Now is the Time to Prepare for the Growing Season

Now is the Time to Prepare for the Growing Season

As we look out the window on a 5 degree sunny, snowy day, it may be hard to imagine containers or gardens filled with abundant vegetables and fruit. But the promise of spring is on its way. Now is the time to prepare for the growing season. 

When planning your container or outdoor garden, it’s best to start small and grow what you love. 

For example, if you love salsa, plant a salsa garden of tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and onions. Growing seedlings is fun, exciting, and rewarding.  You can use seeds you saved from your garden last year, compost soil from your pile, or purchase seeds and dirt from your local garden center or farmer’s market. You can also purchase seeds from sustainable companies such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Botanical Interests. Reuse plastic and cardboard containers as suitable makeshift greenhouses. Egg cartons can be planted directly into the soil and will disintegrate into the ground as the plant grows.

Once you have your seeds selected, check out your last frost date to determine when to begin sowing your seeds. Enter your zip code at to determine the best time to transplant your seedlings outside. 

Take these five steps to prepare for the growing season:

1. Fill your containers within 1/2 inch of the top of the containers with soil and wet with warm water. Use the eraser end of a pencil to make a small hole to drop in two seeds. Cover the seeds with a light layer of soil and sprinkle with warm water. (Make sure to check the instructions on your seed packet for the exact amount of dirt required to cover your seeds.)

2. Cover your makeshift greenhouse. If you use egg cartons, cover with a plastic lid from another container to keep in the moisture. Be sure your soil does not dry out during germination. Mist or sprinkle your greenhouse with warm water. It is best to maintain a 70-degree temperature inside for germination.

3.  Once the seeds have sprouted, remove the plastic covering and move the seedling to a sunny area, preferably a south-facing window.  In many instances, an LED shop or grow light (which you can purchase at your local hardware store or online) will be required to support photosynthesis. Seedlings will need between 10-16 hours of light each day. Plants should be 1-3 inches from the light source. Raise the lights as the plants grow.

4. After the danger of frost, acclimate your plants outside by gradually increasing daily exposure to outdoor temperature over two weeks. Begin with one hour the first day, then increase by an hour each day until they are always outside.  Ensure that temps outside are at least 40-50 degrees before exposing your plants. 

5. Begin your vegetable seeds 4-5 weeks before the outdoor planting date of your area.  You should sow flower seeds 8-10 weeks before transplanting outside.  

Tips for Local Produce Shopping in Winter

Tips for Local Produce Shopping in Winter

Shopping for local produce in winter can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. 

Many farmers harvest root vegetables that can make a winter menu just as comforting and delicious as what we have in other seasons of the year. These vegetables include rutabaga, turnips, beets, celery root, potatoes, squash of all sorts, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, apples, garlic, leeks, and onions. In addition, there is a plethora of other locally grown produce that has been frozen. During the winter farmers will often sell vegetables in bulk at a reduced price.

When I shop, I try to patronize local businesses at least within one hundred miles from where I live. I have located produce, dairy, agriculture, and apiary farms that I can visit year-round. For generations, several of these small farms have been implementing sustainable, responsible, and ethical growing principles.

Check out your area. You may be surprised to find resources in close proximity to you. Refer to our OPL Insight, “Where to Find Fresh Produce in a City Near You.”  

OPL INSIGHT: Local Produce
There are many options for growing your herbs, microgreens, or mushrooms on a sunny windowsill during the winter months.

If you like fresh mushrooms, check out our blog on growing mushrooms with Northspore growing kits. Snipping your fresh herbs and adding them to your recipes bring out an incredible aromatic sensation in the kitchen. This can be a great experience to share with your family, friends, and neighbors. 

Teach your children how to garden indoors.

Children love to get their hands dirty. Gardening indoors is a fun way to teach children how to grow food. Then you can cook something together that you grew during the winter season, setting up an excellent experience for the spring and summer seasons when that joyful experience heads outside. 

Try seed resources such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Renee’s Garden. These non-genetically modified organisms (GMO) trusted brands offer heirloom varieties and plentiful tasting harvests. You’ll find helpful videos and resources on how to begin your journey at gardening in whatever area of the country you live.

   “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and a talk beside the fire: it is time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

Bring on the winter fun!

 One of the ways to enjoy the abundance of plant-based comforting food with family and friends is to host a potluck dinner and board game night. Share with us some of your delightful plant-based winter recipes or try some of our recipes We would love to hear from you.

OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer

This experience was shared by OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer.

Learn more about Yvonne.

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