Category Archives: gardening in colorado

Twelve great reasons to garden–some may surprise you!

These may look like my personal opinion (actually, they are) but there are dozens of articles and studies available on the Internet to support what I say below. For simplicity, I’ve limited myself to just one reference for each statement. You can Google the topics if you want even more information.

1. Garden soil contains microbes that can make you happy. “Antidepressant microbes in soil cause cytokine levels to rise, which results in the production of higher levels of serotonin. The bacterium was tested both by injection and ingestion on rats and the results were increased cognitive ability, lower stress and better concentration to tasks than a control group. Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it and get it into their bloodstreams when there is a cut or other pathway for infection. The natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks if the experiments with rats are any indication. So get out and play in the dirt and improve your mood and your life.” http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm

cooking Swiss chard

Super pretty superfood… chard.

2. Children who garden eat more vegetables. I’ve seen this happen personally. My son was always involved in our garden and he would graze on things most kids would turn their noses up at.  He now not only loves his veggies (he’s in college)–he has also become a gourmet cook!
“Teach a kid to grow a carrot, and [s]he’ll probably eat more of them, according a new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study found that kids who are involved in the process of growing their own food are more likely to have healthier diets.”  http://www.rodalenews.com/start-kids-garden

green veggie garden

Tiptoe through the cabbage…

3. Walking barefoot in a garden will ground your body for good health.
“Your immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by barefoot contact with the Earth. Research indicates that electrons from the Earth have antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation and its many well-documented health consequences. For most of our evolutionary history, humans have had continuous contact with the Earth.”  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/11/04/why-does-walking-barefoot-on-the-earth-make-you-feel-better.aspx

4. Dirt is good for your immune system!
A mounting body of research suggests that exposing infants to germs may offer them greater protection from illnesses such as allergies and asthma later on in life.
“This line of thinking, called the “hygiene hypothesis,” holds that when exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, children face a greater chance of having allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood. In fact, kids with older siblings, who grew up on a farm, or who attended day care early in life seem to show lower rates of allergies.”
http://www.webmd.com/parenting/d2n-stopping-germs-12/kids-and-dirt-germs

5. Sun exposure can actually PROTECT you from skin cancer.
Now, I’m going out on a limb here since so many doctors are still adamant that we need to wear hazmat suits when we leave our homes, but there is growing research supporting my statement. The way I look at it, we are NATIVE to this planet. We get our Vitamin D from sun exposure. We are meant to get some sun exposure. Where we get into trouble is that people have different skin color (pigment). Pigment is natural sun protection. If someone has very light skin, they can handle very little sun exposure before they burn. Burn damages skin cells, and during the repair process some errors can occur. Repeated burns means more margin for error. So IMHO sun exposure itself is not the culprit, it’s repeated prolonged exposure leading to sun burns and skin damage.

“Exposure to sunlight, particularly UVB, is protective against melanoma — or rather, the vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is protective. As written in The Lancet:ii Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/28/vitamin-d-lowers-melonoma-risks.aspx

canned tomatoes in my pantry

These canned tomatoes MAY carry me into the next tomato season. Maybe.

6. Gardening is fun and rewarding!
I shouldn’t put up any references for this statement, because I can speak from the heart here. But for the sake of consistency, I will. I remember the first time as a child I planted a radish seed in a little flower pot and saw the little hard brown speck turn into green leaves and then a whole radish. I was fascinated and have never lost that feeling! In a culture where we depend on outside “authorities” such as doctors and dentists, drug manufacturers, lawyers, bankers and investment counselors, realtors, car salesmen, dry cleaners, cosmetic sales persons and even food producers and grocery stores, how rewarding to be self-sustaining, even if it’s just a little bit. For me planting seeds and seedlings in my garden in late spring and within weeks being able to nibble my way around the plants is a feeling I can’t describe. Being able to pick a ripe tomato and eat it, warm from the sun, right there in the garden, is heaven. And I also preserve (can/dry/freeze) my veggies so during the winter I can grab a jar of stewed tomatoes out of the pantry to add to a meal I’m cooking and think, “I grew this!” There’s nothing like it.
http://www.examiner.com/article/a-garden-is-rewarding-and-healthy

7. Gardening IS exercise!
Bending, walking, carrying heavy bags, shoveling, weeding, stretching are all exercise but I don’t seem to really notice it when I’m in the garden. I’m usually so involved with what I’m doing that I barely notice what my body is doing. The bending over can sometimes tire out my back, so I find ways to sit on raised bed edges or even the dirt to avoid having to be bent over all the time. But I certainly can work up a sweat and on big gardening days I forego the treadmill. Here’s a WebMD article that talks about the “right” way to garden exercise. And don’t forget the pure clean oxygenated air you’ll be breathing in your garden (not to mention the happy microbes).
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/get-fit-by-gardening

tomatoes

Mixed varieties of home grown tomatoes.

8. Gardening can save you money.
Last winter I was looking at WholeFoods heirloom tomatoes for $5.99 a pound and thinking, “I grew at least 100 lbs of heirlooms last summer—for almost free.” I just couldn’t make myself buy one! I also grew probably 10 pounds of leeks, 3 pounds of shallots and countless other “gourmet” vegetables for next to nothing. Of course my up-front costs of building raised beds and adding soil, soaker hoses and a fence have to be considered, but I didn’t spend that much money and you don’t have to go the same route that I did. http://www.moneycrashers.com/how-to-save-money-with-a-home-garden/

indoorherbs

Herbs can grow indoors.

Last summer I made a raised bed out of some pallets that a local lawn service gave me for free. I took them apart and made a box. But if you don’t have the tools or are not handy, there are instructions on the internet for using them “as is.” If you don’t have room to put a raised bed, you can garden plenty of things in pots and planters as long as they get enough sun and water. You can get large used plastic pots for free, or almost free, at garden centers. The ones that sell trees have especially large pots. You can even plant directly into bags of garden soil from the store. I did that before I had my raised beds, and the plants grew just as well! You can see a soil bag garden here, just scroll down to the third photo.

Seeds cost a little money, but you don’t necessary have to buy seeds either. If I get the rare good-tasting tomato at the grocery store, I’ll take some of the seeds out, stick them to a paper towel and dry them for planting later. Same goes for squashes (acorn, butternut, zucchini). I imagine you could do the same with cucumbers, melons—anything that has seeds in it. I save basil and dill seeds from the plants.  I also save the cheap plastic flower packs from flowers I’ve bought and planted over the years and use those to start my seeds. Bonus: This year my neighbor cleaned out her garage and gave me all her planter packs and plastic pots, barely used. I got the change to replace my tattered ones for almost new.

Dirt is pretty much everywhere, and a lot of times free. However, our dirt has heavy clay, so for my garden I brought in bags of garden soil and either amend yearly with Sheep & Peat, or home-composted fruit & vegetable scraps and straw and poop from our chicken coop.

Hand watering or using a drip or soaker system is about the most economical way to go. If you’re allowed to in your state, collecting rain water (I can’t) is even better because not only is it free, but the quality of the water is so much better than tap water which is full of chlorine, fluoride and heavens knows what else.

9. You’ll have truly organic produce.
I buy organic produce as much as I can and then wonder if it’s really organic*. It’s not always available and can be cost prohibitive. So, say I really want brussels sprouts for dinner one night. I look in the grocery store and there’s a pile of fresh, big, healthy, crisp sprouts. They’re not organic, and they’re $1.99 lb. I go over to the organic section and the sprouts are small, wilted, dried out and loaded with aphids and they’re twice the price. My next option is to head to the frozen food aisle and see if they have frozen organic. Those are usually pretty nice. If not, my choice is going to be non-organic or none at all. A great resource that helps me decide is the Environmental Working Groups’ Dirty Dozen Lists.  http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php or even this one: http://waterworksvalley.com/food-thats-safe-to-eat/

BTW Once I did opt for the wilted organic sprouts and ended up throwing them away—they were so full of aphids and mildew that no matter how many leaves I pulled off, there were still more.

ladybug on dill plant

Ladybugs, my pesticide of choice.

*But even when I buy organic, I sometimes question whether they really, truly are. Vegetables that come from Mexico, South America and other distant places make me question just “who” is deeming them organic and keep an eye on things. What are their standards?

If you grow you own food, you KNOW it’s organic, if that’s the way you’re going it. No pesticides (there are home made non-toxic ways of dealing with garden pests), no chemical fertilizers, no “overspray” from neighboring non-organic farms (hopefully).

10. The nutritional value of home-grown foods blows factory-farmed food out of the water (or farm).
“[I]t is true that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.”
“A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.”
“Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” reported Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” There have likely been declines in other nutrients, too, he said, such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals.”
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss/

As a gardener I tend to rotate my plantings yearly, it’s not only good for the nutritional value but also can prevent diseases from spreading from previous years. But I imagine even if I didn’t, my soil would still be healthier than those on modern “factory” farms because they have much larger concentrations of vegetables being planted year after year in the same beds.

vegetable bowl

From the garden. Well, okay, the eggs are from the chickens.

11. Home-grown produce tastes so much better!
Yes, yes, yes this is absolutely true. Many people living in the USA have no idea of what real food tastes like! Store-bought produce has been picked before it’s ripe so it can be shipped all over the place before it starts to spoil. No fruit or vegetable tastes as good as something that has ripened ON THE PLANT and in the sun. Not to mention that, in the quote in #10 above, the preponderance of agri practices is designed to improve size, growth rate and pest resistance rather than nutrition. And real nutrition tastes better. At least to me. I had a friend actually spit out some of my freshly picked celery because it had “too much flavor.” She preferred the bland grocery store version.

tomato seedling

Brandywine tomato seedlings.

12. You can grow a variety of produce that you can’t find in the store.
Again, grocery chains and farms have to provide produce that will travel and keep well, so they limit their crops to a few varieties that were either hybrid to fit their needs or, sadly, genetically modified. As a home gardener, you are only limited by:

What will grow in your climate. Such as where I live, the growing season is relatively short so I look for plants that mature in as short a time as possible — 50-60 days hopefully. Seed catalogs will have that information for each seed that they sell. Seed catalogs are free and you’re not obligated to buy from them. They are great information resources and I recommend getting at least one. One of my favorites is Park Seeds.  You can get around maturation times if you start your plants indoors very early (I’ve started tomatoes in February and they have fruit on them when they go in the ground), or go to the trouble of making hoop houses, cold frames, warm frames or greenhouses.

chicken Jenny

A gratuitous picture of Jenny.

Disease resistance in the produce you plant. This is a big one for me. After number of days to maturity, I look for the most disease resistant vegetables I can find. You can’t really do this with seeds you harvest from store-bought vegetables, but I’m guessing most of those are already engineered to be hardy  to begin with. But… there’s not much more disappointing than growing tomatoes or zucchini all summer, and just when the fruit looks like it’s starting to ripen the plants fall over dead. The only thing more disappointing is annihilation by hailstorm.

Moisture and how much sun your garden gets. Check seed catalogs there’s a little help here: http://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/vegetable/ Many plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, corn need full sun, which is considered to be at least 6-8 or more hours of direct sun every day, depending also on your location and time of day of the sun exposure. But there are plants that “tolerate” or even do well in partial sun. http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/shade-tolerant-vegetables-zm0z11zsto.aspx As far as moisture goes, there are plants that can handle a lot of moisture, and others that can tolerate drier conditions. No plants, other than water plants, can survive having “wet feet” all the time — they need some air around their roots as well.

Your personal tastes. If you’ve never seen a seed catalog, such as the Parks one, you may just be amazed at the varieties available for each vegetable. For instance, they have available 116 different seeds & seedlings for tomatoes: heirlooms, cherries, slicing, salad, romas, yellow, green, purple… I usually grow 2-3 different types of tomatoes every summer: one for eating/canning, romas and a cherry. For a long time my favorite was the Park’s Whopper and I may try those again this year. Aside from tomatoes, there may be plants you’ve never seen in a grocery store, never eaten or even heard of! I started growing kohlrabi several years ago. The leaves are great cooked as greens and the bulb is delicious raw in salads, sautéed or even added to soup or stew. Parks has a variety of beets, which I grow mostly for the beet tops: I love them lightly steamed, they’re nutritious, delicious and don’t taste like beets at all (if you don’t like the beet flavor). They will produce new leaves all summer into fall if you don’t overpick them. In the fall I store them to make pickled beets, add them grated to salad or make beet kvass. Parks even now has a “Superfood” section on their web site if you want to get the most nutrition out of your garden.

So I want to see you get out there and GARDEN!

Snip n Drip Soaker Hoses – Garden Experiment #1 for 2013

In the past I’ve used both drip irrigation systems and regular soaker hoses in my gardens. The drip systems were nice but a lot of work to put together, and the laser-cut hoses I preferred sometimes got plugged with sand and dirt. The soaker hoses worked well too, but as I have several raised beds there was always the issue of watering the ground between the beds—not only wasting water but I was making life too comfortable for the weeds. Then I saw Snip n Drip in a Gardener’s Supply catalog last summer.

It seemed like the perfect solution: soaker hoses for the areas where you need them, but with PVC garden hose that you could snip and connect to the soakers for between beds. I was so excited I bought a couple of sets last fall, which gave me 100′ of 1/2″ soaker hose, 50′ of garden hose, 16 hose couplers and two ends.

Click for larger view.

Fast forward to the spring of 2013. I drew a map of my garden, measuring the beds and the space I would need to run hose between them. I put my drawing into Adobe Illustrator (not necessary but it’s the way I function) and played around with different patterns for the soaker hoses to be laid. Once that was done, I went to work in the garden. I let the hoses sit in the sun for a while to soften the plastic and got down to cutting the hose and soaker hose with kitchen scissors as I went along, attaching the couplers as well. I was amazed at how easy it was! I didn’t struggle with the couplers going on the hoses or tightening the caps, even though I have some arthritis in my hands. I used landscaping pins to hold the hoses in place. I got about half way through the last bed and ran out of soaker hose! I had an old soaker hose that I’d bought at Walmart a coupler of years back, and was pleased to find that it was the same size as the Snip n Drip soaker. That allowed me to finish the rest of the bed that day. I have a final 4’x4′ bed, but it turned out the water just couldn’t reach that far so I ended up doing something else there.

We have a faucet just outside the garden so I attached a hose splitter to it. On one side I put a timer and the other side a regular hose in case I ever need to use one. I ran a short hose from the timer into the garden and on the end of that attached yet another hose splitter. Soaker system 1 is attached to this splitter, the Soaker system 2 is attached to another short hose I ran to the other side of the garden. That way half of the garden would be on one soaker and the other half on another, so the water didn’t have to travel over 200′ to get to the end.

At planting time I positioned my plants and/or seeds directly under the soakers. I set the timer to water 30 minutes every morning.

It’s now early September, so we’ve gone through the entire summer using the Snip n Drip soaker. It was a complete success! Even being gone on vacation for two weeks, the garden never dried out. I have more vegetables than I can handle!

The only thing I would change in the future is to switch some of the connectors to their new Raised Bed couplers (90° angle couplers), because the hose curving up and over the edge of my raised beds tends to flatten out.

They don’t sell these couplers individually (like they do with the original ones) and I really don’t want to buy the whole setup again. They also unfortunately only have two raised bed couplers per package (as opposed to the 8 in their standard setup), and I would need 8 for my garden. Yikes! I’ve emailed them to find out if they plan on selling those raised bed couplers individually in the future. They wrote back saying that at this time they are not offering that option, but will forward my request to their buyers in the hope they’ll comply at some point. For now, I’ll have to come up with some clever way to keep those hoses from pinching themselves off!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me!

Starting a Garden from Seeds

Farmer Deb (on left), maybe age 8?

My first experience with germinating seeds was when I was about 5. A neighbor had cleaned out their attic and tossed everything out on their curb for trash pickup. The local rug rats (myself included) thought we’d died and gone to heaven. We went through the entire pile and found loads of treasures. One that I found was an unused kid’s plant growing science experiment kit. It had little clear plastic pots, vermiculite and some radish seeds. When I planted the seeds and they sprouted, I was fascinated with the entire process. Imagine having nothing more than dry dirt and some brown specks and water turn into living, green plants! For years after that I tried to make terrariums in an old 5 gallon fish tank with garden soil and some seeds I’d swiped from our canary’s food dish. When we no longer had Tweety Bird, I would go through our spice cabinet looking for seeds to grow. Actually, I still do that!

Proof that I have a green thumb!

I survive the majority of winter by planning my next garden. Usually after Christmas the seed catalogs start coming in the mail and I’m like a little kid, decades ago, with a new Sears Catalog, closely examining the “enhanced” photos of glorious healthy vegetables at their peak. After a couple of weeks I come to my senses and order only a few packets of things that I know will grow in my garden. Colorado has a very short growing season and so I focus on vegetables that have the shortest growth times from planting to harvest — less than 60 days. I look for the most disease-resistant varieties I can find, without going down that GMO road. Some seeds I don’t even need to buy. If I buy a particularly nice organic winter squash, I’ll save some of the seeds for the garden. I’ve also done this with peppers and tomatoes in the past, but ran into problems with wilt. Most of the time the vegetables I buy in the grocery store have been grown in different areas in the U.S., or otherwise, and may not have resistance to certain organisms found in Colorado. Or maybe they were grown in greenhouses in more sterile conditions. Last year my gorgeous Black Krim tomato plants grown from a Whole Foods tomato purchase succumbed to Fusarium Wilt, just as the tomatoes were growing. It was seriously disappointing. On the other hand, I’ve had really good luck with seeds I saved from a package of Cherub tomatoes. Those little tomatoes are delicious and the plants are incredibly prolific.


My personal priorities for buying seeds and nursery plants are:

1. Vegetables that I use the most get top priority. Once in a while I’ll try something on a whim, like last year’s stevia plant. It did well, I dried the whole thing at the end of the summer, and it’s still sitting in my pantry with the tea. But I know that all year long I use tomatoes in many, many soups and sauces. We love fresh green beans and they are easy to grow and can be prolific. Summer squash is versatile and I use it often. There are a lot more varieties available by seed than in the grocery. I use a lot of Anaheim Chilis for green chili (we char them on the gas grill) and a favorite soup recipe. We love broccoli and use it a lot: steamed, raw, in other dishes. I use broccoli leaves like chard or collards, steamed or sauteed. There are actually a lot more edible veggie plant parts than we are lead to believe! I also grow herbs that I use a lot: basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay, lemon balm. What I have left over in early fall can be dried or preserved in other ways. I have to say I’ve become fond of keeping just one celery plant in the garden. I don’t use celery all that much, usually a couple of stalks here and there in a recipe and have had store bought celery go bad. A living celery plant all summer is very handy, I just go out and rip off what I need and rest continues to grow. And the flavor of home grown celery, like a lot of other produce, is amazing.

2. Plants that have a short growing period vie for first priority. With tomatoes and peppers, I start the seeds indoors at the end of February. Other plants are started based on their harvest times, some seeds even get planted directly into the soil. Still working on the timing of those, but they tend to be carrots, lettuce, arugula. I need to pay more attention to Mom Nature and note which plants resulting from reseeding (seeds dropped from the parent plant the previous summer) start up. I’ve had arugula, carrots, tobacco, some flowers, oregano and dill do this. Tomatoes reseed, but too late to produce fruit. They haven’t caught on yet.

3. Plants that are hardy, again very important! Another major consideration. I typically don’t grow things that I know won’t grow here. I also choose resistance to as many diseases as possible without going GMO.

4. Vegetables, fruits and herbs that can be preserved. Whether by freezing (broccoli, summer squash, various peppers and basil in a pesto sauce); canning and/or pickling such as tomatoes, apples, pickled cukes and okra, green beans, grapes; dehydrating such as tomatoes, herbs, garlic; culturing such as cabbage for sauerkraut, carrots, leafy greens, radishes, kohlrabi; or “root cellaring” like green tomatoes, root vegetables and winter squash. Why should you only reap the benefits of an organic garden during the short summer season?

Starting from seeds vs. buying seedlings – some FAQs
Why buy seeds vs. seedlings? My first thoughts are: more variety, monetary savings and the pleasure of growing something yourself. I’ve been starting my own plants for decades, but when early summer hail storms destroy everything I’ve worked towards, I end up replacing my home-grown plants with store-bought ones. On the up side, buying store-bought usually means getting what is hardy for where you live. But, there’s also the lack of variety involved with buying store plants. Yet, if a hail storm has destroyed my garden I’d rather go boring than go nothing at all. If cost is an issue, consider that an entire package of seeds costs less (usually) than buying one commercial seedling.

What’s involved with growing from seed? Growing plants from seed is interesting, rewarding and fairly easy. My favorite incubator is one of those plastic trays with a clear plastic lid, 6-cell trays fit inside. It just takes some seed starter mix (make sure you use this, it’s fine and sterile and a happy medium for seeds), some seeds and water. Starter mix should be mixed with water until spongy. Fill the tray cells with the starter, use a pencil to poke some holes in the dirt, toss in 2-3 seeds and cover with a teensy bit of soil. General rule of thumb is bury the seed with soil 2x the size of the seed. Make sure you mark your trays with a Sharpie or tags so you know what you planted. I put my trays on top of the fridge since the temperature is fairly warm and consistent. Seeds do not need light until they sprout through the soil. Some seeds sprout quickly — tomatoes can take just 3-4 days, peppers can take a week or two, carrots take forever. If you’re in a hurry, a heating pad under the tray helps. Check the seeds every day for growth and water needs. The ones that have sprouted need to be removed from the incubator so they can get some light and air circulation. As they outgrow their little cells, you’ll need to transfer them to bigger containers and start introducing your actual garden soil into the mix. Make sure they don’t dry out, and add some plant food here and there.

Indoor green beans.

Do you need a grow light? In the past I was able to successfully grow seedlings on window sills, in our sunroom or under fluorescent lights. Last winter I bought myself a full spectrum LED grid light — the choice of marijuana growers here in Colorado.  I kept track of the growth of the seedlings throughout the winter and was BLOWN AWAY by the results. The plants grew super healthy and stocky in an amazingly short period of time. The plants flowered and I actually had little green beans while the plants were in 4″ planters. I am using that same light this year with tomato and pepper seedlings and am again amazed. I have the light on 12 hours a day, on a timer, and my tomatoes and peppers are growing at record rates with NO LEGGINESS at all. Plants that don’t get enough light tend to grow tall and spindly (leggy), searching for the light.

In the pot: grow light collards;
on the counter, sunny window grown.
BIG DIFFERENCE!

These plants are deep green, stocky and very happy. Next winter I’m going to experiment with keeping tomato plants alive and producing throughout the winter with my LED light.

Why not collect your own seeds from store-bought produce? As mentioned before, saving seeds from store-bought veggies don’t always work out, as some of those plants are just not meant to be grown in my (or your) climate and may succumb to diseases they are not resistant to. There’s also that question of how long it takes for the produce to grow from planting time.

Why deal with those little 6 cell packs? Why not just go for a bigger pot to start off? One year, not long ago, I thought, “why not just put those tomato seeds in a big pot and save myself some work?” Well, the little plants spent all of their energy growing roots to fill all that dirt, and never put any thought into growing their above-ground parts. So, there is a real reason to start small and graduate the planter size. At least in our colder climates where growing season is an issue.

Do I need to use seed starter and potting soil for my plants? In the beginning, yes. But to avoid transplant shock when you finally add your plants to the garden, you should have your seedlings in 100% of your garden soil by then. Otherwise you’ll slow down the growth (harvest time) of your veggies.

What else do I need to do? The first thing that comes to my mind is don’t forget to “harden off” your seedlings. That means to the weather, the sun and to wind. I’m thinking Colorado again. Seedlings, especially those who have not had a grow light, will be a little spindly. If you put them out in the garden without hardening off, they will be shocked by the night time temps, burned by our relentless sunshine and beat to a pulp by our wind. If your plants are spindly, you need to add a fan to their daily routine. The fan will blow on them and cause them to thicken their stems. To introduce your plants to sun and night temps, you’ll have to put them outside for for increasing amounts of time so they get used to nature. http://www.tomatodirt.com/harden-off.html You can use this info for all of your seedlings. Kind of makes you wonder how plants have survived without human intervention, doesn’t it? Well, the fact is that we, in modern times, grow plants in our climates that otherwise would not have a chance of surviving.

So…

In Colorado, unless you have a greenhouse, gardening is still a crap shoot. There are hail storms. Bunnies. Late freezes and snow. Early freezes and snow. Diseases. Unseasonable weather. Technical difficulties. In the 30 years that I’ve lived here, even under the worst circumstances, gardens eventually take care of themselves and produce some degree of satisfaction and sustenance. Growing my plants from seed is very satisfying and really not difficult. And when Mom Nature has other ideas, there’s always Whole Foods. So, happy gardening and never give up!