May 01, 2020 | Donna Balzer
From seed to salad: how to grow your own produce this summer
As self-isolated gardeners in charge of our own personal food security this summer, it's good to know which vegetables are fast from seed and which ones are oh so slow.
Sprinkle radish seeds directly into your garden soil any day now (or in a 45-centimetre pot on your sunny, sheltered patio) and they will sprout in 2-5 days. You can start slicing and serving the spicy red balls a month after they sprout.
Alternately, you could seed asparagus seed right now, grow them for a month indoors under lights and transplant them into your well-prepared garden bed in June. You can start eating the crisp, green asparagus sprouts in about five years. Yes, five years
Asparagus is a perennial vegetable and it takes about five years to establish outdoors, reminding us food gardening is sometimes a long-term planning project.
To get growing right away, start the quickest and hardiest crops first. These include radishes, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, kale, green onions, arugula, peas and spinach. You can start these outside from seed right away.
Leaf lettuce regrows, and radishes can be reseeded as the season progresses – while you get more than one cutting from leaf lettuce, you only get one radish from each seed planted.
There is no need to wait for the May long weekend or for the soil to warm up before seeding. Peas, for instance, will come up as soon as they can, even if it snows again. Get those hardy seeds in the ground as soon as soil is dry enough to poke them in place.
Late season crops, such as tomato, celery and squash, are better started indoors and only moved outside when the soil and evenings are warm. Beans also prefer warm soil, so seed them directly outside later in May. Soil warms faster in raised beds or large pots, so look for the warmest spot near a building or wall for best success with warmth-loving crops.
My friend Anne lives in a small walk-up apartment and was on the hunt for winter squash seed when we recently chatted on FaceTime. I reminded her the spot on the southeast corner of her building would be perfect for butternut squash because it is the hottest corner in her complex. She can start the seeds indoors in early May and plant them in soil-filled pots outdoors in early June.
As spring unfolds, remember that seeding radishes and head lettuce at the same time won't yield instant salads. This is because it takes about 30 days for radishes and about 60 days to get a head of lettuce. By mixing leaf lettuce seeds together and shearing the young leaves off at just above ground level once they are 15 cm tall you can work around the slowness of waiting for head lettuce.
Also, leaf lettuce regrows, and radishes can be reseeded as the season progresses – while you get more than one cutting from leaf lettuce, you only get one radish from each seed planted.
For more great garden information, visit donnabalzer.com.
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