Before we know it spring will be here. The cold will fade, the days will lengthen and the snow will melt (I know it’s hard to believe right now as I type this and the thermometer is reading -10 degrees). Last year, I was busily garden planning as my new baby was only one month old. I had high hopes for my new garden and our first spring on the homestead. I ordered seeds and planned how we were going to turn the sod into lush, productive soils. I daydreamed about my young baby, laying on a blanket in the shade of our apple tree, sleeping while I got hours and hours of work done in the garden; digging, turning, planting, weeding, watering and picking.
Lets just say this didn’t happen.
Granted, I did get a good harvest of what I did plant (late), but it was very very far from the bumper crop garden I had envisioned. You learn a lot in the first year of motherhood. A LOT.
Like how far the video monitor will reach from your baby sleeping soundly in your bedroom (all the way to the garden, chicken coop AND barn). And how to coil up a hose with a baby strapped to the front of you (thank goodness for my chiropractor!). And how everything takes 5x longer with a new baby when you are stopping to nurse, change, put to sleep, rock and love.
So when my first seed catalog arrived in the mail this year, excitement overwhelmed me. I opened the mail box and the colors from the front of the catalog beamed so brightly against the white snowy background, like a ray of sunshine coming from the future. Soon I will be eating fresh greens picked right off the plant, constantly weeding, rotating pastures, and welcoming new life to the homestead (aka running around with my head chopped off).
But before I can eat my fresh greens there are a lot of preparations we have to start now in order to guarantee my family will eat fresh veggies for the next year.
Time to start seeds!
I love starting seeds. I love peering through seed catalogs, writing out garden plans, buying seed packets, soil and seed trays. I am also so excited to involve Stella in this chore this year. I will let her touch the soil, mix the soil with water, play with the plant marking sticks and whatever else she wants to do.
If you have a sunny windowsill, you can grow food. You don’t need a 10 acre homestead to garden with your kids.
Here are some tips to help first timers start seeds.
1. Start with the Soil, then work your way up
You will learn quickly that the most important first step in gardening is starting with good organic soil. My favorite locally owned one-stop-garden shop is Gardener’s Supply Company available online or at their locations on Intervale Ave. in Burlington, or Marshall Ave. in Williston. The folks there are super nice and knowledgeable and will be able to answer questions specific to you and your growing situation. There are a few local soil companies, such as Vermont Compost Company, Green Mountain Compost and you will be able to find a good seed starting mix from one of those companies.
Also, almost all of our hometown hardware stores and food co-ops a have displays of seeds including another locally owned company High Mowing Organic Seeds and local soil available.
2. Windowsill Herb Garden or Raised Beds in the Backyard?
What to grow? Well it depends. Do you only have a windowsill to do your gardening in, or do you have a massive backyard? Or access to a community garden? Did you know that there are over 400 community gardens in Vermont, and you can find one near you with this garden directory from the Vermont Community Garden’s Network.
My favorite seed starting vegetables for newbie growers include various herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, thyme, sage, rosemary) and lettuce mixes. These plants also thrive in containers, so if all you have is a windowsill or sunny deck area, try out one of these! All the growing information is listed on the back of the seed packets. If you want to grow something, try it out!! Gardening is best learned by DOING. Give it a shot! You will definitely learn something!
3. I have no idea how to garden. Where do I start?
The Vermont Community Garden Network has a bunch of information on their website, including this page on starting a garden.
Are you a gardener already? Ask yourself how you could involve your children this growing season. It is so important to me to teach Stella everything I know about gardening, because afterall, she will be a far better gardener than I will ever be, with decades more experience than I will ever have.
[…] We began very early last spring by setting up a garden center in our dining room (which had the best sun exposure), so we could experiment with seeds and get a feel for taking care of plants. Our nursery included some seeds that we read are fairly easy to grow, and we used a variety of methods so we could see what would go well. We started grass seed in a mini gnome garden, an avocado seed suspended in a bell jar by toothpicks, sunflower seeds in typical flower pots, and pea seeds in an egg carton, which can also be done in the egg shells themselves. We had varying levels of luck–the egg carton plants never really took off, but the others did. We were both really excited by the time outdoor growing season came along. BVTMB writer Stephanie has some great tips for starting seeds. […]