Sunday, February 26, 2023

What's happening in the late February edible garden

Daffodils in bloom
Sunday, February 26, 2023

Spring in our garden came early this year; about 4 weeks early.  February looks to end as the second warmest February on record.  Daffodils and forsythias are in full bloom now with buds on the Bradford pear and redbud trees.  Now is a great time to start sowing seeds outdoors for the spring edible garden.  

When forsythias bloom, it is time to apply corn gluten for weed suppression in the garden and yard.  Corn gluten keeps seeds from sprouting and provides nitrogen.  It will also keep grass seed or garden seed from sprouting so use only where you don't want seeds to come up.

In the edible garden, onions, celery, horseradish, carrots, garlic, and garlic chives are all popping up in the garden bed.  Overwintering celery, sorrel, lettuce, arugula, cress, sprouting broccoli, Austrian peas and pok choi are growing again.  Chickweed is flowering.  The garden is giving greens for fresh picked salads.  

Cool season crop transplants are not at the local nurseries and big box stores yet.  Likely be a few more weeks before they come in.  Now is a great time to get the garden beds ready for March transplants by doing a soil test, adding compost and mulching your beds.   
Overwintering cabbage and broccoli
I have also planted snow pea, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, sweet mustard greens, orach and spinach seeds to keep the salad greens going through June.  Orach, sweet mustard greens and Hilton Chinese cabbage leaves stay sweet all the way through summer.  All love the cool weather so now is a great time to get your seeds planted outdoors.  I'll keep sowing some lettuce seeds about every 3 weeks to keep salads going all summer.

The I sowed cilantro, dill, parsley, rosemary and basil in my pots, too.  It was likely too early for the basil as it will turn black when temps get below freezing.  I can use my portable greenhouse cover to keep it protected after it has sprouted.  Our last frost is typically in early April.

Here is the list of edibles I have planted so far outdoors, all in pots:  
Snow peas-Avalanche (30" vine), Oregon Sugar Pod II (28" vine), Purple Snow Pea (24" vine)
Spinach-Giant Winter and Galilee.  Galilee is very heat tolerant
Lettuce-Royal Oak Leaf, Oak Leaf, Red Sails, Forellenschluss, Green Salad Bowl, Butter King, Bronze Beauty, Solar Flare, Lunix
Chinese Cabbage-Hilton, Golden Beauty and Scarlette F1
Chard-Verde de Taglio and Perpetual Spinach
Orach-Aurora mixed colors
Radish-Dragon's Tail (grown for seed pods not the root)
Herbs-Rosemary, Flat Leaf Parsley, Dill, Sweet Basil, Chives, Cilantro

I have only started a few edibles indoors-Orange Hat Micro tomato and Jigsaw pepper.  I hope both of these can be grown indoors year round.

There are more seeds to start outdoors when the temperatures are warmer like beans, squash, cucumber and peppers.  I haven't decided if I am going to start my tomatoes, eggplant and amaranth indoors or outdoors in pots and then transplant into their permanent spots after they have sprouted and grown a bit.  I have another 4 weeks to decide. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Advice for beginner gardeners

Using pots on the patio for edible greens 
Saturday, February 25, 2023

As spring comes, it can get you thinking about starting your very first edible garden.  Gardening is great for the pocketbook, your health and the soul.  I encourage everyone to grow at least a few things.  Here are the top tips for getting started.     

Tip 1  Start small and use beds you already have.  Many think of an edible garden as this huge space that you need a tiller and back breaking work to put in and maintain.  Look at your current flower garden beds, patios and decks for tucking edibles.  Veggies and fruits require full sun to flourish.  You can grow a lot of food in a sunny 6' x 6' space or pots.

Tip 2  Start with just a few plants.  Pick the top 3-5 veggies you love to eat.  Buy transplants the first year.  If you are going to do just pots, look for the plants that were developed for growing in pots.  Those that do well in pots are also great in small garden spaces. 

Tip 3  Do a check of the conditions that the edibles you want to grow thrive in to determine where and when to plant.  There are plants that like cool temperatures like lettuce and other greens and those that like the heat like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and beans.  You would plant those that like it cool in the early spring and fall.  You plant the summer lovers in late spring after all chance of frost has passed.  By the time the spring edibles are starting to bolt and are done for the season, your summer lovers will begin to produce.  If you plant the cool temperature lovers in pots, you can move them to a shadier location to keep them producing longer.  

Tip 4  Fertilize and water as recommended.  If you are using a solid fertilizer, you typically fertilize when you plant and then monthly.  Liquid fertilizer is every other week.  If growing in pots, plants need more help and a rule of thumb is to fertilize and water about twice as often as if gardening in the ground.  Veggies need about an inch of water a week if planted in the ground so you usually don't have to give supplemental water until June.  

Tip 5  Monitor your plants, harvest often to keep them producing and enjoy fresh picked produce!  Keeping a journal will help you remember what happened over the gardening season.  Make notes of what you want to do the same or differently next year or learn about over the winter for next year's gardening expansion.  

For step by step instructions on starting your first garden, Your first edible garden

Sunday, February 19, 2023

It's pea planting time!

Flowering pea plants
Sunday, February 19, 2023

Peas are great for spring gardens.  Not only do they taste great, but they add nitrogen to the soil and are easy to "put away" for winter eating.  Early spring is the time to start peas as soon as the soil can be worked.  I planted my pea seeds this week.  

My favorite pea variety to grow are snow peas because it produces the most for the space and its pods are sweet and crunchy.  I grow the vining type that stays relatively short, around 2'.  I like growing mine in pots so having a shorter vine keeps the pot tidy.  Of course, I also add petunias or nasturtiums to the pot for color.  All parts of the pea plant are edible-leaves, shoots and flowers.  I add them all to salads.   

Peas love at least 6 hours of sun, well drained soil, and a side dressing of fertilizer or compost when planted.  Don't get carried away with fertilizer during the growing season or you will have all greenery and no pods.  Be sure to not water the foliage; stick with watering at the ground to avoid fusarium wilt.

Peas are part of the legumes which include fava beans, shell beans (like the popular red, kidney, Great Northern beans), snap peas, snow peas, green beans, lima beans, peanuts, lentils, and soybeans.  Peas have been cultivated for thousands of years all around the world, originating in the Mediterranean and the Near East.  Legumes have some of the highest protein in the plant world.  When combined with grains, you can get a complete protein like you do from meat or eggs.  
Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

For maximizing your harvest in a small space, I would go for snow and snap peas since you eat the entire pod.  Even the tips and flowers of the pea plant is edible and a great add to salads.  I plant them in pots every year.
Pea leaves, shoots and flowers are all edible
When you plant legumes, be sure to use a rhizobial bacteria inoculant.  This will really boost your harvest.  You just moisten the seed and coat with the rhizobial powder and plant.  Nitrogen accumulates on the roots of the legume.  Greens are great to interplant with peas as the greens can the nitrogen to develop their leaves. 

The seeds germinate in temps between 40-75 degrees F.  Just scratch a small hole about 1.5” deep to drop the seed in and cover.  Have patience, seeds germinate anywhere from 7-25 days, depending on the soil temperature.  Plant every 2 weeks until midspring for continuous harvest.  Peas stop producing pods when temperatures exceed 70 degrees F.  Providing shade can extend the season.  
Newly sprouted pea vines
Harvest sugar snow peas just as the seeds begin to form in the pods to have the sweetest peas while the pod is still relatively flat.  Harvest snap peas after the peas inside have reached full size.  Even with shelling peas, pick as soon as the seeds have rounded out.  Continuous harvesting keeps them producing.  You can keep adding what you harvest to a freezer bag to have the sweetest and freshest for winter eating.

Peas can be grown in pots as well as directly in the ground.  Growing in pots allow you to move your peas to a cooler area as spring heats up.

Most varieties are vining so be sure to give them a trellis or stake to wrap themselves around.  You can easily grow vining in pots if you use a support and get varieties that the seed packet vine length isn't over a foot longer than the trellis for the pot.  

There are bush varieties out there if you prefer to bypass a trellis or support.  Look for varieties that say "compact", "good for small spaces", "good for containers", etc., if growing in small spaces.  Burpee seed packets also have small clay pot with a checkmark in it for those that are good to grow in pots.  I grow the short vine variety and let them drape over the side of the pot; I like the look.  

Saturday, February 18, 2023

What to start indoors and outdoors 8 weeks before last frost

Aerogarden seed starting system
Saturday, February 18, 2023

Countdown to spring is underway for many gardeners that start their favorite edible veggies and fruits indoors, planting outside when the conditions are right.  It is 8 weeks before the last spring frost in my zone, Zone 7.  Here are the edibles that can be started from seed 8 weeks prior to your last frost.  

    You can start indoors any vegetable, fruit or flower that the seed packet says can be started indoors 8-12 weeks before your last frost date right now in our area.  The reason seed packets share the longest time from starting seed to your last frost date is that the seedlings will get weak and leggy and many will die if you start them too soon indoors and they have to be kept indoors for an extended period of time.  So, right now it is less than 8 weeks from the last spring frost date in my area.  I can start seeds indoors for any plant that has a start date of 8 weeks or longer until the last frost date around these parts.

You can even start seeds indoors after all chance of frost is over, just to keep a close eye on your seedlings as they sprout and grow out their second set of leaves.  Any time after their second set of leaves, you have a high chance of the seedling doing well after transplanting if you have hardened it off well. 

Indoor seed starting 8 weeks prior to last frost
Bee balm
Leek, if starting from seed
Mustard  Mustard greens
Onions, if starting from seed  Everything to know about growing onions
Scallions, if starting from seed
Shallots, if starting from seed  
Strawberries  Back yard strawberries
Summer savory  

Outdoor seed starting/transplanting
There are even some seeds and plants that can be started outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked. 
Asparagus crowns
Fava bean seeds
Fruit bushes and trees
Spring garlic cloves
Mache seeds
Pea seeds
Spinach seeds
Shallot cloves

Sunday, February 12, 2023

What to plant in February edible garden

Greens growing under cover in January
Sunday, February 12, 2023

February is the time the garden begins to wake up, readying itself for the growing season in the Midwest edible garden.  There are a few veggies that can be seeded outdoors and many that can be started indoors to give you a jump on harvests.  Using season extending strategies can also help you harvest sooner.  

Outdoor seeding
There are a few cold hardy veggies that you can sow outdoors in February.  Just about any variety that touts "winter hardy" are great ones to try in the February garden.
*Spinach seed can be scatter sown and will sprout when the temps are right.  Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
*Peas can be tucked into pots and in the garden.  My granny would plant as soon as the soil could be worked, even with a little ice still in the soil!  My fav are snow peas since you can eat the whole pod.  Time to plant peas!
*Fava or broad beans can also be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.  Grow a European favorite-the fava or broad bean
*This is the time of year that asparagus can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked.  You won't be able to harvest the spears this year, but it gives the crowns the time they need so you can get a few next season.
*Mache or corn salad is also a super winter hardy green that can be sown directly in the garden.   Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

If you have a cold frame or portable greenhouse, you can also sow other cold hardy veggies under cover and they will get sprouting like lettuce, radishes, broccoli, cabbage.  

Outdoor transplants
*Blueberry bushes and shallots when soil can be worked.
*At the end of the month, hardened off veggie transplants of cabbage, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, pac choi, rhubarb, radicchio, scallions, shallots and spinach can be planted outside.  A spring edible garden
*Many herb plants can also be planted at the end of the month.  Chives, fennel, horseradish, parsley and thyme.  Start a kitchen herb garden!
Early March garden
Indoor seeds to start
There are many veggies that can be started indoors.  The trick to indoor seed starting is to not get too anxious and start seeds way before you can plant them outdoors.  Indoor seed starting tips

Seeds to start indoors now are the ones you will plant outdoors at the end of February and beginning of March.  Be sure to harden them off (gradually get them used to the outdoor temperatures) before putting in the garden or outdoor pot.

Asparagus, artichokes, arugula, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, Chinese cabbage, collards, eggplant, endive, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks/onions/scallions/shallots/chives (if growing from seed), cold hardy lettuce, mache, marjoram, mizuna, mustard greens, pac choi, parsley, peas, radicchio, snow peas, sorrel, summer savory, spinach, and thyme.
Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates

Outdoor planting tips
Be sure to harden off any transplants that you grew from seed before planting in the garden or outdoor pot.  You'll need to get your transplants used to the outdoor temperatures.  I like to plant outdoors when the forecast is for overcast skies and warmer temperatures for a few days.

For your portable greenhouses, you can grab plants from there to plant in the garden and start more seeds in the greenhouse.  

You can also use season extenders like portable greenhouses, row covers and cloches to protect your new transplants and give them a warming boost for growing.  The biggest issue with greenhouses and cloches in the spring is they can be 50 degrees warmer inside them than the outdoor air so you have to be diligent in opening them up when the temps start rising into the 40's and 50's on sunny days.  Extend the season with protection for plants

Spring garden prep
Before you start planting, be sure your garden is in tip top shape for the growing season.  Do a soil test to see what nutrients are needed.  Add the nutrients at the beginning of the month so they are available to the plants when they go into the ground.  I like to add fertilizer and worm castings to each planting hole.

 Be sure to also apply your mulch on top of the fertilizer and minerals you add to the garden.  This keeps them from being washed off or in the case of nitrogen, being released into the air.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

If this is your first time gardening and want to get started but not sure how, try this blog.  Easy kitchen garden

Happy gardening! 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Heirloom, open pollinated and hybrid seed differences

Saturday, February 11, 2023

What is the difference between open pollinated, hybrid and heirloom seeds?  It can be confusing buying seeds or plants with the different terms and descriptors used in seed catalogs and stores.  

Open Pollinated 
Open pollinated at a high level means that they are seeds or plants that were grown by natural pollination.  When you plant an open pollinated variety, you can use the seeds they produce to grow more plants that are like the parent(s).  One watch out is that some varieties cross pollinate easily with other varieties like them so you will get a cross between the two parents.  If you have a variety that cross pollinates easily, you will have to grow it spaced away from the others they cross with if you want to use the seeds to grow the same type as the mother plant.  

You'll also see descriptors that say the variety is "self pollinating" which typically means that it will pollinate itself and you will get seeds that will grow plants like the mother plant even if planted close to others.  If you are up for surprises, go ahead and plant seeds that could potentially be crosses.  You never know, the cross may be the best yet!

Heirlooms are plants that are open-pollinated, have been developed using classic breeding procedures, and are at least older than 1951.  Some believe only those that are 100 years old qualify.  Heirlooms have been handed down from generation to generation.  Open pollinated means that you can grow a plant just like the parent from the seeds.  You can use the seeds from heirlooms or any open pollinated veggie you buy in the store to grow them in your own garden.

They are a modern cross between 2 different plants.  Plants are artificially pollinated.  Many are infertile meaning they will not produce viable seed. This can be a good thing if you want a seedless variety.  The hybrids that do have seeds will not yield the same plant as the parent.  Hybrids are typically bred to provide plants that have better yields and/or better disease protection.  Many feel that hybrids sacrifice flavor for their other attributes. 

If you are having a particular pest issue, a hybrid may help.  Be sure to choose a hybrid that was bred for resistance to the issue you are having.  Hybrid is not the only option.  You can also look for open pollinated or heirlooms that have a resistance to the issue you are having in your garden.  For instance, I grow the heirloom Blauhilde purple podded pole beans in my garden for its mosaic virus resistance.  Of all the romano type beans, it stays the healthiest in my garden conditions.

Seeds can only be labeled as organic if they were grown by certified organic farmers.  The criteria for being certified organic is very stringent.  Organics cannot be genetically modified.  Organics cannot have been grown with any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers being used.  A farmer has to be chemical free for 3 years before they can be certified organic (and keep very detailed records to prove how they grew their seeds and be inspected yearly).  Open pollinated, heirloom and hybrid seeds and plants can be labelled as organic if they were raised following organic practices.  

You cannot have organic GMO’s as no GMO can be labeled organic!  You can have heirlooms that are not raised using organic practices and will not be labelled "organic".

I use all organic practices in my garden.  Why?  Studies have shown that conventionally grown food contain pesticides.  I just feel that if something was developed to kill other living creatures, it can't be good for you.  Besides, our grandparents grew great gardens the organic way!  USDA study shows 85% of foods tested contain pesticides

Why would you want to save your own seed?  For one, it is a gift that keeps on giving year after year.  I have seeds I have saved from years ago that are still germinating great because I store them for longevity.  Each new generation will be more adapted to your specific garden conditions so you can potentially be developing varieties that will be better producers and better tasting than ones bought at the store.  

Drawbacks to seed saving?  It does take a few minutes to do, you do have to label them and you do have to keep them someplace until you are ready to use them.  Besides the time, if you do get a disease issue in your plant, it can be in the seed of the plant.  Using those seeds next year can propagate the issue.  If you have beautiful, healthy plants, be all means try saving the seeds from the best to plant again next year!

So, if you want to buy seeds or plants that you do seed saving for next season's garden, be sure to purchase those with  heirloom or open pollinated descriptors.   You can buy organic seeds and transplants on-line and in big box stores these days.  Bonnie (sold at big box stores) transplants started offering organic varieties a couple years ago.  Many local nurseries and even farmers markets sell not only flowers but vegetable transplants, having varieties you may not see at the big box store.  Buying local also keeps your dollars in your area.    

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Crops that store themselves

February tomatoes from summer
Sunday, February 5, 2023

Many of us do not have endless freezer space, but would love to eat from the garden year round.  One way to do that is to grow crops that store well without a freezer that keep for months.  There are varying levels of preparation to get them to be storage ready.  This blog covers only the ones that require little effort to get storage ready.
The following crops can be kept over the winter without any refrigeration or cellar needed.  On seed packets and plant descriptions look for wording that states that the crop is good for longer term storage.  Many varieties are bred specifically to keep.

Beans-dry thoroughly and store in Mason jars.  Let bean pods dry until crisp.  Remove from pods and leave in open container to dry for another 2 weeks.  Don't limit yourself to the mainstream varieties of storage beans.  There are so many interesting, ancient varieties to try.  Growing beans  Once dried, they are easy to rehydrate and use.  Even if you don't grow your own, buy heirlooms in bulk to use in winter chilis and soups.  Use dry beans instead of canned
Corn-Pick after husks dry.  Remove husks and store in dry location until kernels come off when ear is wrung.  Store whole in bins or remove kernels and store in Mason jars.  There are so many beautiful, healthy heirlooms out there to grow and use.  Old timers used to store sweet corn as well for months after harvest.  Pull the plants when ripe and store upside down in a garage or pantry.  One of the few keeper varieties for this still available is Stowell's Evergreen Corn.  
Garlic-After pulling, allow to dry in cool, warm location out of the sun.  Braid and hang after 2 weeks in cool place with moderate humidity like a basement.  Or cut back dry stalk after another two weeks and store in open container.  For those that dry out, I will grind into garlic powder.  I personally like to pickle my garlic in organic apple cider vinegar and homegrown hot peppers.  Pickled garlic will keep until next year's harvest.  Garlic harvest is here!
Onions and Shallots-Be sure you have grown storage type onions.  There is a huge difference in how long an onion will last between varieties.  In general, most sweet onion types do not store well.  After pulling, cure in warm, dry location out of the sun for a week or two.  Braid and hang in cool place with moderate humidity.  Or cut back tops, allow to dry another couple of weeks and store in a ventilated storage container.  For more effort try drying them in a dehydrator.  Drying is a great option to have onions on hand for cooking year round.  This is what I do with sweet onions to have them on hand year round.  Everything to know about growing onions
Shallots drying in the shade
Hot peppers-Chose thin skinned varieties like Rocca Rossa that are easy to dry.  I simply place ripe peppers on the counter until they are completely dry and then store in Mason jars or plastic bags.  Other hot peppers that are thick skinned, I cut and put into organic apple cider vinegar to make hot sauce.  Peppers are another great candidate for the dehydrator or drying at a low temp in the oven.  Dried peppers can also be used to make spicy olive oil.  Preserving peppers
Melons-Yes, some types of melons will keep for weeks after picking.  Chose long keeper varieties like Altaiskaya, Banana, Casaba Golden Beauty, Christmas or Santa Claus, Collective Farm Woman, Golden Honeymoon, Lada, Schoon's Hardshell, Vert Grimpant and Zoloistaja.  Store in cool, dark location.
Potatoes-Look for storage types to grow.  There are many varieties out there and some overwinter much better than others.  Harvest when tops begin dying back.  Do not wash!  Cure in cool, dark place with high humidity for 2-3 weeks.  Store in boxes or cloth covered baskets in cool, dark place with moderate humidity like a basement.  Potatoes have to be kept out of sunlight.  If they turn green, do not eat! For more growing and harvesting tips see  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio
A few storage potato varieties are All Blue, Elba, Katahdin, Kennebec, Dark Red Chieftain, Yellow Fin, Yukon Gem.
Pumpkin and Winter Squash-Harvest after vine has died before hard frost.  Cut leaving 2" of vine for each squash.  Cure in warm, sunny location for a couple of weeks.  Store in open boxes or on a shelf in cool place with moderate humidity.  My butternut squash would keep on the counter into June.  Look for long storage types.  Harvesting and keeping winter squash  You can also buy pumpkins at the store at great prices when they are in season to store for the winter.
Winter squash and pumpkins
Sweet potatoes-Dig at least a month before your first frost.  Cure in warm, humid location for a couple of weeks.  Make sure all skin wounds have scabbed over before moving to winter storage area in a cool, humid area like a basement.  Taste actually improves with storage time.  
Tomatoes-Before a hard frost, pick all your tomatoes, including the green ones.  Wrap each tomato in news paper and place in a dark area.  The tomatoes will ripen over time.  They won't be as wonderful as a vine ripened tomato, but much better than a store bought one.  I have had some tomatoes that last into February this way.  Preserving the tomato harvest
 For the longest storage time, look for varieties that were specifically grown for their long storage ability.  A few of the many available are Burpee's Long Keeper, Garden Peach, Golden Treasure, Graham's Good Keeper, Hopkins Stewart Longkeeper, Long Keeper Winter Storage, Mercuri Winter Keeper, Reverend Morrow's Peach, and Winterkeeper.
Watermelons-Chose long keeper varieties like Blacktail Mountain (keeps 6 weeks), Citron Red Seeded, Crimson Sweet, Kholodok (keeps 3-5 months), Nambe Yellow and Winter King and Queen Watermelon (keeps through Christmas).  Store in cool dark location.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

February 2023 Edible Garden Planner

Daffodils blooming in February
Saturday, February 4, 2023

With the days lengthening, plants know that spring is just around the corner.  In our garden, the daffodils have buds, the "Surprise" lilies and dallies have broke ground, edible greens growing under cover are growing taller, and my apple tree buds are swelling.  Indoors, plants are increasing uptake of water, my pepper plant is flowering, all plants are putting on more growth and both of my amaryllis are blooming.  It won't be long before the forsythias are in bloom and edible perennials are breaking ground.   

Since the spring bat signal has gone out, now is a great time to test your soil and add amendments so they are fully incorporated when you start planting and to support the rapid growth coming of your edible perennials.  You can buy a kit for testing, take a soil sample to your local extension office or send off a sample for a more rigorous soil analysis.   The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals...  If you don't want to go to the trouble of a soil test, add a well balanced, organic fertilizer to your garden bed, cover with compost, and top with mulch.

February is prime time to start seeds indoors and sow cold hardy seeds outdoors.  You  can get a jump on garden harvest by starting seeds indoors.  It is easy and a budget friendly option that allows you to get spring and summer harvests sooner and to grow many varieties not available at your neighborhood nursery or big box store.  Besides, it is fun to watch green things grow!  

Below is a calendar of what to start indoors and outdoors during the next month to get a jump on spring and summer harvests.  This is the earliest to start seedlings.  It is fine to start your seeds anytime after this timing as well.  To find your last frost date:  Frost date look up

Indoor seed starting dates (with an April 3 last frost date)
10-12 weeks prior to last frost (mid/end Jan in our Zone 7 garden)
Leek, if starting from seed
Onions, if starting from seed  Everything to know about growing onions
Shallots, if starting from seed  
Strawberries  Back yard strawberries
Summer savory  

8-10 weeks prior to last frost (end Jan/early February in our Zone 7 garden)

For a full seed starting calendar through April, Indoor Seed Starting Calendar
For both seed sowing and outdoor transplant timing for edibles and flowers, Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates

Outdoor plantings in February  
Asparagus, fruit trees and bushes, garlic, grapes, shallots, spinach and peas seeds can be planted in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked.  Outdoor seed sowing seed starting times  If gardening in mulched flower beds, I clear a small slit in the mulch and then sow the seeds and cover with potting soil.  Most seedlings are not quite strong enough to break through the mulch.  As soon as they are fairly sturdy, I bring the mulch back in around the plants.
Seedlings in Aerogarden seed starting system
Seed Starting Tips
What are the tricks to successful indoor seed starting?  The most surefire I have found with a gadget is the Aerogarden with the seed starting tray.  I have almost 100% germination rate with it.

When starting in coir/peat pots, the key is using sterile seed starting mix, pots and containers.  You can make your own seed starting mix with peat moss or coir (renewable), compost, and vermiculite.  Just be sure to heat the compost to at least 150 degrees for 20 minutes to kill any pathogens before using to start seeds.

After filling the pots with sterile seed starting mix, plant the seeds at the recommended depth and water at the bottom (watering from the top can dislodge seeds).  After the mix has absorbed the water, the pots are ready to put in a catch pan.  Make sure any catch pan that you use has been thoroughly washed in a bleach solution so all pathogens are killed.  You want the soil mix moist and not sopping wet.

I put my seed starts in a plastic tray under grow lights on a seed starting heat mat.  Keep moist, but not wet, with the heating pad on during the day and off at night until seedling emerges.  You can use a spray bottle to spritz the soil to keep it moist.  Once seedling emerges, remove the heating pad.  If you don't have a grow light, place the tray in a south facing window for the best light.

Make sure you label your seedlings as soon as you plant them; you may think you will remember 2 months from now what was where, but likely not.  I keep a piece of paper under the seed starter that has captured for each cell what is planted in the cell.  I have also put the plant marker in the coir pot with the name on it when I plant the seed.  

Your seedling’s first leaves are not “true” leaves; think of them as baby teeth.  The second sets of leaves are their true leaves.  They are ready to be hardened off when they have their first set of true leaves.  Seedlings must be hardened and not just thrown outside.  You take them out a little at a time, gradually increasing their exposure to sun and cold, only during the daytime.  I try and plant when there is a warm spell forecasted to minimize the shock.

There are great selections of herbs and veggies at nurseries and big box stores nowadays so you have great options just waiting until spring is officially here and picking up what looks good at your nearby store in a couple of months.  This is also a great back up if your first seed starting adventure goes a little awry...........

If you are putting in new garden beds as we are this year, here are some tips.  Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really  

I have put together my 2023 garden plan.  I'll continue to have my edibles in the flower beds and to also combine flowers with edibles in pots.  The question is when I will be able to put the garden bed in.  We had an addition put on last year and this spring we will be finishing the landscaping, including my edible/flower garden beds.  I'll be able to get all my pots planted with edibles and flowers on schedule since I can easily move them. 

  Here is what I definitely have in my garden every year or make sure I still have enough in the freezer to last another year:  herbs, chives, onions, spinach, lettuce as well as summer greens for salads, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, summer and spaghetti squash, green beans, snap peas and lots of flowers!

For first time or busy gardeners, Easy kitchen garden 

Hang on, Spring is almost here!.