With the cost of living rising rapidly and no immediate end in sight, food security is top of mind for many people. Although the spring equinox is less than 2 weeks away, the start of the gardening season will be much later for northern gardeners.
In the meantime, anyone planning an edible garden can certainly get their ducks in a row. Many experienced gardeners have already laid out their crop schedules, including when to sow seeds indoors. For those of you with less experience, there is a lot of good information available that will help you achieve your goal of growing some of your own herbs and vegetables.
If you are looking at a seed sowing schedule from any type of resource, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Be sure to plan to grow food you and your family will enjoy eating.
- Do a bit of research to ensure what you plan to grow will thrive in a northern garden. As much as you love sweet potatoes, we simply don’t have a long enough growing season for this crop.
- Be aware that we live in zone 4b to 5a on the plant hardiness scale. Our later northern spring will factor into how early seeds appropriate for starting indoors are sown. Resources that reference planting tender plants like cucumber, tomato and peppers on the May long weekend do not have a realistic timeframe for us. Local farmers wait until after the full moon in June to plant tender crops. Some experienced gardeners will push the envelope but always have frost blankets on hand, or a space to bring in plants during cold spells.
- Make sure you are clear on what crops CAN successfully be started indoors to get a jump on the growing season and those that are best sown directly into the garden.
- Source out seeds from local businesses, seed swaps, group trades or online stores.
- Be sure you have the space with appropriate light to start seedlings indoors. You will need bright light from south or west windows or grow lights to produce healthy seedlings that can transition to outdoors at the appropriate time.
- Be realistic about the space you have and start on a small scale if this is your first time.
- When doing your research, take note of seed types that need special care pre-sowing to germinate well. Some seeds benefit from soaking and others don’t require that special treatment. Some seeds need to be planted in damp soil and chilled or frozen to germinate. All this information is available for the crops you want to grow. Resources include seed catalogs, seed package instructions, online vegetable growing blogs or groups and books available at local libraries.
- Be sure to collect all the seed starting supplies you need prior to your start date. If reusing pots or trays, make sure they are very clean. Use good quality growing medium meant for seed starting.
- Be prepared to label everything you plant so there is no confusion later.
- Seeds will germinate faster with the application of bottom heat. I remember my first-time growing plants from seed involved setting freshly seeded trays on top of the fridge. If you don’t have a source for gentle bottom heat, you can certainly purchase a heat mat to set under your trays. A domed tray will also help keep moisture in the soil, so seeds germinate well, and tiny seedlings don’t dry out. However, constantly monitor your seedlings, as too much moisture can result in mould and seedling death.
If this all sounds like a daunting task for those of you new to gardening, you can buy seedlings already growing from local garden centres at a time appropriate for planting. Staff will be able to provide you guidance.
Are you an experienced gardener with some extra time? Why not consider mentoring someone who would love to learn! It will be very rewarding.
If you are a new gardener, don’t hesitate to ask a friend or relative for help.