Last year, we started a small garden to begin practicing growing our own food. We planted a mini orchid with 9 fruit trees and two elderberry bushes in addition to filling two raised beds that Carson built.
Although a lot of the produce didn’t do as well as we hoped, we learned a lot and were pretty proud that anything survived considering how late we got our garden started!
We ordered our trees and bushes from Stark’s Bros, at the recommendation of my aunt and uncle. What I love about Stark’s Bros is that if your plants die within the first year, they send you a one-time replacement. As a new gardener, this was definitely motivating and reassuring to me.
Sadly, we got our trees in the ground too late and had a ton of rain in the early spring that drowned many of them out. The rain was followed by a scorching summer, and many of our trees did not survive. So, I reordered them and we are going to try again this year–probably moving some of the trees to more level ground!
In our raised beds, we grew okra and arugula from seed and peppers, eggplants, marigolds, tomatoes, jalapenos, and rhubarb from starts. Our arugula never sprouted, our okra did fantastic, and the other plants did okay considering the circumstances. We planted them pretty late and I overcrowded the bed, so this year I am starting early and am using what I learned last year to hopefully improve our harvest!
Instead of purchasing starts, I am planning on starting as much as I can from seed. This is a much more affordable way to go about gardening considering I could start nearly 100 plants from seed for the price of one start. However, it requires a lot of planning and early prep work. I’ve been doing a lot of research over the last few years and will be continuing to learn and grow, but here is how I am starting some of my seeds indoors!
I live in zone 6b, so what applies to my garden may slightly differ depending on where you live!
After choosing what I wanted to grow in my garden, I researched what needed to be started indoors. The back of the seed packets provides this information, but you can also do a quick Google search. I also went off of a guide from The Seasonal Homestead because she is also in Zone 6b!
Once you figure out what seeds have to be started inside, you need to figure out when to start them and when to transplant them. Most seed packets will tell you how many weeks before the last frost date to start the seeds, so I did a quick Google search that said the last frost date in my area should be around April 18. So, I used this date to count back how many weeks prior I need to start seeds indoors.
I determined that I will need to start the following seeds on approximately these days indoors:
- Celery (Jan 24)
- Broccoli (Feb 7)
- Cabbage (Feb 7)
- Cauliflower (Feb 7)
- Lettuce (Feb 7)
- Onion (Feb 7)
- Asparagus (Feb 18)
- Peppers (Feb 21)
- Tomato (Feb 21)
- Brussel Sprouts (March 21)
We are planting quite a few other things, but they can be started from seed or bare root outdoors.
After determining what needed to be started indoors and when, I researched the supplies needed to start the seeds:
Seedling Trays with Cells, Drip Tray, and Cover
I purchased a seedling tray at our local garden store and some additional ones from Amazon. You can also use old milk jugs or egg cartons as long as they are cleaned well and have drainage holes.
According to Rain Makers Supply, “A seed starting mix should contain no compost, no sand, and no field soil. If a mix contains soil, sand, or compost, it is a potting soil. A quality seed starting mix will contain some combination of light ingredients such as coco coir, vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, sphagnum moss, and a wetting agent.” I purchased one at a local garden store, but here are a few online options.
Flourescent or LED Grow Lights
Our local garden store sells special LED grow lights, but they were significantly out of our budget and over $100 each. I have read that many gardeners use inexpensive shop lights, so that is the route we are taking this year! According to Garden Design’s website, “Stick with ordinary fluorescent lights. They are readily available, reasonably priced, and work well for seedlings. Combining a “warm” white tube with a “cool” white in the same fixture will give the same results as a pair of special “grow lights.” The best are probably 4-foot-long shop lights.”
I chatted with a gardener at our local garden store, and she recommended a heat mat–especially for warm-weather loving plants like tomatoes and peppers. I purchased this two pack which I think will be sufficient since I am starting the seeds at different times!
Spray Bottle + Watering Can
We already had a spray bottle, but you could also check a local garden supply store or here is one I found online! We also already had a small watering can, but here is another one that has a rainfall spout!
I’m planning on using popsicle sticks as an affordable and more sustainable option!
I ordered our trees and bushes from Stark’s Bros, some seeds from our local nursery, and the rest from this seed company. I love that they sell Non-GMO seeds, and they have a wide variety of heirloom and organic seeds.
I’ll share more as we get our garden started and as we learn more this year! We have a lot to learn, but there is something so meaningful about eating food that you started from seed and nurtured until the harvest. Are you starting a garden this year? I’d love to hear what you’re growing!