Sunday, March 21, 2010

Starting Seedlings - will last year's seeds sprout to life?

The weather in March in New England can feel like the dead of winter or a warm burst of spring. A few weeks ago we had a foot of snow, but this week the weather was well into the 50's and 60's and sunny. The warm weather and the added hour of daylight in the evenings brought me and the kids out into the backyard just before dinner, a bag of dirt, some half filled packets of seeds from last year, and a glimmer of hope that they might yield us an early crop of veggies this year.
Planting seeds with a 5 year old, is a wonderful experience, but the addition of an almost 2 year old, added a frantic, chaotic and humorous element to the project. Dumping being the main skill-set of that age meant that there were 30 seeds where there should have been 2,  and dirt everywhere.  Overall, I think we got at least a few seeds planted properly and everything straightened out and labeled in the end. I kept my seeds in a bag in the uninsulated mudroom off the back of our house, which I have a feeling may have been a bit too cold or hot at times to be good for the longevity of the seeds, so, we'll just have to wait and see if they will sprout.

Left: Ayo's marigold seeds planted and labeled. Right: 2 kinds of spinach, nasturtiums and zucchini seeds, planted and awaiting water.

When we left Brooklyn and landed in New Haven almost four years ago the long yard with space for growing food was my solace for the vast land of fabulous grocery stores and restaurants I was leaving behind. The yard had not a drop of sun until we reluctantly removed a few trees, but now we get a solid 6 hours of midday sun and can grow a good deal of produce to get us through the summer and fall months. Our growing area is about 4 feet by 20 feet with small walkways between the raised beds. We have a small strawberry patch, raspberries, two struggling blueberry bushes, and 5 beds that last year had an assortment of tomatoes, lettuces, kale, cucumbers, carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, beets, green beans, nasturtiums, and a few ears of corn.

 a spring crocus

As the spring continues, I'll add more info about starting a home or school based garden, but for now, you might just start thinking about where and what you might like to plant. You can grow food in buckets and pots as well as raised beds or straight in the ground. Get your soil tested at a local Agricultural cooperative extension office (just google that plus your state). For the CT office click  here. You can get seeds at most garden centers and some grocery stores. Try and find organic, heritage or non-GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds. If you want to order online, two good companies I have ordered from are Johnny's Selected Seeds and High Mowing Organic Seeds.

If you have kids and want to engage them in gardening and food, here are a few great picture books:
  • Carrot Soup - by John Segal
  • The Green Truck Garden Giveaway: A Neighborhood Story and Almanac by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Alec Gillman
  • Eating the Alphabet - Lois Elhert
  • Bee-Bim Bop! - by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee
  • The Gardener - by Sarah Stewart and David Small
What are you planning to grow this year? Any home or school gardening tips? Please post any comments below!

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