Q. How soon can I start seeds for some fresh vegetables? What is the earliest thing I could grow for 2014?
Sophia from Youngstown
A. Lots of things! Local foods can be grown nearly year-round, even here in the Mahoning Valley. Starting seeds and plants early can all be done with the use of season extension practices. Getting plants to grow (and live) during our winter months is easier than you might think.
Cold frames and hoop houses will be the first step. Cold frames can be simple structures up against the house to hold heat. A hoop house is basically an unheated greenhouse, which can be closed up to retain heat.
Next is choosing varieties that mature early and are suited to season extension. Nearly all early season crops are what we call “cold weather crops,” meaning they are more tolerant of colder temperatures. Most seed catalogs have details for the most cold-tolerant and shortest season vegetables.
One of the best sources of seeding/planting schedules can be found at the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm website. For direct seeding in your cold frame or hoop house, they suggest that you can seed the following on Feb. 1:
Beets (Red Ace, Touchstone Gold); carrots (Napoli); kohlrabi (Winner); radish (Cherriette, D’Avignon); scallion (Evergreen Hardy White, Deep Purple); turnips (Hakurei); salad mix (Baby leaf; various: Red Saladbowl, Green Saladbowl, Red Russian Kale, Mizuna, Arugula, Red Giant Mustard, etc.
For more information and links to these types of calendars, including recommended varieties, see Michigan State University Extension’s site: go.osu.edu/earlyseeding.
More on season extension techniques can be found at: go.osu.edu/seasonextension.
Eric Barrett is OSU Ext. educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.