Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Get Growing Indoors

Hello again,

Our friends at Botanical Interests Seed Company, a family owned business based in Colorado, frequently pass along some great gardening advice.

The following article tells how and why we should get growing certain crops NOW in our indoor gardens so as to have some timely harvests of fresh, natural food earlier than usual in Skillin's Country. Before I go any further I need to point out that we will be having a class on this very topic on Feb 5 here at Skillin's. The class is called Indoor Gardening and more details can be found HERE. The intent of the class is to show how to grow edibles indoors. Many of our Skillin's staff people are doing this. They are loving the results but also finding that their "gardening desires"--normally largely on hold this time of year--are being better met by growing herbs, greens and other vegetables.

I need to attend this class as I have not yet endeavored to grow and food crops indoors. It does sound very rewarding.

Here is what the folks at Botanical Interests have to say:

What to Start Early Indoors

As soon as the calendar rolls over to a new year, gardeners start dreaming of spring planting. While winter may have you in its chilly grip outside, you can still nourish your green thumb indoors, because there's plenty you can do inside now to get ready for your 2011 garden.

Vegetable and herb varieties to start early include those that are slow growers, biennial or perennial, or cold tolerant. You might also consider starting more varieties indoors if you need to get a head start on a very short growing season.

If your mouth waters at the mention of succulent homegrown celery, remember that it needs a good 12-16 week growing period indoors before your average last frost date. And, don't think artichokes can only be grown by those lucky southern California gardeners! If you start them indoors, 12 weeks before your average last frost date, you can get chokes the first year in many parts of the country. For salad lovers, don't forget that endive and escarole should be started 10-12 weeks before your average last frost if you want to grow them to mature size. Eggplant, bunching onions, and bulbing onions seeds need to be planted indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. A couple of weeks later, you'll want to get leeks and peppers started, as well as chamomile, lavender, lovage, and rosemary.

Some key pointers for starting vegetable and herb seeds indoors include: use clean containers with drainage holes, use a high quality seed starting mix, use fluorescent lights hung 1"-2" above the seedlings that are turned on for 14 or more hours each day, and make sure your seedlings never dry out. A small rotating fan a few feet away can also provide air circulation and strengthen stems.

Spring in January? It will feel like it once you smell that fresh soil and see those first green seedlings emerge! With a little advance planning now, you'll have a fantastic start towards a bounty of spring and summer eatin'.

For a complete list of indoor planting dates for vegetables and herbs, see our Indoor Spring Sowing Guide for Vegetables & Herbs.

Get a Head Start On Celery

Start indoors now for summer success!

Celery is one of those special garden treasures that tastes exquisite when it's picked in your own garden. Anyone who's had the experience hopes to repeat it year after year. Growing your own also keeps it safe from the pesticides often used in its commercial production.

For most gardeners, growing celery successfully includes starting it indoors early. Celery seeds will germinate and produce tiny plantlets in as soon as 7 days, but it can take up to 30. The young plants are slow to reach a transplantable size, so it is advisable to start them indoors now. You will experience the most success if you follow a few tips:

Germination is quickest at 70-75°F in consistently moist, light soil.

Celery's tiny seeds like some light to hasten germination. Cover the seeds lightly with soil, cover with clear plastic wrap, and place in a well-lit area.

When the tiny plants appear, remove the plastic and provide consistent moisture and light.

Before you know it, you'll be enjoying the flavor homegrown celery in everything, from soups, roasts and snacks, to your favorite drink.

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