Seed Starting Time

If you want to grow your own vegetables, now is the time to grab some seeds and start planting. (Actually, it’s a little late on some crops, but not too late.) How do you know when it’s time? I go by the plants outside. When I see the hellebores begin to bloom, it’s time to start asparagus, leeks, onions and celery indoors. They need 10 to 12 weeks to grow before the last frost date. A couple weeks after that, it’s time for the peppers and tomatoes, and the first sowing of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce.

Old eaves under an overhang make a good place to start peas out of the rain.

When the following plants start to bloom (I’m a little behind this year), it’s time to plant spinach and peas outside. I like to use an old eave by the side of the house to start the first batch of peas. It keeps the seeds out of our incessant rain so they don’t rot and helps protect the seedlings from slugs and birds.

Finally, about mid April, I’ll start the squashes and cucumbers. They grow fast and don’t want to be kept waiting. Outside, it’s time to plant potatoes and more of the cool-weather crops. In mid-May, the beans go into the ground, and the corn follows sometime in the next couple weeks as the weather warms.

Why go to all this trouble? Starting your own seeds gives you more choices of plant varieties and allows you to manage quantities and timing better. It also can save you money on vegetables, although as I said in an earlier post, it’s not a solution to poverty. Avoid most of the expensive gardening products out there and keep things simple. For example, seed starting systems are great, but you can do as well with egg cartons on top of your refrigerator and a couple 40-watt fluorescent shop lights.

For more specific instructions on how to start seeds, here are a couple great sites that also list some other top vegetable gardening blogs:

Veggie Gardener: “The Top 15 Best Vegetable Gardening Blogs”

Vegetable Garden Basics: “My Top 10 Vegetable Gardening Blogs”

And, as I’ve said before, Territorial Seed Company has a wealth of information in its seed catalogue and on its website.

Things look muddy and brown now, but it won’t be long before empty beds and pots will be filled with lettuce and chard and spinach and beans. What’s going into your garden?


Who Could Share Your Doomsday Bunker?

1950s fallout shelter from http://www.archives...

After the last three years trying to survive in our ailing economy, I totally get people who build doomsday bunkers, which I understand are now big business. Not because I believe the end of the world looms, but because you never know when the unthinkable might happen: the Republicans and Democrats might work together, software developers might let a year go by without an upgrade or old rockers might retire instead of scaring people on reunion tours.

Two TV shows are devoted to the bunker builders: National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers” and the Discovery Channel’s “Doomsday Bunkers.” And several articles point to the new popularity of preparing for the apocalypse:

Books and magazines tell us how to survive. Even the Colbert Report has added its take on doomsday with a piece on bargain bunkers.

All this reminds me of an exercise we were forced to do in junior high (maybe all students end up with this ethics exercise at some point or another). We had to decide who we would allow into our bunkers during a nuclear war. Our choices included little kids, old people, teachers, artists and housewives among others. The supplies would cover only 10 individuals, who might then be called on to restart the human race.

So I have decided to update my choices for today’s world. I have upped the numbers, because today’s bunkers are not the same as the one-room concrete shelters of my youth.

  1. My family—Hey, it’s my bunker. What’s the point if you can’t save your husband and kids? Actually, I might have to think a minute about the teenager. Why didn’t someone ever warn me that parenting a teenage daughter could be so challenging? Sadly, I guess I’d have to leave the dog out, because it would be hard to play fetch in a bunker.
  2. Dr. Phil—I’ve never actually watched Dr. Phil, but how many of us start fantasizing about remote cabins after only a weekend of family togetherness? I imagine living in a few rooms underground for several months might generate some conflicts. Anyone remember Biosphere 2?
  3. The MythBusters—This is a no-brainer. Why would you not take two guys who can build an outrigger canoe out of duct tape?
  4. James Cameron—Not only could he document the whole bunker experience on film, but he had the toughness to get to the deepest place on earth and enough science to understand it.
  5. Stephen King—The man is our generation’s Charles Dickens. He understands human nature better than any other writer out there, can tell a terrific story, and he’d know what to do when the zombies arrive.
  6. My neighbor Bob from up the street—The guy is eighty, but tough as nails and an ex-mechanic who can fix anything. He can trap, shoot and grow good beans.
  7. Hillary Clinton—I didn’t vote for her, but I have a reluctant admiration for the woman. I figure she could do a kick-ass job negotiating with the other bunkers.
  8. Yo-Yo Ma and Florence of Florence + the Machine—What’s a bunker without entertainment? Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most diverse artists around. I include Florence because I love her music. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Machine will fit, but she’s an adaptable composer.
  9. Bill Gates—We’ll need to wire the bunker. Of course, we might want something more reliable than Windows, but the man has transformed the world.
  10. Tom and Julie Johns—They are the people behind my favorite vegetable seed company, Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, Ore. Their seed catalogue is an entire course on vegetable gardening, and the company constantly experiments and improves its offerings. With their know-how, we’d never go hungry.
  11. My kids’ pediatrician—The woman has never been stumped by a disease or rash in 16 years, and she takes a laid-back approach to treatment and parenting. The fact that she’s beautiful, impeccably dressed, unfailingly nice and able to juggle a career and family without obvious stress is a little intimidating, but no one’s perfect.
  12. David Giuntoli—Don’t tell my husband about this one. Giuntoli is the star of the NBC TV show “Grimm.” What can I say? He’s easy on the eyes, and he might be able to spot any hidden monsters.

So we have a few spots left. Who would you nominate for the bunker?

4/1/12 update–I saw this ad in the Seattle Times on Saturday, March 31. You know a topic has gone mainstream when you see it in Walmart. Now you will never have to run out of butter powder: