All the authors on this site are avid gardeners and like any gathering of gardeners, we all have different approaches, best practices and preferences. This planting season will be the first one that we’ve had this site running so you can expect a lot of posts from us on our gardens! Each of us will be writing posts showing you how we grow our gardens and we’ll hopefully have some great guest author posts as well.
The New Year brings many exciting opportunities – one of the most exciting for me is the opportunity to start a fresh new garden! It’s hard to sit patiently by and wait for Spring to kick Old Man Winter’s behind so we can get out there and start turning the ground and planting. The best way to pass the time is to strategize: Are you going to plant more or different crops from last year? What plants would you like to put in? How will you lay out the garden? Are you going to use the same gardening approach as last year, or try something new?
The other thing you can do is start some plants indoors. This gives you several advantages besides getting to get your hands dirty early: You’ll get your first harvest sooner than you would otherwise. You won’t have to spend nearly as much money as you would if you bought started plants. You get to watch Mother Nature do her work up close and personal – from the comfort of your home.
It is getting very close to the time when you can reasonably start seeds indoors (you don’t want to start too early or you’ll have huge plants in your house!). There are lots of options for starting seeds, you can use all home-made stuff, commercial stuff, a mix of the two or something else entirely. I used to take the time to do things home-made, now I just go commercial, it’s easier. There are four things you need to start seeds indoor – soil, containers (with a clear cover of some type), seeds and light.
There are probably thousands of different soils you can buy from nurseries and garden centers and they’ll all have the best combination of ‘stuff’. The truth is, you can just go dig up some dirt from your garden and use it, if you want. You’ll likely get better results with a seed starter mix of vermiculite and other funny words though. See the picture above for what I use. The soil you put your seeds in is where they get all their nourishment from and just like I try to feed my kids healthy foods, I want to feed my plants their “vegetables” from the time they start growing.
There are tons of options with containers as well – you can make your own at home or buy commercial ones. Of the commercial ones, you can get bio-degradable ones that you later transplant with your starts up to plastic ones that you can re-use year after year. I prefer using reusable ones like this:
These containers come with a tray, the potting containers and a clear lid. The tray that the containers sit in will catch any excess water and keep it from leaking all over.
It is important to have a method of covering the containers with a see through covering. Think of it as a miniature greenhouse, when the water evaporates from the soil, it condenses on the top of the cover and then drips back into the containers or the tray. This terrarium effect keeps the soil from drying out, keeps it warmer in the container and helps your seeds get started. There are several methods you could use to concoct a functional covering for your container – I prefer to buy mine with my trays.
Light is absolutely critical to successfully growing plants. If you can, place your starting beds beneath or next to a southern exposure window. You can also use fluorescent grow lights to supplement or substitute sunlight.
All this would be pointless if you didn’t add some seeds! You need to plan out what crops you want to grow so you know what seeds you want to plant. As preppers, we recommend you always plant non-hybrid (aka heirloom) varieties. Hybrid varieties will not reliably produce true seeds, making it so you have to purchase new seeds every year. Non-Hybrid varieties allow you to save, dry and re-plant the seeds they produce. We encourage you to not only use heirloom varieties but to also save and re-use your seeds – they should be an important part of your preps.
Here is a quick list of some early season vegetables and their Utah planting times from the USU Extension Office (these are the first ones you should be starting):
Hardy Plants (in ground Mar 15 – ~ May 1)
Asparagus, Rhubarb, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Onions, Peas, Radish, Spinach, Turnip
(Asparagus and Rhubarb are perennials, you only need to plant them once)
(Onions, Radishes and Turnips are tubers and use a different method of starting indoors)
(I have no idea what Kohlrabi is but I’m sure I don’t like it ;) )
Semi-Hardy Plants (in ground March 20 – ~May – June 1)
Beet, Carrot, Cauliflower, Endive, Lettuce, Parsley, Parsnip, Potato, Salsify, Swiss Chard
(Beets, Carrots and Potatoes are tubers and use a different method of starting indoors)
(I don’t know what Salsify is but it sounds kind of good)
These are the plants you can start indoors in the next couple weeks to have them ready to put in ground in mid-March. To have a continuous and extended harvest, you can do something like this: start a few plants very soon from now, start a few more a couple weeks later and again a couple weeks after that. Then, when it’s time to put them in the ground, you can start seeds in your garden as well. You can continue starting seeds in the garden (or indoors still if you prefer) every couple weeks until about May 1st. This will give you a long continuous harvest as you will constantly have plants maturing and bearing fruit. I’ll be starting my plants in the next couple weeks and will document the process.
For now, your best gardening activity is going to be purchasing or making supplies, planning and selecting plants and purchasing seeds. You can also get a marker and start coloring your thumb green!
Do you have any other ideas or experiences that would help others with starting plants indoors? Let us know in the comments or be a guest author! If you have any questions or would like further explanations on anything in this post, please let us know in the comments.