There are few satisfactions to match that of starting your own vegetables from seed. Part craft, part science, the process awakens nurturing instincts in even the most hardened urban dwellers. Sowing seeds connects you to the very cycle of life, beginning with the alchemical blending of dry seed with moisture, temperature, light, and the day-to-day care and feeding that brings a bounty of fresh food to your table.
It may still be dreary outside, but now is the time to start seeds indoors so that they’ll be ready for outdoor planting in early spring. And with seed catalogs now appearing fast and furious, winter is the best time to dream up your edible garden for 2009. If you’re hoping for just a few salad staples, begin with tender, ruffled red and green lettuces, iron-rich spinach, and spicy radishes. More adventurous gardeners with refined palates should try their hand at seductive heirloom varietals: Charentais melons, purple sprouting broccoli, and ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes. But before you start sowing row upon row of fancy tomato cultivars, think about how many plants you can realistically manage in your outdoor garden. (For tips on sizing your garden plot, see our earlier Handbook, Down to Earth.) Your best sources of information and supplies are local seed companies like Territorial Seed Co (territorialseed.com) in Cottage Grove, which offers a wide selection of regionally adapted varieties. By late February, sowing the seeds of your spring and summer vegetable garden can start in earnest. Timing is everything.