by Jean English. Copyright 2009.
When Wall Street experts say that some financial instruments are beyond their comprehension, it’s time to put your money into something more tangible: seeds!
|Seedy dividends beat the market: Organic farmer Jason Kafka grew this onion and kohlrabi from seed. Jean English photo.|
Consider the fact that half a pound of pole bean seeds, which you can buy for between $4 and $15 depending on the catalog and variety of bean, will plant a 100-foot row that can yield 150 pounds of beans The price of fresh, organic green beans at Maine farmers’ markets is about $3 per pound, so even if you paid $15 for your seed, that 150 pounds would have grossed $435 for you!
How about carrots? One-sixth ounce of carrot seed, costing somewhere between $1 and $5, will plant a 100-foot row and yield about 100 pounds of carrots. At $2 per pound (more at many markets), that’s a gain of some $195.
Have you ever paid $3 for a single, vine-ripened tomato? Well, a small packet of tomato seeds, which you can buy for about $1 to $4, is usually enough to plant 50 feet of tomato plants and produce some 75 pounds of tomatoes—or more.
Bernard Madoff would have made out a lot better if he’d invested in seeds and veggies than in… hmmm… nothing? A table on page 4 of the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog shows how much better: half an ounce of spinach seed can sow a hundred-foot row and yield 40 pounds of greens; an ounce or so of winter squash seed can produce 200 pounds of squash!
It really doesn’t take too much money or effort to grow a lot of the vegetables that you’ll consume in a year, and the more veggies you can start from seed yourself, the less money you’ll have to front for that production. Some of these seeds can be sown in the garden soil in the spring; others need to be started in a soil mix indoors and transplanted outdoors once the weather has warmed. Seed catalogs (especially Johnny’s and Fedco) give excellent information about how to grow each vegetable. Many gardeners buy all their transplants—tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.—but these can be started indoors on a warm, sunny windowsill in mid-spring, at great savings.
To grow your own seedlings, purchase an organic seed starting mix (also available from Maine’s seed catalogs) or make your own, using recipes in MOFGA’s publication, “Soil-less Mixes for Vegetable Seedling Production,” available at https://mofga.org/Publications/FactSheets/tabid/133/Default.aspx. Follow seed-starting directions in the seed catalogs.
Here’s a basic planting calendar to get you started. The dates are approximate and will vary depending on your location, the weather, and the time you have available. If you aren’t able to grow your own seedlings, you can buy them at farmers’ markets, food co-ops, local greenhouses and farm stores in the spring and just follow the transplanting dates below.
|March 1||Start indoors: celery, celeriac (3/1 to 3/15), onions and leeks (2/20 to 3/15), kale|
|March 14||Start indoors: leaf and head lettuce|
|March 21||Start indoors: peppers|
|April 1||Start indoors: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant|
|April 14||Start indoors: tomatoes
Start outdoors: beets, carrots, leaf and head lettuce, peas, parsnips (4/15 to 5/15), radishes, shallots (4/15 to 5/30), spinach, turnips, bunching onions for summer harvest (4/15 to 5/1), onions from seeds or sets
Transplant out: leaf and head lettuce, onion seedlings
|May 1||Start indoors: melons, squashes, cucumbers
Start outdoors: beets, carrots, leaf and head lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard (5/1 to 5/31), turnips
Transplant out: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower (5/1 to 5/15 when 4 to 5 weeks old), leeks (5/1 to 5/15)
|May 14||Start indoors: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower for fall crop
Start outdoors: beets, leaf and head lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, turnip
|June 1||Start outdoors: bush green beans, pole beans, beets, Chinese cabbage (5/30 to 7/30), carrots, corn, leaf and head lettuce, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, turnip
Transplant out: celery and celeriac (6/1 to 6/15), tomatoes
Transplant or direct seed out: melons, squashes, cucumbers
|June 14||Start outdoors: beets, corn, leaf and head lettuce, peas, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, turnip
Transplant out: 4/1 sowing of eggplant, 5/15 sowing of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower
|June 21||Start outdoors: bush green beans, carrots|
|July 1||Start outdoors: beets, corn (short season varieties), kale, leaf and head lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, turnip|
|July 14||Start outdoors: bush green beans, beets, carrots, leaf and head lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, turnip; hardy bunching onions for fall and spring harvest (7/15 to 8/15)|
|August 1||Start outdoors: beets, leaf and head lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, turnip|
|August 14||Start outdoors: leaf and head lettuce, radishes, spinach, turnip|
|September 1||Start outdoors: leaf lettuce, radishes, shallots for spring green onions, spinach (sow now for fall crop and now until ground freezes for spring crop, well mulched over winter)|
|October 1||Start outdoors: garlic|
For more information about growing your own vegetable garden, search our website www.mofga.org and The MOF&G archives, or consult your county Cooperative Extension Office.
Maine Seed Companies
Fedco Seeds, PO Box 520, Waterville, ME 04903; (207) 873-7333; www.fedcoseeds.com
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, 955 Benton Ave, Winslow, ME 04901; 1-877-564-6697; www.johnnyseeds.com
Pinetree Garden Seeds, PO Box 300, New Gloucester, ME 04260; 207-926-3400; www.superseeds.com
Wood Prairie Farm, 49 Kinney Rd, Bridgewater, ME 04735; 800-829-9765; www.woodprairie.com
This article is provided by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), PO Box 170, Unity, ME 04988; 207-568-4142; [email protected]. Joining MOFGA helps support and promote organic farming and gardening in Maine and helps Maine consumers enjoy more healthful, Maine-grown food. Copyright 2008. If you reprint this article, please include this reference, and please let us know that you have reprinted. Thanks!