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Gardening on the Cheap: Let’s get growing!

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Here it is, the end of February, and the time to start seriously getting ready to garden is upon us. At least in the South. You folks up North may have another couple weeks.

This year is going to be a challenging and, hopefully, exciting year in the garden. The biggest reason for that is that instead of  just two cute 4×8 raised beds…

I’ll also be starting a much bigger ( much, much, much, bigger) garden. You should probably call it  a food plot.

So far, the Spring side of the garden has lots of garlic, lettuce, turnip greens and spinach that has been wintered over in the garden. To that I have planted my Lincoln peas ( English Peas) and a few more starts of lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage. Today I’ll be direct sowing more broccoli, cabbage, and maybe some carrots. I’ll also be working on the getting the Summer side of the garden ready to plant squash, cucumber, beans, tomatoes, etc in the next 3-4 weeks. Although I have already planted some potatoes and onion sets on that side. I may actually put some more potatoes in today. I’ll see what the Farmer’s Almanac says.

Here’s the thing about planting a garden, especially an enormous one like the one my crazy butt has decided to take on. The thing is, that buying  plants to put in your garden is very expensive. They are ranging anywhere from $1.50 – $4.00 per plant at most local garden centers and co-ops. That’s incredibly expensive. Not to mention those plants you buy are the same plants everyone else has. It’s the same stuff you can find in your grocery store. Not very exciting.

That’s why this year I am really concentrating on starting seeds. Seed packets are cheap. For the price of one, already started plant, you can get a pouch with dozens of seeds in them, for dozens of plants.(I went a little seed crazy actually when I placed my orders back in the Fall) Some seeds can be very high-maintenance to start ( i.e. peppers which take 21 days to germinate…jerks) but most seeds are just as easy to grow as those beans you planted in elementary school. All they need is dirt, water, and sunlight.

I’ve decided that I really want to grow non-GMO and mostly heirloom varieties in my garden. Why? Maybe it’s because heirloom varieties were made for the home garden. Maybe because GMO veggies give me the willies. Maybe because they have really cool names like Table Queen, King of the Garden, Black Beauty, and Snow Fairy. I think mostly though, it’s because I can imagine my grandparents planting these varieties in their gardens, lovingly saving the seeds and then planting them again, year after year.

So, what do you need to get some seeds started you may ask. Well, first you are going to need seeds.  I recommend these three places online for getting high quality, non GMO seeds: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( great for all the rare varieties), Johnny’s Seeds ( geared more towards organic farmers but great for the home gardener too), and Hometwown Seeds ( their “Survival Kit” Seeds are a great way to get all the veggies you need at a pretty decent price).

You are also going to need dirt. I recommend a soil that is just for starting seeds like Baccto or Pro-Mix ( I found some at our co-op store. I would check the local nurseries too) If you want to go organic on this, check out Johnny seeds for some great advice on that front.

Flats or seeds trays are also a must. You can buy them online from eBay pretty cheap. I actually lucked up and asked a friend of mine who is a florist ( but he used to have a nursery) if he had any seed trays laying around. Boy, did he ever. If you don’t want to spend money on trays, small plastic cups or egg crates work great too. Just make sure to poke drain holes in the bottom.

Lastly, you are going to need sunlight. If you have a window that you can dedicate to starting your seeds inside your house, do it. Other wise you may want to look for a small patio greenhouse. Alternatively, you could build yourself your own small greenhouse with chicken wire and heavy plastic sheeting. You could even run a small space heater in it to help keep it warm during cold nights so that your seedlings don’t freeze.

The most important thing is to keep your seedlings moist. Whatever you do don’t let them dry out. Pretty soon, you’ll be rewarded with trays of tiny little plants for your garden! Happy planting!!

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Jodie is a wife, mom, writer and lover of chickens and gardens. She runs her family's winery by day and cooks and writes by night.

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