By Sonya Welter
The easiest way to start your garden is with transplants from a nursery, and for some plants this makes sense.
Here in Duluth, Minnesota, and in other cooler climates, the growing season simply isn’t long enough to grow hot weather crops like tomatoes or peppers from seed outdoors, and if you want to grow these vegetables at all, you’ll need to start seeds indoors several weeks from the last predicted frost.
Transplants cost more than seeds, but that way someone else does all the hard work of adjusting grow lights and fussing over humidity levels.
But there are some vegetables that, no matter where you live, should always be started from seed, because they grow quickly or don’t like their roots to be disturbed. It’s also a lot of fun to start some vegetables from seed, because that way you get to go out to your garden every day hoping to see little green leaves poking out through the dirt and reaching for the sky.
Radishes are the sprinters of the garden world, and some varieties mature in as little as 21 days. The seeds germinate so quickly that they are often used to mark the rows of slower germinating crops like carrots or beets. Radishes can be grown all season long, but they’re best in the spring or fall. Start them in the spring about two weeks before the last frost.
Peas like cool weather and can be started outdoors four to six weeks before the last predicted frost in the spring. Gardeners with longer seasons can also plant peas in the late summer, about ten weeks before the first predicted frost, for a fall harvest. Peas are ready to harvest about eight to 12 weeks after planting, and they should be trained up a trellis or fence.
Lettuce and Spinach
These leafy greens will bolt (produce a flower, which turns the leaves bitter) or wilt in hot weather, so they’re best grown in the spring or fall, starting about two to four weeks before the last frost. Plant a succession of seeds every few days, so that they’ll mature over time and you’ll be in salad for weeks. Gardeners in frost-free locations can grow lettuce and spinach in the winter.
Anything You Want A Lot Of
I live alone, and a girl can only eat so many summer squash, so I’ll be buying two or three transplants for my garden. On the other hand, I can’t get enough pesto (and it freezes really well, too) so I’ll be planting a ton of basil this year. A packet of 40 basil seeds cost about $1.50, and I’d be lucky to get a single basil plant for $1.50 at the greenhouse. I’m willing to do the extra work of starting basil from seed if it means a freezer full of pesto all winter.