Written by Julie Cerny, TSC Upstate Garden Manager

On a crisp, cool morning I step into the greenhouse–the air inside is warm and humid. Off comes the wool hat, mittens, jacket, and fleece. I walk down the aisle checking on trays of seedlings: onions, peppers, broccoli, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, snapdragons, marigolds, and more. The sea of green sure does make me happy.

Each year, we begin seeding plants for The Learning Garden around the first week of March. Now, in our third week of April, the Katchkie Farm nursery greenhouse is filling up quickly with trays of new seedlings. Our onion seedlings–generally the earliest veggies to be seeded each year–are now over three inches tall. 

Over 150 different varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers (yes, flowers!) grown in The Learning Garden are used as ingredients in our community and farm-based programs. Varieties are selected based on color, flavor, and ease of handling by our students. For example, Lacinato-type kale leaves lie flatter than the more frilly Winterbor kale leaves, making the former easier for our young chefs to handle on their cutting boards when they are preparing Kale, Carrot and Apple Confetti Salad. Students often find cherry tomatoes more manageable to work with than full-sized ones when cutting veggies for their Pita Pizzas.

In any given week, there’s always something I’m excited to plant. This week it’s zucchini. This is particularly exciting because it’s actually still a bit early to start zucchini plants inside. But guess what? Just like we can take culinary risks in the kitchen, we can take planting risks in the garden too. By the time these seedlings are established enough to be transplanted outside–two to three weeks from now–the weather might not be super zucchini-friendly. However, if the weather stays mild and we don’t get a late frost, we’ll be looking forward to a delightfully early harvest around the second or third week of June–just in time for our teen groups to make Zucchini Fritters at the farm.

Outside, the chance of frost is likely for the next one to two weeks, but inside I’m grateful to be in a T-shirt with my hands in potting soil, tucking in one seed after another, soaking up the changing seasons.

Happy growing & cooking,