At this point in the winter it is tempting to think about starting seeds. For a vegetable gardener, nothing more effectively takes the mind off off the cold winter weather than seeing the first seeds sprout in the starting trays. Experience has taught us that only slow growing seeds like some herbs and perennial flowers should be started this early in the year. However, for those of you yearning for some fresh garden grown food, we have some suggestions. If usual local sources of seeds are not yet available, open those seed catalogs that have piled up or try online sources.

February in McHenry County is too early to plant seeds or seedlings outdoors. Starting cool season crops right now in containers or grow bags is a great option to put some fresh greens on the table in March. To avoid spindly seedlings, it will be necessary to provide supplemental lighting over starting trays or containers.

An almost constant supply of salad greens can be provided by planting successions of mixed baby greens. As the temperature warms containers can be moved outside into the sun and brought back inside to avoid frosty nights. Greens can be grown well into the summer until the heat causes most varieties to bolt.

Radishes are a great cool season crop to start in a container and many varieties may be ready to eat in three to four weeks. Be sure to space the seeds a couple inches apart to allow room to develop into nice sized edible roots. A window box is a good container for growing seeds in a row. Kids can handle radish seeds so involve them in this project.

Fresh garden spinach is a favorite at our house and is easy to grow in containers or trays. Check the days to maturity when purchasing spinach seeds and choose those varieties that grow quickly. Spinach is a good crop for succession planting to keep a continuous supply on your table.

Snow and sugar peas are a great spring crop that kids usually love. When selecting seeds take into consideration that peas grow either as vines or bushes. We suggest that peas be planted in starting trays so that they can be ready to go into raised beds with frost protection using row cover. Peas usually take 50 to 65 days to mature and giving them a head start indoors will get them on your plate by late May by transplanting in late March or early April.

Take away the winter blues by trying some of these ideas and involve your children or grandchildren too. Contact us with your gardening questions.


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