The Barefoot Gardener: From the Ground Up, Part 5

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When shopping for organic seeds, you can find just about anything you want to grow. PC J.M. Buck

Building a garden from the ground up, part five of five: Sowing the Seeds.

Now that you have created the perfect planting environment for your new garden, it’s time for the fun part: planting.

In the first article of this series, we discussed plotting out your garden and choosing plants ahead of time. If you are anything like me, you might find yourself in the gardening department throwing space considerations to the wind and going hog-wild buying seeds. My advice: restraint. You want to refrain from planting things too closely or ending up with seedlings that die because you have no room to put them in the ground. Stick to your plan.

When buying seeds, it’s best to go organic. It will say on the front of the package whether they are or not. Seeds of Change and High Mowing Seeds are two companies that specialize in organic seeds, and Burpee came out with an organic line several years ago.


One risk of using non-organic seeds is that you may not be able to use the seeds from the vegetables produced by non-organic plants. Some seed companies have patents on their hybrids and the plants are specially bred so that the resulting seed may sprout but will not produce healthy vegetables, if they produce any at all.

You can also buy organic produce and plant the seeds found in the vegetable. And one nice benefit for low-income families on state assistance is that EBT covers vegetable seeds.

Read the back of the seed package to be sure the seeds you are buying are correct for your area. For instance, if you live in a low-lying area of West Hawai‘i, you want a heat-tolerant variety of lettuce. It’s okay to experiment.

Keep the size of your garden in mind—check the package for mature plant size. Just a note: artichokes do not do well at lower elevations.


For string beans and cucumbers in small gardens, it’s best to go with a climbing variety in the interest of saving space. Take three sticks about six feet long and bind them together at one end. Spread out the other end and push the sticks into the ground in a teepee fashion and plant two seeds at the base of each stick.

Beetles love to munch on the leaves of beans, so lash a solar landscape light to the top of the sticks, casting the light downward to deter them.

Select bush varieties of squash, and for tomatoes use tomato rings. Many types of cherry tomatoes sprawl wildly. It’s best to start them from seed so you know the size of plant you’ll end up with.

When buying starter plants, again, try to go organic. Plants from places like Walmart are usually commercial non-organic. Getting plants from a local organic grower is best, however it is possible to get organic plants from some nurseries and health food stores.


Look for strong plants with healthy stalks. If a plant looks leggy or has yellowing leaves, leave it on the rack. It is better to get a plant with a single strong shoot than one that has many weak shoots.

Check for pests and disease. Powdery-looking white stuff on the underside of leaves is a good indication of aphids or whiteflies. Brown, orange or black circular spots are usually an indication of fungus or disease.

If you are an organic purist and have questions about how a starter plant is grown, whether the soil and fertilizer used in the pot is organic, and if the plant is indeed organic, the grower’s business name and phone number are usually on the plant tag. Don’t hesitate to call them. I’ve found most growers are happy to answer questions about their products.

When planting, sow seeds of root plants like carrots directly into the ground. Sowing leafy vegetable in starter pots is a good practice. Be sure to sow seeds to the recommended depth and space starter plants accordingly. In a couple weeks, you should have a lovely young garden springing up.

Happy gardening!

The Barefoot Gardener: From the Ground Up, Part 1
The Barefoot Gardener: From the Ground Up, Part 2
The Barefoot Gardener: From the Ground Up, Part 3
The Barefoot Gardener: From the Ground Up, Part 4

J.M. Buck
J.M. Buck has been a Hawai‘i news writer and columnist since 2003. She has extensive writing experience and has served the media industry in a variety of capacities, including news editor, investigative reporter, online publisher, columnist, web content writer, graphic designer and photographer. She has lived in the Hawaiian Islands for most of her life and is a graduate of University of Hawai‘i.
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