Eleanor Deckert
Starting seeds indoors

There may still be snow on the ground or in the clouds, but it is time to start seeds indoors if you want to produce food this summer in your back yard.

Ask local gardeners to adjust the following information. It is tricky to take any suggestions from other areas when you live in the mountains.

The chart I am reading suggests starting these earliest plants about one month ahead of outdoor planting: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. These plants are in the same family, so the seedlings will look very much the same. Do make individual labels for your planters.

I have made all kinds of mistakes by experimenting with shortcuts and trying to spend no money. Once I made a thin layer of dirt on the rubber boot tray, thinking the sprouts wouldn't care that the soil was not deep. They did. The spindly thread of root, the teeny yellow stem told me that they did not like their room and board.

Another time I bought those little trays with separate cups. I let the plants grow in them for too long, resulting in a thick root clump choking for space and I broke the delicate interwoven roots when it was time to transplant.

My husband invented what we now use and seems to be the best so far. He folds a page of the newspaper, rolls it around a soup can, and tapes with masking tape. A scoop of potting soil (yes, I buy it fresh every year) makes a nutritious nest for the seeds. The individual seeds in the individual units are placed in rows on a tray on the window sill.

The squash family is the other kind of seed we like to start early: pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, acorn, kuri and butternut to name a few. Their wide, dark green leaves are a welcome relief from winter's monotone, but are also impossible to tell apart. Make those labels!