In the beginning, there was the seed. And the seed wasn’t reserved for farmers alone.
In fact, right about now, with the price of groceries sky-rocketing, the stories about mad genetic science experiments taking place in agricultural labs and the fact that spring is just about a month away, it is the perfect time to begin thinking about planting a few of your own.
You can still find them in their pure ‘heirloom’ and ‘organic’ forms. One tiny package, under $3, some kitchen scraps and a little loving care can yield you an entire season of the freshest possible produce you can find.
Save a few egg cartons and those plastic clam shell containers from your strawberry, salad, blueberry purchases. Then, visit your nearest home center, or check out these certified organic seeds from Seeds of Change, http://www.seedsofchange.com/ and Johnny’s: www.johnnyseeds.com and get your salads ready to rock. Because lettuce, cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary can all be started right now and enjoyed even indoors, before the weather allows for outdoor planting.
I drug in an old metal rack from the garage and placed it smack in front of my sunniest window, where the afternoon sun shines warmest. Then I cut open egg cartons, punched holes in the bottoms of each little nook and filled them with seed starter soil. If you want to
be truly organic, look for organic seed starter. While Miracle Grow seed starter is widely available, it is not an organic product (I realized after I bought a bag). While it does contain ingredients that fuel growth, next time I’d opt to save that for flower seeds, where consumption is not an issue.
Sprinkle in your seeds sparingly in the nooks, cover with a light layer of more seed starter, then place them inside of the plastic clam shells. I punched some holes in the tops of those as well, although you can just crack them open, which I found works as well. Add a sprinkling of water and place in that sunny, warm window. And don’t forget to label what you planted…..like babies in a nursery, it might be a little hard to tell them apart.
Everyday, when you open or close your shades, put a finger in the soil. If dry, sprinkle again. The trick is to give the little guys a drink, without drowning them. Within a week or ten days, the fun begins. Baby green shoots poke their way up through the top soil layer, bending to catch the rays of the sun. As they reach about an inch tall, looking like they’re outgrowing their little egg crate homes, find a few larger flower pots to give them room to stretch their growing roots. As they grow, water, sun and pot size are important to get your plants to mature—to flavor your foods and feed you well.
When is it safe to move your plants outside? Check your planting zone for your region of the country at http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html or check with your local garden center. Lettuce is a cooler weather plant, so that will be the first to move outside. Keep it watered and keep picking, for some of the best salads you’ll enjoy this year.