Grow Your Own Veggies

Do you like vegetables? You may like them more if you grow your own. If you have an outdoor flower bed, you can start a garden in your backyard.

Don't wait until summer to get your hands dirty! You can start growing cucumbers, beans, beets and radishes indoors while it's cold outside, says Gerry Kridler, a horticulturalist at Hawks Nursery in Wauwatosa. Kridler gives these tips on how to start growing your veggies. First, buy your supplies. It doesn't cost much to start an indoor garden. All you need are a flower pot, soil, seeds and water.

If you plant vegetable seeds in pots indoors before April 30, in about a month you will have little plants. At the end of May or the first week in June, you should replant the vegetables outdoors in a place where they will get a lot of sunlight. Any kind of soil will do, but make sure to plant the seeds 18 inches apart to give them room to grow.

Here's a recipe for growing four types of plants. The prices listed are from Hawks Nursery, 12217 W. Watertown Plank Rd., Wauwatosa (phone: 414-258-4090):

Recipe for Growing Veggies

Materials:

  • 8 paper towels
  • 4 four-inch-diameter clay pots (about 49 cents each)
  • 4 saucers or plates with rims (to hold in water)
  • Enough potting soil to fill the 4 pots
  • 1 seed packet each of cucumbers, beans, beets and radishes (about $1-$4 each)
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Wet 4 paper towels and lay them out on a counter (ask a parent for help).

  2. On each towel, put 3 seeds: cucumber seeds on 1 towel, beet seeds on another, bean seeds on the 3rd towel and radish seeds on the last towel. Cover each set of seeds with another wet paper towel. On little slips of paper, write down CUCUMBER, BEAN, BEET, RADISH and put the right paper in with the right seeds. This will help you remember which seeds are which.

  3. Fold in half each pair of paper towels containing seeds and put them in a sealable plastic bag; seal the bag. Place the bag on a windowsill or a kitchen counter but don't put it in direct sunlight. You don't want the bag to get too hot.

  4. Three to six days later, sprouts will come up out of each seed. Open the bag and paper towel to see the sprouts. If there are no sprouts, close the bag again and wait a few more days.

  5. Fill clay pots with soil. Carefully pick up the 3 cucumber sprouts and gently stick them into the soil, with the sprout pointing to the top. Put a little soil over the top of the sprout, but don't pat down the soil. Sprinkle ½ cup of water over the soil. Tape a piece of paper to the pot that says: CUCUMBER. Do the same with the other 3 pots and the other 3 sets of sprouts, labeling each. Put a saucer or rimmed plate under each pot to catch water runoff.

  6. Make sure the plants get sunlight every day, but keep them out of direct sunshine. Too much sun can burn plants. Keep plants by a window with a curtain. Water the plants according to directions on each seed packet.

  7. Vegetables need room to grow. In late April and early May, start adjusting plants to the outdoors. Take the plants outside for 20 to 30 minutes during the day at first, then a few hours a day, then all day. They should be moved to an outside flower bed by mid-June. By then the seeds should be 1 to 5 inches tall, depending on when you planted them.

  8. Watch the plants during the summer and see if the veggies grow. Some plants may be eaten by animals or bugs. See which veggies grow best in your garden. The seed packets will show you pictures of what the vegetables look like when they're grown and ready to eat. Ask your parents for help before you pick the vegetables to eat. If you pick them too soon, they won't taste good. If you pick them too late, they will start to rot. It's like Goldilocks and her porridge: Each vegetable has to be "just right." Happy growing!

By Julia Kolker

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