Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How Does My Garden Grow?

How does my garden grow? So far this year, very slowly! Between waiting for the snow to melt and for both the soil and the weather to warm up, it seemed like forever before I could start my vegetable garden. 

But finally, on April 9th I sowed some seeds of a couple of lettuce mixes, spinach and snow peas. I also unearthed the spinach seedlings that had emerged from the soil; I'd sown them late last fall and had covered them with a heavy layer of leaf mulch. First time I'd done this and it worked in spite of the seemingly never-ending polar vortexes we'd endured. 

Because both soil and air were still chilly, I had to wait awhile for the seeds to germinate, and after that they grew rather slowly. It wasn't until today that the lettuces were big enough to thin out and pick. Those, plus the fall-sown spinach, became the base for a nice lunch salad:

Worth the wait? Yes! I love the delicate flavor and texture of fresh lettuces, and look forward to picking more for future salads. 

Fortunately there's an easy way to "grow" another salad staple inside the house, year round:

Above, a tray of clover sprouts is ready to use. Besides salads, I like sprouts on sandwiches, and I've heard that some people toss them in their smoothies. 

There are a number of sprouting systems out there, ranging from jars, bags and trays. I've used a couple different jar systems, a homemade sprouting bag (a mess) and a couple of tray systems. 

Don't recall the brand of the first tray system I used, but do recall that it didn't seem to work well. There were three stackable trays. Rinsing occurred by pouring water into the top tray, which would drain through to the bottom tray and into a base for emptying. But it seemed like small sprouting seeds (alfalfa and clover being two examples)were always clogging up the water flow and I'd have to take trays apart to remove the impediments. It was a nuisance, so I ended up giving it away. 

A few years back, I paid 50c for the above tray sprouting system at a church rummage sale. It had three trays and seemed complete in the box minus the directions. Those were easily found and printed off  the Internet. The brand is Victorio Kitchen Products. 

At this point, I'd say that I like the sprouts from this tray system better than those grown in jars. There's obviously more surface area for the seeds to sprout, so germination and the resulting yield are higher. They look better too, probably because they have more room to spread out. I've read that some people feel too much water is left in the bottom of the trays after draining, which can lead to molding, but I haven't found this to be a problem. 

The seeds do occasionally block the drainage holes in this unit, but not as often as they did in the previous tray model I owned. 

Sprout seeds may seem expensive at first; they can be priced somewhere in the $15-$20/lb range. But unless you're in commercial production, you wouldn't buy a whole pound of sprout seeds at a time! My tray of clover sprouts began with a mere 1 1/2 teaspoons of seeds, so the half-pound bag I paid $7.95 for at a local health food store will last me forever.

I don't know if I eat enough sprouts to improve my health, but I like the way they taste, and it's nice to have something so fresh, especially when I'm waiting impatiently for my vegetable garden to get going. 



  1. Very cool! I like sprouts myself but almost never buy them. They seem to be on the news often for making people sick when grown commercially. I'm sure growing them yourself takes care of that problem and they probably taste better too. I may have to look around for one of these systems myself.

  2. You're right, they've been in the news for making people sick. Jimmy John's stopped using them for that reason several years ago. I've yet to get sick from my homegrown sprouts and I always know how fresh they are too.