I’m not going to lie to you, things have had me down lately. Life events coupled with the reality that is an Indiana winter have made things pretty tough. Mentally speaking, anyway. Let’s be honest, January and February in the Hoosier state are like living in Mordor. Multiple times I’ve been caught staring, longingly, out the kitchen window at the swales I constructed last fall. Dreaming of warm sunshine and days spent clawing at the dirt.
Fortunately, we’ve reached a point where I can begin preparations for those spring afternoons. Like, playing with spreadsheets, calculating planting dates and that satisfying practice of starting seedlings.
I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve put serious effort into starting plants indoors. Previously my initiative was haphazard. Along the lines of “Oh well if they don’t make it, we can just sow seeds or buy plants later.” It has occurred to me that this is not only really inefficient, it can actually be expensive if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing.
This adventure began with me seeking out a planting schedule. One of the many blessings of the internet is that you can bet someone has already done the work of putting together the idea you thought was going to take forever to organize from scratch. I found a seed planting schedule on Johnny’s Selected Seeds.* It lists out some common vegetables, herbs and flowers one might consider for a garden. It also allows the user to input the frost date to customize your schedule.
“When is my last frost date?” you ask.
The rule of thumb around these parts is not to sow anything before Mother’s Day. While that is a safe rule, it could also mean missing out on a few weeks of starting winter-hardy plants that can handle a little cold if they’ve been brought up correctly. To check your spring and fall frost dates, I’d suggest using The National Weather Service.* (You already pay for it, might as well take advantage of its data.) In my case, the average last frost date is April 18th. If I chose to wait until Mother’s Day, I’d miss out on over three weeks of outdoor growing! I say nay-nay.
After carefully examining how much time I had, and which plants could be set out the earliest, I loaded up my less than enthusiastic child and headed for supplies.
When I get really excited about something, it’s hard to keep me contained. Especially when my wife isn’t around to check me, and I have a kid following me around complaining that he had to get dressed and go outside. Somewhere between exceptional enthusiasm and want to prevent a child’s meltdown is where my mind settled. We came home with packets of seeds that could feed our neighborhood, a grow light, potting soil, two different types of seed starter kits and a determination to have the best damn garden we’ve put together yet.
Actually, I did find these handy little pods produced by Jiffy* that are included in a nifty greenhouse kit. We got it at Lowe’s* for around $8, and it includes 72 pods. That’s the picture above, actually. We started two types of onions, peas, beets, spinach and delphiniums.
Some of you more experienced at this are likely rolling your eyes at those choices and I can tell you, I agree with you. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, because you can’t see it in the picture, but we had amazing luck with germination. Combined with that great enthusiasm and a few too many seeds in each pod, we ended up with a lot of beet and onion sprouts. Re-potting them is going to be a huge pain.
The peas and spinach are doing very well too. The picture is only nine days after they were seeded. The Jiffy system is pretty neat, and while this isn’t an official endorsement, for a novice I think this is a great way to start.
Pretty soon we’ll re-pot them to thin the sprouts. I’m not looking forward to that at all. Mostly because it will take up a lot of space and these suckers are growing fast. In the end it will be worth it though. I hope I can find some more people that really like beets.
Spring has sprung!
*Not an official or paid endorsement of any company or product.