Since moving to the NEK from Atlanta I have fallen in love with gardening. Not so much the daily weeding or the excessive bug bites, but with eating handfuls of fresh cherry tomatoes or salads made with my own lettuce. Now that I have a baby I look forward to the day when we can work together in the dirt. I am surprised however at the number of families in the area who do not grow any of their own food in the summer. Even if you don’t have a yard to dig around in, you can use a variety of containers to grow your own veggies. Think of it as a summer science experiment with edible results.
Living in the Kingdom means a relatively short growing season; in Derby, it’s approximately 135 days. If you want to have fresh produce in July and August now is the time to get some of those seeds going! A couple of years ago I found a chart online at You Grow Girl which allows you to input your frost free date and then it calculates when to start your seeds. For our area the time to start tomatoes, peppers, and many herbs is now. (You can also start pumpkins and squash but I have not had much success with these plants; this year I’ll direct sow them.)
My husband and I prefer to spend our money as locally as possible so we buy High Mowing organic seeds either online or at our local AgWay. We have had a lot of success with them and feel better knowing that they do not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). High Mowing also maintains an incredible blog with useful information on farming, recipes, events and more. You can find cheaper seeds around town but if you are going to invest your time and energy in the garden you might as well start with the best seeds available.
Once you have acquired your seeds it’s time to start planting. You can start your seeds in peat pots which go directly into the ground or you can use more creative containers like yogurt cups with holes drilled in the bottom. Fill the containers with soil and then drop two or three seeds into each one and water. In a week or two you will see baby plants! Easy-peasy. As your plants grow, thin out the smaller plants so that you have one plant per container. Eventually you’ll need to move your baby plants outdoors during the day to get used to the wind and sun and then bring them back indoors at night. (You can find more detailed planting information all over the internet. Some interesting sites related to gardening in Vermont include the Vermont Garden Journal and the UVM Extension Office.)
If you don’t have a yard to make a garden you can transplant your veggies into containers. My mom’s favorite containers are EarthBoxes which can be re-used year after year. You can buy them or use these directions from Cultivating Conscience to make your own. They are especially good if, like her, you have poor soil or are away from home often as they are somewhat self-watering. I’ve also read about people using horse troughs and sap buckets to house their plants; these are used basically the same way as EarthBoxes.
If you do not have success with your seeds there is no need to give up on gardening; instead, visit a nursery or farmers market and buy a few plants to put in the ground. The beauty of gardening is that you can always try again next year.
Do you garden with your kids? Leave a comment with your favorite gardening tip!
Naptime means playtime for NEK mom Aimee Alexander, whose creative outlet is writing about all things mom-related over at Mama’s Recess including children’s health advocacy, education, raising kids in rural America, and the occasional project or recipe. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest!