The Ugly Duckling: Sprout Identification in Rugged Garden Terrain.

Not An Ugly Duckling.

Not An Ugly Duckling.

As we inch closer to every Pittsburgh gardener’s favorite date, let’s call it “Get Those Tomatoes In Day,” May 15th, it’s not an uncommon occurrence to see little sprouts popping up all over your garden.  If you’re on the ball and have some frost resistant seeds in the ground; peas, spinach, or something like carrots, it may be a daunting task to tell the difference between weeds and your desired crop.  This can become especially difficult if some weeds get a jump on your sprouts or if you have never grown the selected plants before.  To make identification easier, so you can find your swan amongst ducklings, I’ll include some pictures of seedling that are common to direct seed in the garden.  Especially one’s popping up right now! Those are the pictures I have.  Womp. Womp.

That being said, I have become pretty partial to starting seedlings, when I can, giving the plants a head start on the inevitable weed pressure, allowing me to prep a proper bed, possibly providing a mulch straw cover.

So, here we go:

Carrots with their first true leaves

Carrots with their first true leaves

CARROT (Daucus carota):  Delicate carrot seedlings are notoriously bad competitors with weed pressure.  It is important to identify these seedlings and eradicate competing weeds.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

SWISS CHARD (Beta vulgaris):  As can be seen above, swiss chard “seeds” are actually seed pods containing many seeds.  It will make for a better crop if you thin the sprouts down to one every foot or so.

Golden Beets

Golden Beets

BEETS (Beta vulgaris):  Notice that the botanical classifications of beets and swiss chard are the same.  Swiss chard is actually a beet that over generations and generations had been selected for it’s green rather than the root (interesting right?).  , My picture is of golden beets, if you would have your typical red beet, the sprout would have a burgundy tint to it.


Parsnip with first true leaf hanging out with his younger brother.

Parsnip with first true leaf hanging out with his younger brother.

PARSNIPS (Pastinaca sativa):  These guys are in it for the long run.  You put them in early, and you will take them out early in the fall (or later in the winter…or the next spring).  These are a commitment crop, so you will want to give them a great start.  They come up looking, well, about likr everything else around them.  They have two leaves going in either direction.  The difference between them and my weeds were their vibrant green color.  They will eventually form their true leaves, which looks like a parsley leaf, or like celery when it forms its true leaves



SPINACH (Spinacia oleracea):  The initial leaves are long and skinny, but eventually a broader rounder leaf will form…In the shape of spinach.  Yum.


Pea Sprouts

PEAS(Pisum sativum):  These are great, for a number of reasons.  You can get them in early, they fix nitrogen, and they taste great!

Alrighty! Get weeding.  Make sure you leave those beautiful swans alone, and get rid of only the ugly ducklings.

This is an extremely abbreviated list, but if you have any requests, I can set up a photo shoot (If the lighting is just right), and try to weed out, well…the weeds.

Until next time, let’s Garden Responsibly Pittsburgh.

We are Bridge City Guerrilla Gardens. Let’s bridge the gap between us, our food, and our communities.


About Todd

I'm slightly concerned about the situation. That means you should be very worried.

Posted on May 14, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Awesome!! I had no idea about this blog but I’m psyched I’ve found it. I’m a Bridge City Guerilla Gardener as well 🙂

  2. So, this is what some of those now-nameless seeds in my garden are 🙂


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