Make Vegetable Gardening Fun and Interesting – Mix It Up. Now that I have you thinking about spring vegetables in the “Dread of Winter,” go to Behnke’s at Beltsville to enjoy the color and beauty while shopping for your cool season vegetable direct-sow seeds.
Direct-sow seeds are seeds that you plant into their final destination. If you followed the advice of my last post “The Recipe For Success“, you’ve already chosen your seed for starting leafy vegetables indoors, plus soils and fertilizers. Your next step is to select your direct-sow seeds; i.e., varieties of radishes, beets, peas, carrots, onions, kohlrabi & leeks. Remember you’re not the only one thinking of growing your own from seed so shop soon for the best selection.
You will actually sow these seeds into your garden or into pots around March 15th when you transplant the leafy vegetable plants you started earlier indoors. A helpful hint: if you, like me, have had some problems getting your beet seedlings to emerge from the soil, then add a few radish seeds to your beet seeds. Radishes will break the ground to make it easier for the smaller and later-emerging beets to show themselves.
The seed packet is a wealth of information; always read the packet. Some types of seeds need to be exposed to light in order to germinate. Others will only germinate in the dark (that is, with a thin layer of soil covering them.) The packet will tell you whether or not to cover the seed, and if they are covered, how deeply. Cover them too deeply and it’s like the Poseidon Adventure, little seedlings struggling to climb to the light.
The package will also tell you how many seeds to sow per inch or foot. To over-sow is wasteful—the seedlings become crowded and will have to be thinned (although for some things like beets, you can use the greens when you pull the extra seedlings out.) With really fine seed like carrots, you may find that it’s easier to sow if you mix the seed with fine, dry sand. Sow the seed and sand together and you’ll find that your packet covers the 10 foot row that it’s supposed to instead of 18 inches.
If you only have a small area for pots—perhaps a balcony–and wish to grow these vegetables, most of them would grow fine in a deep window box such as: radishes, beets, and maybe even leeks. You can use the railing of the balcony as your garden holder: this allows you to grow more in your small space.
[Editor’s note: make sure the window box is secured well to the railing, and that the railing is secured well to the balcony, so you don’t accidentally kill somebody. This tends to annoy the neighbors. You don’t want somebody a few floors down looking like the Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon.]
If you can grow some of your vegetables in a window box, this leaves you floor space for those leafy vegetables we talked about last week. Lettuce is leafy vegetable you could grow in window boxes or in a nice short pot on the table top. What a wonderful sight: to take a stroll onto the balcony or deck, or into back yard and to pick a bunch of vegetables for your salad or to mix in a dish. Pick a leaf…eat it right then and taste the flavor and freshness.
Speaking of flavors, let’s not forget about our herbs! Some of the herbs are grown from seed, including parsley. Start them in the window along with your cold vegetables to have fresh herbs to put on you freshly picked vegetable salad, or for seasoning meats and vegetables. You can grow mixed herbs in a container to use on meats, vegetables and more.
Make gardening fun and interesting! Mix it up! Mix herb plants in a container such as a bowl or a window box. Once they start to come up, put them directly into a window for light and watch your mixed garden grow. Lettuce is another leafy vegetable that you can mix types and have a full salad in a pot.
I’m leaving you with a thought. Buy what you need now, to get the best selection for you cool season gardens. Also, another thought. If you didn’t get around to starting seeds indoors for your lettuce, broccoli and so on, then you can always buy started cool season vegetables from us. We have them in stock for about a month or 6 weeks, starting around March 20th.
By Sissy McKenzie, Beltsville Store Manager