooking.

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Lettuce – Midnight Ruffles (loose leaf)
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

John loves lettuce and requested we grow it this year. The loose leaf varieties are nice because you can harvest the outer leaves and the inner ones keep growing (unlike head lettuces that you harvest all at once). We’ve done a few loose leaf lettuces in containers before, and this time I bought seeds for a dark burgundy variety called Midnight Ruffles. Can’t wait to see it grow!

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Source: Seeds saved from last year’s plants

Arugula is another favorite green around our house. It’s slightly peppery and spicy, and it’s really good raw or cooked. I planted it in our window boxes last year and saved the seeds after it flowered, so those are what I planted this year. Arugula does well in cool temperatures and is great for a spring garden.

Broccoli – De Cicco
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

After E grew her own broccoli plant last year (she brought a seedling home from school in a Styrofoam cup), we knew we’d have to grow more in our “official” garden this year. We’re starting it from seed indoors to give it time to grow large enough before the hot summer weather arrives (and it flowers). In addition to the broccoli crown, I like to use the plant leaves as edible greens.

As you can see, we ended up planting a whole lot of seeds in each pot (thanks to E’s enthusiasm and little fingers). I’ll thin them out later by snipping off the tops to keep the remaining seedlings healthy. When it comes time to direct seed into the raised garden bed, I’ll follow the Square Foot Gardening approach of only dropping 2-3 seeds in each location.

If I was doing this completely properly, we’d be using grow lights for more consistent growth. But that’s not something I want to invest in at this point, especially with all we’re spending on the materials for the actual raised garden bed. So for now, I’m using the very amateur DIY approach of natural early spring sunlight. And crossing my fingers.

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

We’ll plant the rest of our spring and early-summer edibles directly into the raised garden bed:

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Sugar snap peas – Sugar Sprint (bush)
Source: Seed Needs via Amazon

I’ve never grown peas before, but I love sugar snap peas, so I’m giving it a try. And I got these seeds on Amazon! Peas shouldn’t be started indoors because it’s hard to transplant them (they don’t like being disturbed), but you can direct seed them just before the last spring frost date, so that’s what I’ll do. And even though I bought a bush variety instead of the vining type, I’m situating the plants along the north side of our raised bed where there’s a 2-3 foot tall chicken wire trellis for the short vines to climb if they so wish.

Indoor Seed Starting for a Spring Garden

Radishes – Easter Egg
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

Radishes are another vegetable I haven’t grown before, but they are supposed to be super easy. I’ll direct seed these in the raised garden bed before the last frost date and they should be ready to harvest in only a few weeks. I got the Easter Egg variety that produces a wide range of colors, thinking maybe E will try eating them because they look fun and pretty. And if she doesn’t, I will – I love radishes.

Carrots – Rainbow blend
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

I’m excited about these. Although we haven’t grown carrots before, it’s a vegetable that E (usually) likes to eat, so I got a rainbow blend (orange, red, purple, yellow and white) to make it interesting. The seeds can’t be started indoors, so they’ll go directly into the raised garden bed along with the radishes. But carrots are more heat-tolerant than radishes, so hopefully we’ll be able to keep growing them into the summer.

Strawberry Container Garden

Source: TBD

We’ll be buying strawberry starter plants sometime later this spring, when they become available at our local nurseries. John and I grew strawberries in our first container garden, but the yield wasn’t that great (a few berries from each plant). Both kids love strawberries, so I hope we get a better harvest in the raised garden bed.

But before we can plant any of these things, we need to finish building the raised bed and filling it with a good growing mix. That should be done in the next week or so, depending on this crazy unpredictable March weather. Come on, spring!

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March 9, 2016

category: Landscaping + Garden  • 

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