Minimal Vegetable Timeline


For a single person, are mailhouses and garden centre a good source for an easy garden startup for lettuce, and some alternative green product. Can you provide timelines?
I’m planning to get a blender to expand my options, and will do anything to avoid shopping in person, with masked strangers who I can’t even interact with, as I’m reduced to a once weekly choice online while I’m under virtual house arrest.
I have my late mother’s seed collection, and understand that they can be good for a long time, but what I don’t want is more uncertainty, and they’re several years old. As I went for a walk today, I noticed a house with daffodils, not helping the intimidating task of caring for the peonies, roses, mums, asters, phlox, irises, hostas another year, but having to line up for supplies as well. I wonder if I can even take flowers to the cemetary.
Any suggestions for the basics for the smallest veggie garden with only iceberg lettuce and something else? After reading your guide about growing from seed, the gist of the guide was that it’s better to purchase the seeds, which means I’m going to be waiting in line with masked strangers. But I guess I can try the older seeds as well, and compare.
The book Sabbath has a quote from RS Roshi about humility:
When people praise me for something
I vow with all being
To return to my vegetable garden
And give credit where credit is due.
Thank you


Thank you for your question.  During this pandemic period, seed mailhouses/catalogues and nurseries/garden centre are a good source for ordering seeds, soil and whatever else you require by phone or on-line.

With respect to the seeds you currently have, it would depend on the type of seed and how old they are whether they will still germinate.

You may have seen the following information from our Toronto Master Gardener’s Gardening Guide which suggests:

Some seeds have a very short viability and will only successfully germinate if planted immediately.

Generally speaking, however, seeds remain viable for some length of time. As a rule, seeds should be able to be successfully germinated as follows:

  • annuals for 2-3 years
  • vegetables for up to 10 years
  • perennials for 2-20 years – sometimes more (Scientists have germinated lotus seeds over 1000 years old found in pyramids)

Seeds may be nonviable and, therefore, not able to be germinated because they have been kept too long and the food stored inside the seed has been used up. They may also have been stored incorrectly in a warm, damp environment or have had immature or even absent embryos.

Seeds must be germinated in the appropriate light conditions and have oxygen, water, and warmth. Information on the germination requirements of a particular seed may be found on seed packets, in catalogues, or in books.

Any container as long as it is sterilized (1 part bleach to 9 parts water), has drainage holes and is large enough to prevent overcrowding can be used for starting seeds. Other supplies that will be useful include:

  • Flats with covers, or use clingfilm/plastic wrap.
  • Waterproof markers are essential to record plant names and dates.
  • A seed distributor and dibble (a tool for transplanting).
  • A thermometer

Write down any special instructions for each type of seed and the approximate amount of each that was sown. This information is helpful because many seeds do not have 100% germination. They may also germinate over several weeks.

Seeds should be grown in a soilless mix that contains peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. Soilless mixes contain no nutrients but fertilizer is not required until true leaves are produced. A slow-release fertilizer – 14:14:14 – may be added to the growing media.  However, you can make your own seed starting mix using sterilized soil, compost, coarse sand, peat moss, vermiculite/perlite.  The mix should be well aerated, well drained and weed and disease free.

There is a lot more information that can be found in our “Growing from Seed” gardening guide:…r-gardener-guide

With respect to adding to your vegetable garden, if you decide to start the seeds indoors, most seedlings should be planted just after the last spring frost, usually around the May long weekend.

Depending on which vegetables you choose to add to your patch, you can also sew seeds directly outdoors over a much longer period:

  • 5 – 7 weeks before the last frost – plant green pea seeds
  • 2 – 3 weeks before – plant lettuce seeds
  • 1 – 2 weeks before – plant carrot and radish seeds
  • Just after the last frost – plant green bean and zucchini seeds
  • 1 – 2 weeks after – plant cucumber seeds

You can also find more information in our gardening guide for growing organic vegetables:…-gardeners-guide/

Best of luck with your seeds and vegetable garden.