I don’t know about you guys, but for me, when March comes around, and the sun comes out a little more often and the days stretch longer into the evening it makes me think about my garden, and that makes me utterly happy.
I will be honest though, I’m no professional. I’m still learning a lot on the matter and I’ve made mistakes along the way with my own garden and how to properly grow my seeds, but it’s part of the whole process and I believe that behind every mistake nature is there teaching us a thing or two.
Each year I take immense pleasure in creating a little space for my garden on my balcony ever since I have moved in. At first, I started out with a few cooking herbs and each following year I would add a variety of plants. It’s so fulfilling to harvest your own vegetables. It might not always be the cheapest way (I remember one year I harvested only one pepper out of all my plants!), but it’s definitely satisfying. I find it reconnects you to what you eat and its environment, you can’t get any more local than that! There’s a saying that a tomato grown with love in your homemade garden tastes a lot better than one bought at the supermarket!
If you’re planning on making a garden at home or if you have the chance to get some space in a community garden, it’s time to start those indoor seedlings! *
If you are a beginner, I suggest you start out easy with two or three plants like tomato and basil, they go great together and then increase the level of difficulty as your experience builds up.
You could always buy plants at the nursery but usually, there’s not much diversity for organic plants and it’s a lot cheaper to start your plants from seeds at home. Note that it’s not all plants that require to be started as interior seedlings, some require to be planted directly outside (spinach, lettuce, carrots, radish, etc.)
You will need:
- A recycled container or miniature greenhouse: use what you have at home, a mushroom container, egg carton, small yogurt container, old plant container, etc. If you already had a miniature greenhouse, then wash it and reuse it! The plastic egg containers are perfect to replicate a miniature greenhouse.
- Select your seedlings: choose your favorite organic fruit, vegetable or herb seedlings. Easy ones to start off with would be tomatoes, sweet peas, lettuce, radish, zucchini, and basil. By choosing organic seeds, you can be sure they weren’t treated in any way with pesticides, artificial fertilizers and that they are GMO-Free.
- Spray bottle
- Growing mix: you can find some in any nursery or make it yourself. Here’s the recipe: 3-parts compost, 6-parts vermiculite, and 1-part sand.
-Compost: bonus points if it’s homemade compost, but make sure you don’t end up with undesired seeds in it. You only want to grow your seedlings, not weeds from the compost!
1- Place the growing mix in the containers. If you’re using yogurt or plastic container, make sure you drill holes at the bottom for water to properly drain.
2- Moisten the growing mix and press it to the bottom.
3- Plant your seeds according to the indications on the packet. For example, and my favorite, the tomatoes must be placed 60 cm apart and 5mm deep.
4- Cover your seedlings with growing mix, remember, the smaller the seedlings the less they need to be covered. Moisten them again with your spray bottle and delicately press against the growing mix.
5- Properly identify each container with what is inside. (a crucial step when having a variety of plants that each require different attention)
6- Cover each container. The typical take out lid works or the egg carton as well as the miniature greenhouse. As long as the environment stays humid, you can remove the lid once the plants have become tall enough for you to touch.
7- Place your seedlings in the sun. They usually require between 12 and 14 hours of light every day, so make sure you place them in the sunniest spot of the house.
Keep your seedling humid by spraying them often. But be careful, the key is to keep them moist not to drown them in water!
Once your plants have grown and the ground outside has completely thawed and that the temperature won’t drop under 10 degrees, you’ll be able to transplant your plants outside. Either in a square garden or geotextile fabric (smart pots). Allow them to settle in slowly by placing them outside 7 to 10 days prior to transplanting them.
Enjoy your garden and don’t be discouraged if there are a few bumps in the road along the way! Familiarize yourself with the different causes of issues that can arise such as too much water, not enough sun, insects, etc., that way you can avoid them the following year.
All summer long you’ll have fresh and healthy food handy and it’s also a good way to reconnect with nature!
Have fun with it and maybe try growing ancestral crops! The urban nutritionist x Terre Promise has a few recommendations for a local variety that come in cute packages describing the history behind each plant. They are perfectly adapted to our climate and will help you to participate in the environmental biodiversity.
*I strongly recommend you refer to the seedlings calendar to know precisely when each one needs to be started according to the region you live in. They all need a lot of sunlight so make sure you don’t start them too early!
Mon potager santé; cultivez vos légumes en pleine terre et en pots, Lili Michaud, éditions MultiMondes
Potager productif; associez vos légumes facilement, Bertrand Dumont, éditions MultiMondes
Le Truffault du jardin écologique; vivant, partagé, naturel, Larousse