Last weekend, my nephews went with me on a tour of garden and feed stores. Their family is interested in keeping backyard chickens after babysitting ours last summer while we were living in New York. I was also getting impatient with the slow seed germination in our garden and decided to buy a few starts to take the edge off this waiting game.

We stopped by a couple local feed stores and admired the chick varieties still available for sale. It’s not too late to raise chicks for those still interested this season! I fell head over heels for these lovely Wyandotte hens that live in demonstration coops at the Eugene Backyard Farmer.

We picked up some local vegetable starts later in the day. Jay kept the nephews occupied while I did my usual investigation into the best possible plants. Here is my checklist of what to avoid when selecting plant starts:

  • Mold on the soil – This is a sign they have been over-watered, which is not healthy for the plants and also encourages disease.
  • Dried out soil – Alternatively, bone dry soil means the plants may be stressed by lack of water during this tender time.
  • Root bound – I gently check the tray to ensure the roots of the plant have not encircled the container too tightly. It is hard to get them untangled without damage and leaving them wound so tightly means they will be less likely to grow out, deep into the soil.
  • Yellow or dead leaves – Only pick the healthiest, most vigorous starts that will give you the best chance of a successful garden.

The weather here is just getting warm and sunny enough for the seeds I planted a couple weeks ago to pop their heads up. I’m still hopeful more carrot and beet seedlings show up. But I filled in other patches with lettuces, swiss chard, broccoli, kale and spinach. Our garden patch is starting to look great. Only a couple more weeks of finishing off the winter preserves and we should be able to harvest from our backyard.

In other news, if you live in the Eugene area, come visit me this evening! I will be at Barnes & Noble at 7:00pm talking about my homesteading journey and signing books. It would be great to meet more of the Eugene homesteading community.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson