By Teresa Odle
The best and easiest part of a home garden is choosing and buying vegetable seeds. It’s like shopping for food; don’t do it when you’re hungry. It’s best to plan your garden a little, but not get too hung up on the details or the next thing you know, it’s late June and your crop choices have narrowed considerably. First, choose foods you’ll eat or work with a family member or neighbor to trade.
Seeds need warmth and moisture to germinate, so depending on your climate and appetite for all things crunchy, you might start your seeds indoors. In colder climates, simple seed starting trays help you start your own transplants. If your house still is pretty cool like mine, you might need something with more heat. An indoor hot house with a heated mat can start enough seeds for a large family garden. The seed packets usually provide all the information you need to help determine the best transplant size and time for your zone.
You also can plant directly in your garden. In the last post, I talked about preparing and protecting a raised bed. Seedlings are really vulnerable to all sorts of crawling and flying creatures. Check the seed packet or local sources, such as master gardener hotlines and cooperative extension offices, if you need help with timing of cool and warm season vegetable planting in your area. And if you feel really ambitious, create a succession planting plan. With planning, timing, and luck, you might be able to run three crops in the same spot one after another through one growing season.
When I direct seed, I always want to be sure the seeds produce and make the mistake of using too much seed, then having to thin later. The general rule of thumb is to plant about twice as many seeds as the number of plants you desire. Plant seedlings based not on the plant’s current size, but on its potential size. Again, seed packet instructions are pretty accurate on spacing and depth advice. Create a planting guide by stretching a string between two stakes close to the dirt. This will help you create nice rows for your vegetables. Then sit back in the warm weather, water away and enjoy.