I ordered seeds this week from the Territorial Seed Company, a local Northwest seed and plant supplier that supplies only non-genetically engineered seeds (where genetically engineered means "outside of natural reproductive methods"). I ordered corn, green beans, squash, spinach, carrots, and broccoli. Then, today I went to a plant sale that my garden planner was hosting and bought a bunch of starts: tomatoes, peppers, basil, and lettuce. So within a matter weeks to months, we could be harvesting food from our garden! Last year, we did almost all of our vegetables as starts, meaning we planted the seeds in small containers indoors before moving them outside to the garden. This gives the delicate sprouts a chance to grow a little bit before being exposed to the more variant outdoor weather. Doing your own starts is much cheaper than buying them, although a bit more work. It also allows you to plant your best plants into your garden, and to trade starts without wasting seeds like you would if you didn't plan the whole package, or planted them all and then had to thin a lot. Last year we were given starts of several vegetables that friends had extras of. This year, I plan to do some trading of starts and it looks like we're going to end up with a fantastic variety of fresh vegetables in our garden with a pretty small outlay of cash (not counting building the garden, that is!)
How to: To do your starts, just find a sunny spot in your house, fill a seed tray with good soil, and place a seed in each space. Instead of buying a new plastic tray, you could use old yogurt or any other plastic food containers, with a hole poked in the bottom. There are also small pots for starts that are made of fully biodegradable/compostable materials that can be planted directly into your garden! Water regularly to keep the soil moist, and watch your plants sprout up! Once they approach too big for their containers, either move them to a larger container or directly into your garden. Make sure to give them a good watering when you transplant, and I've heard it's best to do this in the morning or evening rather than full heat of the day.
More resources: The Territorial Seed catalog, which you can request for free, is a great source of information, as are their customer service representatives (by phone). Another good place for garden info is the Oregon State University extension service's gardening tips section. OSU extension agents also will answer questions if you go into an office, I've heard (if you are lucky enough to live in Oregon, that is). I haven't yet found a really strong all-around resource for vegetable gardening online, but please share if you have a favorite. My top book is The Backyard Homestead, available on Amazon. I get a commission if you buy after clicking my link.
I'll be posting photos once I get my seeds in the mail. Can't wait!
Please share any tips you have for starting seeds -- I am still a novice gardener.