Our earliest starts are onion family members because they need at least 100 days of full sun before the days start to shorten in August. You can plant onions from little bulbs, called “sets,” in May and still grow nice big bulbs by August, but you can’t buy sets for the tasty heirloom varieties we like to grow. So February 15 we seeded Walla Walla, Cippolini, Red Torpedo, Rossa Milano, New York Early and White Wing onions. We also seeded Red Prisma and Yellow Saffron shallots on that day. March 1 we seeded King Richard leeks.
Our next earliest starts are parsley family plants like, well, parsley, but also celery and celeriac. These have to get in early because they take up to 3 weeks to germinate and they need a long season to grow. We seeded these February 16 along with a few edible flowers we like to have ready early to add to our salad mix: pansy, violet and calendula. Finally, on February 28 we seeded broccoli, head lettuce and kale because we want them to be big and ready to transplant outside a few weeks before our last frost in May.
All of these “starts” are, of course, transplants. We don’t actually seed these things into the outside ground at this point – we can’t even see the ground! We drop them onto the surface of small cells in plastic plug trays filled with our homemade seed-starting soil. (Way back in the fall, we made up nearly a ton of this soil mix from peat moss, perlite, compost, sand and various rock powders and minerals. And thank goodness we did – our compost and sand are too frozen to dig now.) I’ve been doing this seeding, messy as it is, in the walk-in cooler in which we store our harvested veggies during the growing season.