On the forum, we asked Generation Good members to tell us about their gardens. Many of you have a garden (or want to), but getting it started each spring can be a challenge.
"We threw a garden in real quick when we first moved into our house," says reader Chelsea H., "but it didn't do very well last year."
“This year we were able to better prepare, and so far it’s doing great!” she told us.
Like Chelsea, we’ve wrestled with getting a late start on our gardens, since temperatures where we live sometimes dip below freezing in April. Fortunately, certain seeds — like the ones below — are especially good to start indoors before the spring growing season. Depending on where you live – now may be a great time to start seeds in your home.
Why start your own seeds?
In the past, we've purchased seedlings for our garden at the local nursery. We toted them home and planted them in our gardens, reasoning that if we at least avoided pesticides and chemical fertilizers in our own gardens, that was a drastic improvement.
But after seeing the benefits of organic gardening (which starts with organically grown seeds), we’d encourage you to try it this spring, too.
Organic seeds are grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. That means these chemicals never enter our farm fields or water supplies. By purchasing organic seeds, you support sustainable organic growing practices and use your dollars to vote for a healthier planet.
Of course, there are other perks to growing your own organic seeds. Thumb through a seed catalog and you'll be amazed by the variety of healthy, fun (and balcony-friendly) options that are available — choices like pink heirloom tomatoes, patio baby eggplant, and rainbow carrots. You won’t find these in local garden centers.
Likewise, you’ll have total control over the growing process, from selecting non-GMO seeds to making sure pesticides never come into contact with your cucumber plants.
If, like us, you're looking forward to starting your own seeds this year, here are some great places to start.
The best plants to prep for spring
1. Leafy greens:
Spinach and other "Dirty Dozen" foods (like snap peas and strawberries) tend to have the highest concentrations of pesticides among conventional produce. Growing them yourself is one way to know what you're bringing into your home and around your family. Just be sure to plant seeds in a seed-starting mix — garden soil can invite pests and disease spores in, which makes it more difficult to grow without pesticides.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow. They’re relatively low maintenance, don’t need much space, and are happy to grow indoors on a sunny windowsill. (That’s why many cooks grow oregano and parsley in their kitchen all year round.) To give seeds a jump start, soak them in water overnight before planting them in a small container of potting soil.
Tomatoes — along with peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers — need a long growing season. Consider sprouting them indoors in the spring and transferring them to your plot or container garden after the last frost. For hardier seedlings, keep them cool (around 60°F) while they're growing.
Wildflowers like phlox, black-eyed Susan, cosmos, and purple coneflower attract pollinators — which is good for your garden and the planet. Plus, wildflowers sprout well indoors, so they're perfect for gardening beginners. Unless you're planting a whole field, start the seeds indoors on a sunny windowsill to give plants a head start and avoid competition from weeds. Then fertilize weekly with half-strength organic fertilizer once the seedling has leaves.
5. Native plants:
More than once we've gone on vacation and been tempted by the beautiful tropical flowers we've seen there. But native plants — those that exist naturally in a certain region — are better suited to local conditions. Since they're happy to grow here, native plants need less water and less fertilizer. Plus, they're great for local birds and insects. When you're looking for plants to prep this spring, think about adding native plants that look great and nurture your community.