Springtime is always a busy time on the farm, as life begins its annual restart after the winter sleep. One of the many activities that happens in spring is starting some plants for the gardens. I like to grow rare and heirloom plants, which tend to be difficult to find in our area stores. So I purchase the seeds and start the plants myself. My favorite source for seeds is Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine. Their germination rates are incomparable to any other seed company. Johnny’s is, quite simply, the best.
I order seeds, I get a nice seed-starting mix (will make my own someday!), I plant seeds in a tray first, then transplant the best seedlings to pots when they have “true leaves” (as opposed to “seed leaves”). I like to use planting pots that decompose – those made of peat are most common. One great tip I’ve learned over the years is to put a fan on your plants once in a while. The air indoors is so perfectly still that seedlings tend to get leggy – growing very tall as they reach toward the sunlight on weak stems that never have to fight wind or rain. Putting a breeze on them makes stronger, wider stems. Summer vegetables started indoors need to be “hardened off” before transplanting outside. Leaving the trays of plants outside in nice weather tends to be the easiest way. They slowly adjust to increased sun exposure, wind, rain, etc. After all danger of frost and some days outside to adjust, they’re ready to transplant in the garden.
Cold-hardy vegetables can be sowed directly into the warming spring soil. They shake off the late frosts without any harm. These are the same vegetables you can plant again in the fall. In my family, we love planting sugar snap peas, beets, carrots, and spinach every year. My kids don’t particularly enjoy store bought spinach, but when they can pick their own fresh spinach from the garden, they’ll eat handfuls!