If the coronavirus has you heading out to stock up on milk, eggs or toilet paper, maybe add one more thing to your list: seeds.
Gardening can be a great way to productively pass the time during social distancing, self-quarantine and self-isolation while also adding greenery and potentially some food to your home. Plus with many schools closed until further notice, indoor gardening is one way to keep kids entertained (and perhaps teach a few science lessons!).
Here are some edible plants with short growing seasons that you can grow indoors or in your backyard over the next few weeks.
If you are looking for a gardening project with quick returns, microgreens are your best bet. Microgreens are edible shoots of plants that are harvested just after the first leaves develop, about two to three weeks after planting. They can be used as a garnish, or to add texture and flavor to salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and more.
Many delicious leafy greens like arugula, spinach and mesclun will be ready to harvest after only a few weeks of growing indoors (single leaf varieties, in general, grow better indoors than head varieties like romaine or iceberg, so avoid these).
A miniature version of this leafy superfood can be grown indoors in less than a month — in fact, Italian Tuscan baby leaf kale is ready to harvest from seed in about 25 days. Find medium-sized containers (think at least eight inches deep) with drainage and fill with a quality seed starting mix. Sow seeds a quarter of an inch deep, set in a south-facing window or under lights and water regularly. Cut the leaves when they are four to five inches tall, and leave the bottom inch intact for new growth.
Some turnip varieties — like Snowball, Tokyo Cross and Purple Top Milan (whose greens are arguably even more nutritious and delicious than its flesh) — will be ready to harvest in less than two months of growing.
Many varieties of radishes have growing seasons that are less than two months. Varieties with short root systems like Perfecto, Sparkler, Ping Pong, Easter Egg and Cherry Belle are especially suited for growing indoors.
Some carrots can be harvested earlier than their full growing season as “baby carrots” (though, you should know, most store bought baby carrots are just shaved down from regular carrots). For example, Mokum carrots will be ready to harvest in less than two months fully grown, but “baby” Mokum carrots can be harvested after just 36 days.
Certain herbs grow easily and quickly indoors, particularly mint and chives. To get started with an indoor herb garden, first pick a sunny and warm location (or scrounge up your trusty grow lights) and fill a well-drained container with potting soil. When watering, focus on the roots (misters can cause mold), but do not overwater the herbs and drown their simple root systems. Stick your fingers beneath the soil; if you feel moisture, skip watering that day.
With this trick to regrow scallions, you don’t even need seeds. After cooking, save the ends of the green onion bulbs with the roots attached. Place the bulbs root-end down in a small jar or glass and add enough water to cover the roots. Set the jar on a sunny windowsill, and, after about two weeks, your green onions will have formed long green shoots.
Regrowing food will also help make your food supply last longer during the coronavirus. Many herbs — including basil, mint and rosemary — can be placed in water to grow new roots and transfer to a pot of soil for regrowth as well.