Listen closely and you can hear birds of all shapes and sizes announcing with glee that spring has sprung. And if you look with wide eyes, you can witness the verdant and vibrant leaves announcing the same rally call: it’s time to get planting! However (a big pause here) with our current COVID-19 situation raging, it’s as difficult to find edible nursery stock as it is to find pasta or canned beans.
The solution? Simply sow your own seeds. Besides, waiting for seeds to germinate and for plants to grow is part of the gardener’s reward. Actually, scratch that—because if you’re the impatient type or you’re gardening with kids, then the waiting can feel . . . endless. But don’t despair: countless annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables germinate quickly from seed. And here’s a tip: you can speed up germination by gently scratching the surface of larger seeds on sandpaper (called scarification) and then soaking them in warm water overnight.
By growing plants from seeds, you won’t have to buy pricey starts, you won’t have to venture to the nursery (you can easily order seeds online), plus you’ll have more variety to choose from—unlike the current pasta selection at the grocery store.
Here is a collection of five speedy seeds to plant now:
Fast-growing nasturtiums are great multitaskers in your garden: they’re edible, beautiful, and pollinator-attracting. Plus, they are said to symbolize patriotism (a sentiment we could all support now). Nasturtium leaves and flowers contain copious amounts of vitamin C and other nutrients. Ever eaten nasturtium pesto or tried pickling the immature seeds in a salt brine to create ‘capers’? Plant the seeds about half an inch deep and 10 to 12 inches apart in a sunny spot, and they should appear in seven to ten days. Other quick flower seed choices are sweet alyssum, marigolds, and cosmos which can sprout within five to seven days.
Rumor has it that colonists brought chives to America for medicinal purposes. And it’s easy to see why: chives contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, K, and calcium, plus contain quercetin (which may reduce the risk of plaque buildup in arteries) and anti-cancer antioxidants. This herb is so easy you can even grow it in a container on a sunny kitchen counter. Amazingly, chives only take about three days to sprout and you can eat the leaves as they grow (just don’t be ravenous and take more than 50% of the leaves.) Chives thrive in full sun but grow almost anywhere and prefer to be well-watered and planted in well-draining soil.
Looking to add food and fragrance in a hurry? Basil sprouts up in about four days and is ready to harvest in three weeks. Basil adores a warm spot, so make sure your seedlings get at least six hours of sunlight. Start pruning your basil as soon as it is about six inches high and has three sets of true, mature leaves. The key to getting a well-branched, full basil plant is to prune your basil early and often (this is called pinching). Other good options: cilantro and dill.
Radish seeds are hardy and quick to sprout and can be planted multiple times in a growing season. Plus, they are the perfect companion to carrots, as radishes push up through soil fast and break up the crusty top layer for later sprouting carrots. Sow radish seeds in a sunny spot (if planted in too much shade, your radishes will put their energy into making larger leaves when what you want are bigger roots) in well-draining soil. If your soil is more clay-like, add organic compost. Thin radishes to two inches apart when the plants are a week old and provide consistent, even moisture. Harvest radishes about three weeks after planting.
Another speedy seed is lettuce. And despite these tiny seeds being difficult to sow individually, they are a highly productive, care-free choice even in limited space and in a partly sunny spot. Sprinkle lettuce seeds about 1/4 inch deep, tap them down and water well. Most lettuce matures in about 50 days, but butterhead and looseleaf types can be harvested way early in their growth.
For more on growing vegetables, see: