Its the end of winter with spring steadily approaching, its time to start planning your garden, planting dormant trees and berries, cool weather crops, ordering from the steady influx of catalogs, and starting seedlings. I am a self confessed seed, bulb, tuber, and anything garden addict. A simple trip to Lowe’s for screws and I return with dahlia tubers, gladiola bulbs, lily bulbs, asparagus crowns and horseradish . For an early start on these I have put them in pots in the greenhouse (last year I did this in the house) and will wait until the soil is around 55 degrees to plant in the garden. The asparagus may be planted directly in the ground right now, if they are still dormant. I suggest going to your local gardening stores, the Farmer’s Co-op, Lowe’s, or Wal-mart early to get your onions, potatoes, bulbs, etc. before they run out and before they lose quality. The warmth and the light in the stores causes everything to think its spring and break dormancy too early. Later in the season you may even have to pick through moldy and rotted selections. If you aren’t ready to plant yet place everything in cardboard or paper bags in the garage or in your fridge, they need cool temperatures and minimal light exposure to stay dormant. Most things like to be slightly moist and have some air circulation. Checking on them frequently isn’t a bad idea either, rotten or moldy things need to be thrown out immediately.
It is time for seedlings to be started indoors for zone 7, peppers and eggplants need a 6-8 week start and tomatoes need a 4-8 week start. When starting seeds a heat mat or heat coil improves germination and makes a better root system for most plants (columbines and bachelor buttons don’t like the heat). Seedlings need water, sterile potting soil for seedlings, air circulation, proper temperature (55-75 F) and a strong light. Fertilization isn’t required until they get their second set of leaves. Watering and fertilizing from the bottom is best, but don’t let them sit in water. Some flowers like to be started indoors as well, such as rudbeckia and chrysanthemums. Herbs love an early start, basil being fun and beginner friendly, you also get to eat the pruned tops, a nice treat when the weather is still chipper. For those plants that resist transplanting now is a time to get a head start on bed preparation, so they will be ready to sow as soon as it warms up.
This is an introduction to my massive seed collection/obsession and what will be in our garden this year.
I buy many of my seeds from Baker Creek, they are dedicated to non-gmo, anti-monsanto heirloom varieties, they are located in Missouri which qualifies for local in my book, and have ethical business practices as far as I know. Some of the varieties from them I have grown or will be growing again this year are : roma 2 bush beans, fledderjohn soybeans/edamame, ianto’s fava bean, oriental scarlet poppy, love-in-a-mist flowers (above picture), mammoth red rock cabbage, black palm tree cabbage, long island improved brussel sprouts, okra hill country heirloom red, clemson spineless okra, thai round green eggplant, diamond eggplant, fengyuan purple eggplant, ping tung eggplant, beit alpha cucumber, orange bell, albino bullnose bell, golden california wonder bell, emerald giant bell, chinese five color hot pepper, red mushroom hot pepper. The tomato varieties are: amana orange, cream sausage, carbon, cherokee purple, homestead, bonnie best, pantano romanesco, san marzano lungo No.2, amish paste, pink brandywine, egg yolk, mini orange, ozark pink, hssiao his hung shih, black cherry, gypsy purple, dr. wyche’s yellow, and ananas noire.
Baker Creek varieties to take special note of are: the love-in-a-mist flowers, which were sowed in a minimally prepared bed mid-summer and performed quickly and were an interesting looking flower and seed pod. The clemson spineless were not spineless not spine free and quite fibrous, they were only good picked small and pickled. All eggplants performed wonderfully except the diamond, which was minimal, but had a nice quality and kept well for an italian type eggplant. Beit alpha cucumber had too large of seeds and somewhat tough skin, which made it a good pickler when they were small. All bells produced like crazy, the albino bullnose was somewhat bitter, and the golden california was one of the sweetest bells i’ve ever had, the emerald giant was thick walled and picture perfect, great for cooking and freezing. One plant of each hot pepper took care of my cooking, drying, and canning needs, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. The cherokee purple and amana orange both got diseases and were pulled before production. The cream sausage was a semi-determinate white paste that produced very well and stayed nicely compact, they would be great for containers and small gardens, they lacked in fresh flavor but made up for it in making a tasty, very light colored yellow sauce with few small seeds. The gypsy purple produced abundant amounts of slicing sized tomatoes (racquetball sized) with an out of this world taste, they made the best dehydrated/sun dried tomatoes that were a fantastic winter treat in many dishes. The gypsy purple is the BEST producing black/purple tomato I have ever grown, even in last years hot dry summer. Hssiao his hung shih is a yellow pear that can only be described as ridiculous! It produces up until frost MILLIONS of sweet yellow grape tomatoes, it literally flowed over 6 foot tall cages and rooted in the ground and kept producing, a must have for any garden. Ananas noire, black pineapple, not impressed, a waste of space in my opinion. Big and impressive would be the pink brandywine, it never fails me, or anyone else I have met that has grown or eaten them. The pink brandywine was made for BLTs!
My favorite herb and flower seed company is The Thyme Garden a family based non-GMO seed, supplies, hops, and mushroom company based out of Oregon. They have many unusual and medicinal herbs and flower seeds that have a great germination rate, probably due to their beekeeping practices. They are also true stewards of the land with their salmon projects and many organic gardens. The basil varieties I purchased are: mammoth, purple ruffles, italian large leaf, rosie, digenova, genovese, emily, and quenette. My favorite is the emily which is a small genovese with very tender leaves, great for container or limited space gardening and pesto lovers. Corsican mint and mixed creeping thyme are ‘walkable varieties.’ The corsican mint isn’t for heavy traffic, but it smells delicious and isn’t invasive, it is used in making creme d’ menthe. The creeping thymes aren’t much for culinary use, but look good and attract bees galore when in bloom from reds to white carpets. Salad burnet, roman chamomile, german chamomile, mammoth dill, centaury, white and blue borage, nasturtiums, lemon and tangerine marigold are other seeds I ordered from them. Borage is said to improve the flavor of tomatoes when planted together, and the flowers are edible and a nice addition to a salad or dessert.
Happy shopping and gardening!