Traditionally, we've started peppers and tomatoes. This year, we started onions from seed because I read that onions from seed store better over the winter (as opposed to buying onion sets). This will be the first year that we've grown broccoli and cabbage, so we're going to start those indoors too.
We still have the big garden at my in-laws' house, and now I'm putting in a big garden at our rental house in the country. So we have more room to grow some of the big plants like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower. I think I'll start some Brussels sprouts too. I've read that even head lettuce can be started indoors, and we do have a really nice indoor growing setup, so I'm considering starting lettuce indoors to get a jump on the season.
We eat an incredible amount of vegetables - my wife cooks everything from scratch - so the sooner I can start harvesting food, the sooner we start saving money! Last summer, we were able to eat almost entirely from the garden, which was pretty amazing. Of course we supplement with meat.
I'm struggling with our rental property, because we are literally surrounded by farm fields, and I know that they all spray. So I'm not sure which crops I should grow here, assuming that they will have some pesticide drift on them. I considered just growing a huge amount of squash, or another crop that is a heavy feeder.
I would love to plant some greens here, but I don't want to be eating greens that are sprayed.
We recently got involved with a group called PANNA (Pesticide Action Network, North America) and I was trained to be a "drift-catcher." I'll be setting up some equipment that samples the air continuously over a two-week period to determine what is drifting onto the property, and how much. It will be really interesting to get the lab results back. This is a great non-profit organization, and they will train people in drift-catching and provide the equipment and testing for free. There is no cost to participants.
So I was thinking that I'd be safe with crops that are heavy feeders from the soil. I plan to build up the soil with compost and composted manure. I'll probably have to spot-apply it. We are down to about 3 butternut squash, and we grew about 60 last year, and bought another 50 or more. So a squash patch would definitely be a worthwhile endeavor.
I've thought about putting in a small bed for greens up near the house, and trying to cover it when the farmers are spraying. What's the point in growing organic food, if it's getting pesticide drift on it? I'd have to be sure that whatever I cover it with blocks the drift. I would like to buy some floating row covers (thin fabric) and use them to extend the season (a la Eliot Coleman). They might also work to stop drift.