Two months ago I had a brand new lighting setup and a hankering to test it out with some seeds so I sowed three packets that had been sitting around for a year: lithops, mixed succulents, and mixed cacti.
UPDATE: The winner is commenter #116: Kaitlin.
Seed starting season is in the air and I must say that even though it is early days yet, having a handful of pots on the go gives me something new to look forward to everyday and brings the gardening season that much closer as we slog through these last weeks of winter. My naranjilla seeds germinated yesterday. Hooray!
Hudson Valley Seed Library is a small-scale seed company located in the greater New York area that specializes in beautiful packages designed by local artists. Besides making a gorgeous product, they have a commitment to producing seed from heirloom varieties that have been adapted to their climate. As a result, all of their seeds are grown by a group of farmers and gardeners from the surrounding region (including their own farm).
Hudson Valley Seed Library have provided me with one Gift Membership Pack (10 seed packets of your choosing) along with a handful of individual Art Packs that will enable one reader to get a very good start on their garden this spring.
To enter, simply leave a comment below. Any comment will do, but I’d love to hear about the plants you intend to start from seed in the coming months.
I will choose a winner at random on Thursday, Feb 3, 2011.
Seed buying and seed starting season is upon us. It won’t be long now (let’s pretend, even though the snow outside says otherwise) before we’re happily knee-deep into the growing season.
Yesterday, I put out a call on Twitter for an online list or chart of garden companies (as well as makers of garden products) affiliated with Monsanto. Several people replied, hoping to find something similar that they can refer to when making seed and product purchases for their own gardens.
It’s time to have this talk, and even though I have brought it up here and there, I am remiss in having neglected to post about this until now. It seems like many of us are flailing around, trying to make heads or tails of who, what, and where is profiting on our excitement to grow our own food and flowers. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a more definitive list that covers affiliate companies in the garden product spectrum beyond seeds, but considering the way things are going, seeds are a great place to start and one in which our spending dollars can make an impact.
The following link goes to the Council for Responsible Genetics Safe Seed Resource List that includes all of the US and Canadian seed sellers that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge affirming their commitment to non-genetically modified seed. While you’re there, I would also urge you to read through the CRG’s FAQ that makes an argument for why we should care about genetically modified seed and buying GM-free in the first place.
I was also pointed to another page put together by a concerned gardener that includes a list of some known GM seed sellers to avoid, as well as links to additional articles around the issues with Monsanto.
I’d love to turn this page into a resource that we can all refer back to and am happy to add to it over time. If you know of any interesting articles, companies or products to be avoided, or have anything to add, please comment below.
I have begun to purchase seeds for the 2011 growing season, and because I now live in an Italian neighbourhood, I have easy access to Italian edibles. The above photo represents my first, in-store (as opposed to online), impulse seed purchase of the year.
Most of the seeds I bought were varieties of radicchio (Cichorium intybus) aka cicoria, or cultivated chicory. I have grown a few varieties over the years, but was inspired to purchase seed and try out a few more by a recent trip to my local Italian grocer, where I purchased two varieties I had never tried before. The one on top is ‘Rosso di Treviso’ and ‘Catalogna Puntarelle di Galatina’ the bottom is (more info on both to follow).
Radicchio is a bitter green and an acquired taste so it is not as popular in the home garden as it could or should be. Not only are the colourful heads a beautiful addition to the garden, but the plants are perennial, although I have found the second season harvest are sometimes more bitter.
Here’s what I bought the other day:
Radicchio ‘Triestina da Taglio’ – This is described as a cut and come again variety. I have sown other radicchio varieties thickly and grown them in a cut and come again fashion, but it was interesting to find a variety that is especially suited to it. The leaves are green and not particularly exciting, but perhaps it will make up for what it lacks aesthetically in flavour.
Chicory ‘Catalogna Puntarelle di Galatina’ – Large, dense, segmented heads that remind me of conjoined spears of asparagus, with dark, indented, dandelion-like leaves. Very bitter. Over the weekend I prepared it by thinly chopping the whole thing fresh, with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice on top, a dash of Balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. I also tried roasting it whole in the oven, and ate it plain. It was equally good this way, but in the future I think I will reserve young, newly harvested plants for eating fresh.
Radicchio ‘Rosso di Treviso’ – Apparently, there are two types. The one I bought to eat from my local Italian grocer is ‘Precoce’, but the one I bought as seed is ‘Tardivo.’ The latter is said to be the tastier of the two, but I would prefer to grow the first as it is prettier, and I am sometimes too vain about the edibles I give preference to in the garden. Here’s a great article that says much more than I can about the history of the plant, including links to recipes worth trying.
Radish ‘White Tip’ – I have a hunch that this is just another name for a variety called ‘Sparkler’ that looks like a round ‘French Breakfast.’ This is a great short variety, suitable for container growing.
Cucumber ‘Carosello Barese’ – They are described on the package as a hairy cucumber that is crunchy and fresh on the inside, but I found this site, where the author suggests that it may be a melon, not unlike the Armenian cucumber that is eaten as a cucumber (Cucumis sativa), although botanically a melon (Cucumis melo). This should prove to be an interesting addition to the garden, and I look forward to growing, and eventually tasting it.
One of my goals for the 2011 growing season is to try expanding into other species of the nasturtium genus (Tropaeolum). My love of the well known and edible Tropaeolum majus is well documented on this site, and elsewhere, but I have never tried to grow, nor have I even seen any of the other species in person.
I’ve been wondering why the others are not popular in my part of the world, and have concluded that it must be down to climate and their difficulty to grow here. Like its cousins, the typical garden nasturtium will not survive the winter in my zone (around 5-6 depending); however, it is easy enough to start from seed each summer. Some will even self-seed and come back on their own the following year.
The two species I have decided to try, T. speciosum (aka Flame Flower) and T. peregrinum (aka Canary Creeper) are also not hardy, but what’s worse is that they are more difficult to start from seed. In fact, I am quickly discovering that T. speciosum is downright near impossible to germinate and can take up to a year or longer to budge! The stories I am hearing are not hopeful. I have a feeling this will be a test of wills, requiring every ounce of patience I have managed to cultivate as a gardener. T. peregrinum appears to be the easier nut to crack. Germination rates are listed at around 20-30 days.
Either way, I’d better get on starting them sooner rather than later. I’m not sure I am up for the Flame Flower Challenge, but Canary Creeper’s kung fu seems beatable. If neither work,I can always depend on good ole T. majus to make an appearance sometime in June. I’m thinking about trying a variegated variety with salmon/peach flowers called ‘Saucy Rascal’ and ‘Empress of India’ is a compact variety that I always grow in pots, no matter what.
UPDATE: T. peregrinum (aka Canary Creeper) took less than a week to germinate. All of the seeds I started germinated and the plants are now taking over my seed starting station. I had to cut them back! Meanwhile, T. speciosum continues to do nothing.