When you write a newspaper garden column, you end up on just a few garden PR lists. This is where we are supposed to learn about the new stuff and why we should be promoting the old things, too. The information is often useful, but I am not going to bite and write a column just to help out a company so they get free publicity. I have a responsibility here!
There are exceptions. A couple of weeks back, I got a mailer from Ed Hume Seeds. Ed and I are longtime friends, so I always look his stuff over. What do you know, this mailing just nailed it and I am admittedly running with the idea.
The suggestion? Plant a salad garden. No, Ed and I are not suggesting it is time to plant the "outdoor-start-after-winter-thaw" kind of salad garden. No, Ed suggests, and I fully concur, that now is the very perfect time to plant an indoor salad garden, and one that consists of what are called "micro greens" in the health food industry. Microgreens are sprouts of vegetables, flowers and herbs germinated in soil.
Surely I don't need to convince you on the timing part of the suggestion. As I write this, our real salad garden is covered with a foot or more of snow. I can pray for a much faster melt, but planting something indoors, and right now, sounds like the better bet for winter relief.
I know that my Alaska rule is no seed starting without supplemental lights until April 1, but this is an exception. We are not going for perfect plants, but rather leaves. What do you care if these greens are a bit spindly? Besides, we are darn close to April 1.
Ed happens to sell seeds. I am sure you have seen his racks around our state. One of his packets contains microgreens seed, which is why I got the flyer. These contain brassicas, spinach, beet, mustard, radish and a bunch of herbs all suitable for eating as a salad or on a sandwich, etc.
You can simply buy one of Ed Hume's packets for your indoor garden or you can buy individual packets of the seeds, (Ed Hume's or someone else's) and make your own mix. No offense to Ed's wonderful mix, but this allows you to avoid any of the greens you might not happen to enjoy or add things you really like such as sunflower seeds.
The container for growing these greens needs to be at least 2 inches deep, which just happens to be the depth of those standard, black plastic, flats, perhaps the easiest thing to get your hands on and use for this project as they are the right size and provide adequate drainage. Pots work, too, of course. Drainage will make it infinitely easier to maintain the proper soil moisture, but remember you have to have something for the excess water to drain into.
Here is the perfect opportunity to start being organic — use organic soil or compost and you won't have to feed your salad garden at all. Everything the seedlings need is already in the seed or will be supplied by the soil. It isn't going to be growing to full size.
Sprinkle the seeds across the flat or container so that they are around 1/4 inch apart. Then sprinkle a bit of soil or compost on top of them. It should just cover the seed, no more.
I like to wet my growing media and then plant the seeds and walk away. Or you can sprinkle some water on the setup after you plant. Just don't deluge it, which will wash the seed around, resulting in patchy growth. Cover with plastic wrap if you don't want to keep sprinkling water to prevent the soil from drying out. One of those plastic mister bottles is a great thing to use.
Over the next 2 to 4 weeks various things will sprout. You don't need to worry about fertilizer, bugs, pesticides or anything, really. Just harvest with a pair of scissors and eat.
And, the choice is yours: You can wait until you need some greens and harvest a few or you can harvest all at once and store what you don't use in a resealable bag kept in the fridge. I am betting your harvest will be so good, it won't remain uneaten long enough to wilt.
Jeff's Alaska garden calendar
Annual Garden Show at Sears: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 7. There will be all manner of garden info and stuff for sale.
Alaska Botanical Garden Summer Camp: Sign up now. One-week sessions and more! alaskabg.org
Flowers to start from seed: Cosmos, snaps, ageratum, seed dahlias, godetia, aster, celosia, malva, salvia, lupine
Vegetables to start from seed: Peppers, kale, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts
Herbs to start from seed: Parsley, thyme and oregano
Tubers to start: Begonias and dahlias
Corms to start: Gladiolas