Winter in Evanston can be rough. We all know that and we have found ways to survive it. If it is a collection of coats, hats, and scarves or an annual vacation to a warm location, we all have strategies to power through. One aspect of winter that we can’t get away from though is snow on sidewalks, driveways, and roads. It is estimated that we use about 137 pounds of salt per person in the US every year for de-icing.
If you’re planning on starting your garden from seeds this season, now is the time to organize your seed collection. Check the packages of the seeds you have stored. Did anything get wet over the winter? A good way to check the viability of a packet of seeds is to soak 10 seeds overnight, then fold them into a damp (not dripping) paper towel and slide the packet into a ziplock bag. Check how long the germination period is on the seed pack. After the germination period is over, open the package and count how many seeds have sprouted.
Start your own plants … soon
Why start seeds indoors?
There are certainly plenty of vegetables and flowers you can direct-sow in your garden. However, for those of us who live in the Northern US and like warm-weather crops, many of our favorite plants to grow— and eat —require too many weeks of both warmth and long daylight to wait to sow until after frost. And for those of you who have been buying plants, starting your own seeds can both save you money and allow you to control which varieties you plant.
If you received seeds from Edible Evanston’s seed swap in the spring, you can save seeds from the vegetables you grew! Choose to save the seeds from your healthiest, best producing plants. Before you go to the effort of saving seeds from your annuals, here are some questions to ask:
Now that we have all these beautiful tomatoes and nearly perfect cucumbers, what are we supposed to do with them? Have you already given your neighbors as many as they will take? Do you make your weekly contributions to the Food Pantries?
It's only the beginning of August, but time is wasting for sowing seeds now to harvest greens and other vegetables up to—and after—frost. Below is a customized version of a useful calculator provided by Johnny's Selected Seeds available here. We've customized it for Evanston, broken out the seed starting and planting out dates, and then sorted it by seed starting date.
Last year, Edible Evanston donated growing systems to elementary schools in Evanston to support their gardening curriculum. In a program where 5th graders mentored kindergartners in gardening fundamentals, Kingsley Elementary set up their grow-station in the lobby for everyone to see and was able to donate 30 tomato and pepper plants to the The Talking Farm for their seedling sale. Lincoln Elementary choose to use their art room for their grow station. Students in every class there got to check on the growth during art class and they donated over 70 plants to the farm's sale.
by Edible Evanston’s Maria Alamo, MPH, RD, LD