Little Sprouts

In early spring, it’s too cold to plant seeds. Get a jump on your summer crops by starting seeds indoors! Vegetables like peas, beans, broccoli, melons, peppers and tomatoes are very happy to begin life on a warm windowsill.

Seeds_BambiEdlund

In early spring, it’s too cold to plant seeds. Get a jump on your summer crops by starting seeds indoors! Vegetables like peas, beans, broccoli, melons, peppers and tomatoes are very happy to begin life on a warm windowsill. Then, when all chance of frost has passed, you can take your seedlings outside to the garden. Don’t have a veggie garden at home? Plant a container garden for this summer, or ask your teacher if you can start seeds for the school garden, if your school has one.

“We start tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, lettuces and all sorts of seeds inside our greenhouse,” says Judi Carmack- Fayyaz, a teacher who helps run the Bridgehampton School garden. “A windowsill garden is the same concept.”

YOU WILL NEED:

– A Windowsill: Pick a window that, preferably, faces south and gets a lot of sun.

– Pots or plastic containers: Any kind will do, but rectangular ones fit windowsills best. Containers should have holes in the bottom for drainage and should sit on a tray to catch drips. You don’t want to trash the windowsill!

– Soil: Seedling mix will give the best results ;look for organic soil if you plan to grow organic veggies. Put the soil in the pots, of course.

– Plant Markers: Use popsicle sticks, small stones and so on, to label the names of your vegetables.

– Seeds: Inside a seed coat is a baby plant and enough food for it to germinate, or sprout. Start different varieties at different times. Broccoli and kale are cold tolerant, and can go pretty early, but tomatoes and peppers will not be happy outside until the end of May. Research planting times. Go online to the Old Farmer’s Almanac (almanac.com)—this site has great charts and information. The first day of spring, called the “vernal equinox,” is on March 20. Here on Long Island, there is a less than 50 per- cent probability of frost from April 15 onward—this is called the “last frost date.” So, for example, start tomatoes in early March, and bring them outside in late April. Check out the interactive seed-starting calculator on the Johnny’s Selected Seeds site at johnnyseeds.com/e-pdgseedstart.aspx. Find the last frost date for your area at the Almanac, and plug it into the calculator. It will tell you when to start your seeds indoors and when to set them outside. Another great site where you can learn a lot about vegetable gardening is at Cornell University’s gardening page.

Plant seeds according to the directions on the package. Usually, the bigger the seed, the deeper it goes. And don’t forget to water! But don’t overwater—that’s bad, too. Keep a journal. Record when you plant your seeds and when they germinate. If some die, try to figure out why. Too much or too little sun or water? Did they get moldy, or wilt? Are some doing better than others? Becoming a good gardener takes practice and patience, like everything else, but it’s very interesting and rewarding!

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Gwendolen Groocock is the editor of the Greenport Guide, and writes about food, wine, travel and mommyhood from her home on the North Fork.