Green thumbs up
to plucking peas and snipping salad.
Grow something edible! Everyone should have the pleasure of
picking peas from a vine and eating them right there, or stepping
out to snip greens for a salad and coming back in with a basketful
before the spaghetti noodles even finish cooking. The produce can
come from a conventional vegetable bed but the thrill's the same
when it's harvested from plants spotted here and there in the
landscape or growing in large pots on the patio.
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If you haven't grown vegetables, please do pick up a plant or
two at the garden center and give it a whirl this summer. No
special directions are necessary except to plant all vegetables in
full sun -- that's a minimum of six hours cast-a-shadow-light per
day -- and keep the plant's roots moist but never soggy.
When you want to grow beyond the occasional nibble, or to
experience the wonder of starting from seed, our vegetable garden
planning chart will be very handy (below, right), as will
Growing Concerns 756: Starting tomatoes from saved
• Group the seeds you sow indoors can make the growing much
easier. Check our system on pages 6 & 7 of What's Coming
• When you choose corn varieties to grow,
don't mix super-sweet and other types.
Read more in
Growing Concerns 42.
• On page 9 of What's Coming Up 38: While you divide
perennials in early spring, you can plant some fast-growing,
cool-season edibles such as peas or lettuce in annual beds that are
ready-to-grow but won't be planted with flowers until late May or
Right: Excerpt from our vegetable garden planning chart.
Click the image to download it, or download it and other
information from Starting a Vegetable
Below: If you want to keep costs down, improvise to get some
of the effects of the premium seed-sowing tray Cory and Elizabeth
are using at the top of this article. Paper cups with holes punched
in their bottoms fit into a plastic storage container and take-out
containers from a grocery store's delicatessen make great little
On-line seed catalogs are a gold mine
There is also a wealth of information in seed catalogs. Three
Check the online catalog from Johnny's Select Seeds. Along with
pages that list seeds for hundreds of types of beans, peas,
potatoes and other edibles, there are free growing guides to
download and a video library that includes very helpful directions
for pruning tomatoes for maximum production, pruning cucumbers,
planting sweet potatoes, identifying problems, and controlling
various pests. These things are not hidden behind annoying ads or
tied to purchases but free and ready to be browsed right from the
Throughout the Seed Savers Exchange catalog are
growing guides for each of the plant categories from arugula to
turnip, such as, "Green Thumb Tip for Beans. Sow seeds after danger
of frost has passed and soil and air temperatures have warmed.
Plant seeds 2" apart and 1" deep in rows 36-48" apart... Harvest
snap beans frequently for increased yields... For dry beans, leave
pods on the vine and harvest when completely mature and dry."
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds also
lists helpful resources right on the home page, such as their
Planting Guide, a primer for vegetable growing that helps you
through every step of growing. Here's an excerpt: "most seeds
should be buried to a depth of one or two times the diameter of the
seed. For instance, this means that small seeds like tomatoes
should barely be a quarter of an inch below the surface of the
Starting seed is fun for everyone. Below: McKenzie and Cody
help us, using pieced-bottom paper cups as planters. (More of our
young helpers in the Kids' Views department
Green thumbs down...
to starting seeds indoors unless you also plan to light them.
Any warm spot is great for sprouting seeds but once the first seed
sprouts that pot or tray should be moved under fluorescent lights,
or set outdoors every day into a sunny, wind-protected spot then
gathered in at night until frosts end and the ground is warm.
Without lights seedlings grow tall and spindly and your time
tending them is wasted. You'll be coaxing them to survive rather
than reveling in their vigorous growth.
Any fluorescent lamp can be a grow light. Move the plants up to
the light or lower the fixture so leaf and bulb are only a few
inches apart. Keep the lights on for 12-16 hours a day. More on
this on our Forum, Lights
like hats on seedlings.
Below: You can create a big seed starting area with several
shop-table fluorescent light fixtures hung on adjustable cables so
you can move the lights up as the plants grow. Yet you can also
work on a smaller scale, and also move the plants rather than the
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