If you live in a cooler environment. You can still start a portion of your food garden indoors. Some vegetables have long growing seasons. Such as squash, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. All of these can be grown indoors as early as January. In Colorado, I start my in February and March.
Remember you do not have to have a large yard to grow your own food. You simply need large pots or small areas. If growing herbs all you need are small pots . More on this in succeeding posts.
The first thing you should purchase is a peat pot greenhouse. They come in many sizes. I recommend getting started with a greenhouse/flat that contains 6-9 peat pots. Purchase greenhouses that contain larger peat pots, if available. This will extend the time until you will need to transplant the pot. For example, squash plants can grow out of the peat pots very fast. Where roots start coming out of the bottom. In addition, they do not like their roots disturbed. So a larger peat pot is ideal for squash.
Getting a smaller flat will allow you to limit the greenhouse to seeds with similar germination times. This is important because a tomato or pepper seed can sprout slower than a squash seed. Where a squash sprout will need the lid permanently taken off sooner then other seeds that might have not sprouted yet.
When you open the greenhouse packaging. You will find flat disks in the bottom of the greenhouse. These are the peat pots (planting media) dehydrated and compacted. You will need to hydrate them by adding several cups of warm water. This will magically expand the pots.
I highly suggest you do this with kids. They will love it and be fascinated. Including the kids from the start will help encourage them to eat the vegetables they nurtured from beginning to end. In addition, it teaches them where their food comes from. The good kind of food that is.
To hydrate the peat pot, simply pour several cups of warm water over the pots. They will immediately start absorbing the water and grow. They will eventually grow to about 5x their original size. Keep adding water until they stop growing and look like puffy masses.
Note: do not use too hot of water. If the water is scalding, it could sterilize the seeds you are about to plant. Which means they will not sprout. Adding warm water helps to encourage sprouting. In addition, it will create a warm ecosystem within the greenhouse.
Once the peat pots are completely expanded. Pull back the top netting. Then gently rough up the top part of the planting area with your nail or a fork. Just rough up the top 1/8- inch.
Insert your seed(s) into the pot. It does not have to be very deep. Just under the surface is find. Cover the seed with a little bit of the peat. Then push down on the peat to compact the peat a bit.
Note that larger seeds should be deeper then small seeds.
Depending on what you are planting is how many seeds you plant in one pot. If it is a large seed like a squash seed (pictured above), then plant one with point end up. The point is where the seed sprouts.
If the seed is small, like a tomato or pepper seed, then plant two seeds. You will pinch back one of them later. Which direction the seed is orientated does not matter with small seeds (up or down works). You are planting two seeds because you have room within the pot. In addition, it will allow you to pick which one is the heathiest. And it doubles your chances of sprouts. More on this in other posts.
If your seeds are from last season’s garden or older then a year. Insert several seeds. The older the seed, the less viable the seed might be (able to sprout). So planting more then one will ensure some sprouts. We will talk about seed saving in later posts. If you seed saved from a tomato or previous harvests. You will have a lot of seeds to play with.
Cover your seed with the clear plastic cover the greenhouse comes with. You do not have to add anymore water at this time. The peat pots should be saturated with enough water to germinate the seed(s).
Place the covered greenhouse in a sunny location. If the area you placed the greenhouse is cold. Try using a heating pad under the greenhouse. You can remove the heating pad after the seeds start to germinate/sprout. Or set a portable heater next to the area.
If you do not have a sunny location. Try a grow lamp. They can be purchased in most garden departments or online.
It is very important to label your cover with what you planted. You will want to do this on the outside of the greenhouse. If you place the labels inside the cover they will get wet from the condensation/sweat. Using labels or gold/silver non-erasable markers work well. Mark what is planted right above the row it is planted in.
Before labeling, determine what is going to be the front of the greenhouse. Mark the front with a piece of label or tape. Or, write using a gold/silver non-erasable marker on the black base of the greenhouse the word “Front.”
In the picture above, see the small piece of white tape on black bottom of greenhouse? This is indicating this is the front of the flat. And, the identification labels are place on the front of the lid. So I will always know that is the front of the greenhouse.
This helps so when you lift the lid you know how to put it back on. And, your row markings do not get flip flopped. Once the seeds are sprouted and we do not need the lid anymore. We will relabel the rows.
Now you wait for germination. Depending on the seed type is how long it will take to start seeing sprouts. Most are 7-12 days. Open the lit once a day. Just to refresh the air inside the greenhouse.
If you room gets cold at night and you do not have a heating pad. Cover the greenhouse lid with a large towel. You will literally be putting your plants to bed.
We will be walking you through the growing process the entire season. “How to Grow Your Own Food” will be continued in succeeding posts…