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Seedling Season

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With this miserably cold, damp spring finally breaking, it's time to think of seedlings, those first steps toward the herbs, fruits and veggies of summer. Thanks to renewed interest in at-home farming, seedlings are widely available. (Even the big home-improvement stores stock "exotics" such as arugula.) But for variety -- and supporting local enterprises -- it's hard to beat tiny-plant shopping at Garden Dreams Urban Farm, in Wilkinsburg.

There, several vacant lots have been converted to agriculture. But don't let the quirky, whimsical landscaping created from salvage fool you: This is a serious operation. Garden Dreams owner Mindy Schwartz estimates her crew, using organic methods, has grown 25,000-30,000 seedlings this year.

Among the specialties: tomatoes and peppers, but not just your basic beefsteaks. Garden Dreams offers more than 100 varieties of tomato -- red, cherry, black, orange, paste -- many heirloom, and with great names (Cosmonaut Volkov, Pink Accordion). There are peppers for every ethnic dish -- from sweet Hungarians and Italians to fiery wonders to spice up Asian and Latin dishes.

But man cannot live on salsa alone: Besides herbs and veggie regulars are varieties of broccoli, picking cucumbers, kohlrabi and specialty cabbages, including one just for sauerkraut. Unsure what to buy, or how it grows? You only need to ask. 

Seedlings cost more than seeds -- here, plants range from $2.75 to $5, cash or check only -- but gardeners will find growing a full-sized plant that much easier. Rather than spend time fussing with tiny seeds and grow-lights, jump ahead: It's a shortcut that leaves you more time for dreaming about your summer bounty.

Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. 806 Holland Ave., Wilkinsburg. 412-638-3333 or www.mygardendreams.com

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