April 13, 2010
To Seed or Start
I was recently asked to lead a discussion on garden planning for City Mamas. The ladies ranged in gardening experience from those who didn't even have a plot tilled under yet to those who could name every variety of tomatoes ever grown. As we were talking through which veggies would work best in small raised beds, it became apparent that most ladies were purchasing starts for everything they intended to plant. Very few people were planting seeds.
You may have a good reason for buying starts, like if you want to support your local nursery. Or if you lost your sprouted seeds to a crow or bunny and need to get plants in quickly. Other than that you are wasting your money (in my opinion). If a round of seeds doesn't come up, which will happen if the soil is too cold, you are only out $1.50 for a new packet of seeds instead of $3.00 a plant for new starts.
For what it's worth, here is what I start from seed directly in the garden and a few notes about each:
>> pees, broccoli, lettuce, spinach - start in early spring, put under a cold frame to get an even earlier start (February) or if the weatherman reports a frost coming
>> melons - start 2-4 weeks after the pees but you must have in a cold frame or else start in doors and transfer outside in May
>> carrots, parsnip, beets, cucumbers corn, pole/bush beans, zucchini, pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, green onions, leeks, rutabagas - depending on the weather start in late April or early May (Mother's Day is your drop dead date)
If you plan on planting tomatoes and green peppers, buy starts at the nursery in mid-May. Look for healthy leaves. A note on tomatoes and peppers - they hate each other despite being such good compliments in salsa - so plant them on opposite sides of the garden. You can start from seeds in March indoors, under a grow light and then transfer out side in mid-May.
The one thing I am never successful at it garlic. I've tried starting from sets and from seeds. I've tried different locations in garden. But the bulbs never mature. Advice?