After the appointment we stopped by Publix for groceries. I had made up menus for the week using my two new cookbooks plus some recipes from Jacques Pépin's More Fast Food My Way. I've been doing this for the last few weeks and discovered it keeps me from buying ingredients, usually fresh produce, for dishes that I think I might like to cook, then decide against, while the lovely produce gets left in the crisper drawer until it's no longer fresh. Today I bought a nice variety of fresh produce and have a definite plan to use it all.And that includes artichokes, which have intimidated me in the past, but after watching Annabel Langbein prepare artichokes vinaigrette, I decided to give them another try.
Seeing all the fresh veggies, and learning that I wasn't going to get any surgery for a while gave me the impetus I needed to get serious about setting up my seed starting area in the greenhouse. I did more than get it set up, though- I actually planted some seeds! It's too early to start most seeds, since our last frost is mid-April, and it's best to plant eight to ten weeks before the last frost. If I have to keep the plants in the greenhouse too long before setting them out they tend to get weak and leggy so I'll wait until next week or the week after to start most of the seeds.
But lettuce is perfect for starting now, and I can plant successive crops for a while. Last year I transplanted the lettuce seedlings into long window box containers that I could easily move in and out of the greenhouse as the weather warranted. I was also able to keep them going in the heat without having them bolt or go bitter by moving them into cooler areas on the deck. We had lovely fresh lettuce well past spring, enough to share with neighbors!
Next I round up my containers. I use whatever plastic containers I have on hand: margarine tubs, mascarpone tubs, pet food containers, etc. I punch holes in the bottom for drainageI wash them, then disinfect them in some bleach water and let them dry. Then I fill them with horticultural grade vermiculite. There are a number of different mediums that can be used, but I've always had good luck with the vermiculite. I should have filled these up a little more since the vermiculite didn't expand with the moisture as much as I thought it would, but hopefully they'll be OK. When the containers are filled I dampen the vermiculite by setting the containers in trays filled with water. wetting the vermiculite lets me plant the seeds without worrying about displacing them by top watering later. While they're soaking, I prepare my labels.
Finally, I plant the seeds, lightly cover them with a little more vermiculite, then set the containers in a flat inside the mortar tub. I use flats without any drainage holes in the bottom so I can bottom water the seedlings as they grow without disturbing them too much. Then I label the containers so I know what's in them
So the lettuce seeds are now doing their thing and if everything goes as it should they'll break through the vermiculite in a few days. It's always exciting to see them sprout! I can hardly wait!