Note to subscribers: You may have gotten a notice early this morning about a password-protected post. Ignore it; I’m just using that post as a parking place for materials related to a mural project I’m doing this spring.
I’d grow a garden even if I didn’t care about the environment, because storebought tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs simply don’t taste as good as heirloom varieties harvested half an hour before the salad goes on the table. The fact that organic gardening is better for the planet is just a bonus.
From an environmental standpoint, homegrown vegetables eliminate three sources of waste: transportation, packaging and pesticides. From an economic standpoint, they also conserve cash, as produce from the grocery store tends to get rather expensive.
If you’re planning to grow tomatoes, peppers or other plants that require a little coddling to germinate, now is the time to start them. A few tips:
1. Use decent-sized pots. Peat pellets are convenient, but they’re also worthless; your plants will get rootbound and require repotting within a couple of weeks. Save yourself the hassle by starting the seeds in bigger containers to start with. Tin cans, yogurt cups and old disposable coffee cups all work well for this purpose, or you can recycle newspaper into biodegradable seed-starting cups.
2. Give them plenty of light. If you don’t have big south-facing windows, invest in a mini-greenhouse and as many growlights as you can afford. I gave $16 for a mini-greenhouse last year, and I spent another $75 or so on six small growlight fixtures, which I connected to a power strip and plugged into a timer to simulate night and day for the plants.
3. Don’t drown them. The soil should feel damp but not wet. Too much moisture can rot young plants at the root.
4. Find your planting zone, and DO NOT plant vegetables outside before the last frost date, or you’ll regret it.
5. Buy interesting heirloom varieties that are suited to your area. My favorite sources for heirloom seeds are Baker Creek and Seed Savers Exchange. Save seeds from the plants that grow well, and you can replant next year without having to buy more.
What are you planting this year?
P.S.: Here’s Day 11 of my Lent project: