Spring has sprung! It only took about 8 months...
A lot has been going on at the Forkprint House but one especially fun project has been the garden my boyfriend and I started. We started a garden in a plant bed last year, but back then we took the easier route and bought already-grown plants from the store and planted them. I always had a little guilt/concern while harvesting since they weren't the most eco-friendly option. They were not organic, and pretty much without any description except for their names. I'm not even sure where they came from to be completely honest.
But this year we decided to do things differently and grow directly from seed. Pure, organic seeds. We just started about two weeks ago (late April, once the nighttime temperature got above 55 degrees F or 13 degrees C). We're newbies at growing from seed but it's been so much more fun and satisfying seeing the seedlings grow up (cries a tear).
My dad has always raved about The Hudson Valley Seed Company, so we got some of their seed varieties. If you haven't heard of The Hudson Valley Seed Co., they sell all kinds of non-GMO heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. They produce many of their seeds on their own small farm and get the rest from local farmers and seed houses that are not owned by or affiliated with multi-national biotech companies. They are the real deal. Not to mention, they're from my home state of New York.
So here I am growing their seeds in Europe and loving it. Right now I'm using three packs of their seeds: Mikado Tomato, Arugula, and Bloomsdale Spinach. Not only are they ethically and sustainably-sourced, each package is very informative and includes everything you need to know about that plant and how to grow it. Often when I read instructions my eyes glaze over because I get bored, but with these seed packages everything is laid out in a really creative and clear way. They're also really easy to seal up again and store for future use.
The two other kinds of seeds we got are organic ones by Botanical Interests from Whole Foods. We got Dwarf Blue Curled Kale and Gourmet Blend Beets (rainbow beets). The kale is growing away but we're waiting to get more soil for another plant bed before starting the beets.
For our soil, we use an organic soil good for planting veggies in (I forgot the brand...) mixed with organic fertilizer coming straight from my boyfriend's parents' farm (horse poop to be exact). The soil is approx. 12-inches high and takes up about half the height of the plant bed. I made four rows for the plants, with each plant variety in a different row.
How you grow your seeds obviously varies from plant to plant, but easily enough, most of our seeds were pretty similar in that department. The three leafy greens: arugula, spinach, and kale were done the same way. All three are direct sows that do well in moderate to full sunlight. When sowing mine, I sprinkled seeds in three different spots a few inches away from each other along each row, placing a few seeds in each spot. It's important to note that these kinds of seeds should not be buried with soil – they just need a light sprinkle of soil on top of them. After this process, be sure to give them some water.
As for the tomato seeds, they need to be sprouted indoors or in a greenhouse first before being planted outside. So we sprouted ours indoors by wetting a paper towel, putting it on a plate with a few seeds, and covering it with another plate and placing it out of direct sunlight. Once they sprouted to be about 1-2 inches we planted them outside with the rest of their plant friends in full sunlight. If you're growing tomato plants, just make sure they're not sprouting beyond 1-2 inches indoors or else they'll be too dainty and weak to develop sturdy roots.
We water all of the plants every day (if it hasn't been raining that day) and once they're out of direct sunlight – for us that's after 5pm. If you have to water yours during the daytime, just be sure to water underneath the leaves, not on top of them, otherwise they may burn from the sunlight reflection!
Right now the kale, arugula, and tomato seedlings are growing strong, but we're still waiting on our spinach babies. We might need to replant them, whoops...
Anyway, get out there and start growing your own veggies! LA Urban Gardener, Ron Finley says, "growing your own food is like printing your own money." So give it a try and save a few bucks. Plus, it makes it that much more rewarding to eat your food when you grow it yourself, knowing exactly where and how it was grown, being part of every step along the way. You'll be thinking "Damn, I grew this beauty."