Posts Tagged With: seeds

Garden Porn, or, The New Seed Catalogs Are Here.

I just received the new Seed Savers Exchange catalog, and it is gorgeous. Seriously, this cover should be framed and hung on the potting shed wall to inspire vegetable gardeners everywhere.

Purple and white striped eggplant! Purple and maroon beans! Yellow tomatoes! Peppers and squash! Good lord, it’s enough to drive a vegetable gardener into lust-induced frenzy.

I picked up the SSE catalog to start my seed list, and my internal monologue ran something like this:

“Beans, beans. Good grief, how many freaking beans do they have? OK, I want pole beans instead of bush beans, so ‘Kentucky Wonder’ is good. Oooh, but purple pole beans would be cool. ‘Rattlesnake Snap,’ awesome name, and they have those cool stripes. So maybe those too. And ‘Lazy Housewife.’ Oh, and the ‘Speckled Cranberry,’ that’s good; I can eat it as a snap bean or keep it as a dry bean.”

People, I don’t even like beans that much. I like to have snap beans to eat fresh, but I have never in my life dried beans. Yet the catalog lures me ever deeper into delusions of what culinary heights I can reach.

And the lettuce–oh, the lettuce. SSE offers four pages of lettuces, all of them ruffly and gorgeous, tempting me to assemble bouquets of green and red and purple. And seed potatoes, and leeks, and melons, and…I think I need to lie down with a cold cloth on my forehead.

I repeated this process with some of my other favorite catalogs, including John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seeds, until I had a list that covers all the types of fruits and vegetables I want to grow. Unfortunately, actually buying this list would require five times my seed budget. That’s OK, though, since I’d need to add about half an acre to my tiny city plot to hold all of them.

But that’s the lure of the catalog, my friend. It convinces you that perfect vegetables are yours for the small cost of a packet of seeds. That you too can grow perfectly groomed, gorgeous melons and pumpkins, instead of the insect-ravaged ones you sported in last summer’s garden. That you can stroll through the garden, your harvesting basket over one arm, your sun hat at a jaunty angle, selecting mouthwatering tomatoes and plump edamame while bluebirds attend you.

Garden porn. I hope there’s more in the mail today.

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Seed starting

I finally planted the seeds for my warm weather veggies. If all goes well, I should have three kinds of heirloom tomatoes, three types of bell peppers, and mini-eggplant. I present my photo essay on starting seeds:

I used the Gardener's Supply Company's APS (which I finally figured out stands for Advanced Propagating System). To the far right is the water tray. You turn the pegboard upside down over the tray, then fill the water reservoir. That flat grey thing is the water mat. You soak the mat, then lay it over the upside-down peg tray. By sticking part of the mat into the water, you create a wicking system that keeps the mat wet. The plant cells (at far left) have holes in the bottom. They sit on the mat, thereby soaking up water.
Ingenious, no?
The APS comes with a seed starting mix, that, like most, is largely peat moss. The directions say to wet the peat moss until its slightly moist. Have you ever tried to wet down peat moss? It absorbs a huge amount of water, and it's difficult to get it consistently wet.
Also, peat moss is extremely fine and prone to flying about until it's dampened. Don't use your sprayer attachment on the faucet unless you want to be cleaning peat moss off every surface in the kitchen. Not that I've done that.
So here's the assembled system; the big bowl of seed starting mix; my pretty, pretty seed packets; tags; and the doohickey that you stick in the water reservoir to tell you how high the water level is. It has an actual name, but I can't remember it. 
I used an old measuring cup to put the mix into the bottomless seed tray cells. Peat moss is light, so I had to keep packing it down, making an even bigger mess of the kitchen counters in the meantime. Once each cell was full, it was time for the actual planting.
I put one or two seeds in each cell, covered them with about 1/4" of seed starting mix, and squished it all down. Squishing is important, because you need good contact between the seed and the soil for germination.
Next comes labeling. All seedlings look the same, so you have to mark what you've planted. My labels are on little wooden tags that look like popsicle sticks. I had some trouble fitting the plastic cover on the tray until I figured out the labels needed to sit at an angle to accommodate the cover.
Here you see the completed tray with watering doohickey sticking out. You water through that little notch there.
Seeds need heat to germinate, but the APS recommends that you not use a heat mat with it. I'm still stumped by this one. I know some people use warm spots like the top of the fridge, but the top of my fridge is 1. not really warm, and 2. filled with stuff like margarita mix and fruit juice (when you have a small house, you have to make the most of your storage). So for now, they're sitting under the lights until I figure out something else.
By the way, here's my indoor potting shed. It used to be a breakfast nook, but it's really too small for a table and chairs. The bookcase I use as a seed starting station, shop light, and rocking chair fit nicely, though. You can't see from the picture the haze of cat hair on the chair; the rocker is one of Miss Kitty's favorite lounging spots. Note the corner cabinets filled with gardening books (on the right). The left cabinet holds my cookbooks, tea pots, and tea cups. Isn't it cozy?
Updates as they occur!

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Magic Box

It's 11 degrees outside, with a nasty wind whipping through the trees. I've mostly recovered from my cold, worked a few hours, and am feeling restless. I ordered the APS system from Gardener's Supply, as I'm going to try starting from seed indoors for the first time this year. I installed a shop light in the kitchen and everything. (It actually looks much nicer than it sounds. Frankly, I'm getting way more use out of my indoor potting shed than I ever did when it was a breakfast nook.)

If the seed starting experiment is a success this year, I should have enough seedlings for the potager and the farm garden, as well as some for CAS. She's planning to construct grow boxes on her driveway. Or maybe she's planning for us to construct grow boxes on her driveway. Either way, I'm hopeful I'll be able to pass on tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. 

Seems like a good time to go through my magic box o' seeds. I'm partial to organic seeds and packages with pretty hand-drawn illustrations. I do have some leftover Burpee seeds, though, so I'll plant those out this year and see how they do. 


Burpee
Bush Blue Lake Bean
Scarlet Runner Bean
Kaleidoscope Carrot Mix
Heatwave Blend Lettuce Mix
Super Sugar Snap Pea
Mesclun Sweet Salad Mix
Big Tasty Hybrid Watermelon
Bush Sugar Baby Watermelon

Ferry Morse 
(Picked these up at Lowes last year in a fit of optimism. I mean, it's not like the potager has room for corn. But by golly, the farm garden does!)
Morning Star Hybrid Sweet Corn

Renee's Garden 
(Gorgeous packets! Plus the seeds in mixes are color coded so you know exactly what you're planting. I think her seeds are particularly nice for the small-scale potager gardener.)
Romeo Round Baby Carrots
Babette French Baby Carrots
Heirloom Cutting Mix Baby Leaf Lettuce
Crimson Crunch Round Red Radish
Catalina Baby Leaf Spinach

And new this year to the potager!
Little Prince Container Eggplant
Jewel-Toned Bell Peppers
  • Vidi (red)
  • Admiral (yellow)
  • Valencia (orange)
Summer Feast Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Black Krim
  • Sweet Persimmon
  • Costoluto 

Tricolor Patty Pan Squash Summer Scallop Trio

  • Sunburst 
  • Starship
  • Peter Pan
Plus about six varieties of nasturtiums and some marigolds for the potager. I also picked up Renee's Perfume Delight Sweet Pea mix and Purple Flowering Hyacinth Bean for elsewhere in the garden. I cannot WAIT for spring.

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