Amongst boxes of seed packets and mugs of tea, the FLATmates gathered early in March to discuss garden plans. The room was filled with soft oohs and aahs as Chris pulled out packets of kale and snow peas, and we all agreed they should go into the ‘yes pile’. The swiss chard was met with slightly less enthusiasm and ended up in the ‘maybe pile’ beside the watermelon and carrots. This process continued until we were able to narrow down what we wanted to plant and how much – based on what we like to eat the most – and by our space and sunlight limitations. By the end, we had a map of our garden beds with sections labeled to indicate where we would plant our produce and a calendar with dates marked for starting seeds and transplanting them into the garden.
Growing food in Montana can be tricky. It’s a short season, and frost can be unforgiving to those who plant too soon. Luckily, the PEAS Farm has generously let us start our seedlings in one of their greenhouses, and weather-permitting, we will transplant our early spring vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and leeks) this coming weekend during our volunteer work-day. About a dozen students from UM are helping us prep our garden beds, transplant seedlings, and finish our rainwater catchment project. Simon and Sophie will also be leading a hugelkultur project, which is essentially a raised garden bed with buried stumps. The steady decay of the wood provides a slow release of nutrients into the soil, feeding plants for years.
In addition to our garden plans, we have also been experimenting with sprouting seeds and beans in jars (see above photo). Nutrient-packed sprouts provide a burst of flavor and texture to salads and sandwiches, but I’ll admit most of the time I simply find myself snacking on them straight from the jar. To sprout seeds:
- Place a small amount (two tablespoons of seeds or a half cup of beans/legumes) in a jar, and cover with three times as much water.
- Cover the lid of any big jar with a piece of cheesecloth, and secure it with a rubberband.
- Let soak overnight.
- The next day, drain the water and rinse the seeds or beans. Leave in a dark place at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for several days, rinsing twice per day. Leave the jar upside down to make sure the water drains off and doesn’t lead to mold.
- Once the sprouts are large (after about three days), place them in the sun for a day.
- Eat your sprouts, or store them for up to a week in a vented container in the refrigerator.
Ian has also built a micro-greens station. With some spare wood and bricks, he created a temporary shelving unit in the living room that holds trays filled with soil and seeds. A hanging grow lamp provides them will 8-12 hours of sunlight a day, and by trimming the seedlings, we can have a steady supply of small greens until our garden is up and running (figuratively, of course – we want our garden to stay where it is).
If you have tips about gardening, sprouting seeds, or growing microgreens, write a comment below!