It’s the end of January. The birds are chirping. The weather has been amazing the last few weeks. Are we in winter or nearing spring? I certainly hope it’s the latter.

Let’s talk about your garden. What did it look like last year? Are there any changes you would like to make for this coming growing season? Now is a great time to consider these changes while most plants are either still dormant or getting ready to pop through the soil in time for the warming days of February and March.

Now is also a great time to begin buying your seeds. Start them in small pots with a good seed starting mixture, or sow them outdoors later in the season. Direct sunlight is always best when starting from seed. Without enough direct light, your seedlings can become “leggy” or not as strong as they should be and will result in plants taking longer to mature. If you start indoors, a warm room with southern facing windows is ideal. If additional lighting is required, a full-spectrum LED or high-output T5 fluorescent tube fixture is ideal. These have very little, if any, heat output, which can harm delicate seedlings, and provide essential light wavelengths for all stages of growth. Operating for 12–18 hours a day, the lights will need to start 2–4 inches from the soil and be raised as the plants grow.

Amazon is your best source for these lights. Amazon’s No. 1 selling grow light, the TaoTronics light, has everything you need to get started and be successful. Each bulb is $20. The DuroLux T5 Grow Light fixture is ideal if you are starting multiple flats of seeds (like me). At nearly 23 inches long and 12 inches wide, this fixture comes with four bulbs and puts out 10,000 lumens; in the box are hanging hooks, chains and a 15-foot cord. This is a professional setup for a beginner price of $64 with prime shipping.

Plant the Seeds of Change

Growing your own food changes everything about your world. Research has shown that moms who toil in soil have healthier children through their exposure to the natural microbiome (good bugs) in soil — think probiotics — and the nutrients you receive from the plants are more potent. The nutrients in the greens and other fresh food from the grocery decrease overtime. When you pick the herbs, greens, carrots, radishes and beets from your backyard, pocket garden or windowsill, the nutrient density is much higher than anything you can buy at the grocer.

Look at the seed packets to see when the best time to plant — they will also say if starting indoors or direct sowing outdoors is the best method. If you want to reduce the effort even more, try seed tape. Roll out the seed-infused fabric tape and cover lightly with soil, water with care and love, and in a few short weeks you will enjoy a bounty.

You can pick up seeds at the local big-box store, or you can look to great online outlets like Johnny’s Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds or All three outlets are completely organic or have organic options. This is important because this means the seeds were grown with organic practices — no added chemicals and no GMO techniques or materials.

If you are a fan of the “Chef’s Table” series on Netflix, carries the first generation of the mini butternut squash featured at Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Restaurant in New York City. Look for “Honeynut Butternut Squash” (Latin: “Cucurbita Moshata”) on High Mowing’s website. I grew these last year, and the small 4-6 inch butternut squash were super delicious and produced well into late October.

Happy growing!

Top: Photo by Si Griffiths (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Will Morin is an avid gardener and food enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ DrinkNEats.

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