all about seeds
31 January 2015, by gj
There are a mere 12 seed catalogs in our house at the moment, after sharing and recycling the ones we no longer need. Admittedly, some never even get opened. The reason is because we know the way these catalogs are set up.
Looking through a seed catalog should be fun, not work. And although I understand the psychology of wanting the buyer to look at every page, if we can’t easily find what we want, we simply go to a catalog where we will.
So see if you, as a gardener, agree that all catalogs would be better if they contained:
1. An easy to find index.
Yes, we know the first few and last few pages of any catalog are the hot spots for selling. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother putting in an index, or just as bad bury it somewhere in the middle. It is just one page, please add it.
There’s no need to make a photo album, but give your customers something to look at. If it is a conglomeration of this year’s new items, put page numbers on the pictures so we can go look. And for heaven’s sake, label what the picture is of, specifically.
3. Growing information.
This should go without saying. Not every gardener knows that peas can be planted when the weather is cool, but that most beans can’t. One of our favorite catalogs is almost a gardener’s how-to book, it gives such good info and tips.
4. Some order.
While most catalogs are set up by category and in alphabetical order, some look like a child assembled them. Don’t stick flowers in between squash and tomatoes. Maybe it’s a little obsessive, but it is unnerving to read these catalogs, so we don’t. Colored tabs at the top of the page are lovely, and make it easy to know where the veggies end and the herbs and flowers start.
5. Botanical names.
Not everyone uses them, it is true. But there are some of us that would like to know, for example, if one squash may cross pollinate another. It also helps clear any confusion if a plant is known by many common names.
6. A ‘seed only’ shipping option.
When a company charges higher shipping rates for the more you spend, it is a disincentive to purchase. How many gardeners have deleted an item from an order, just to save on shipping? On the other hand, when a company charges one set price no matter how many seed packets you buy, the psychology then is to buy as many as you can. For companies that sell more than just seeds, consider a set fee for orders of seeds only. Take it from a long time gardener, we’ll buy more.
7. Customer bonuses.
Some companies are smart in including a free pack of seeds in every order, that’s nice and usually we give those away. When you think about it, if we wanted it would would have ordered it, right?
It’s not like “Oh shoot! Thank heavens they sent us these lettuce seeds or we would be in big trouble trying to make a salad!”
How about letting us choose from, say, 4 or 5 packs of seeds? Or give a bonus to customers who have been buying from you for a long time. It’s always good to keep your customers happy.
8. The truth.
Please include a straight forward explanation about the differences between genetically engineered, hybrid, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. You have the attention of one of the most important groups of people when it comes to this subject, please use it responsibly to help clear up the confusion.
So what say you, my fellow gardeners? What else would you like to see in a seed catalog?
Categories: all about seeds, gardening, tools and toys
24 January 2015, by gj
We have posted before about starting seeds indoors, but wanted to add some additional information.
1. Consider pre-germinating.
Some seeds, like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers can take a while to sprout unless they really have sufficient heat. Other seeds, such as beets and sunflowers, have tough seed coats. By pre-starting them before planting, you can save yourself some time and effort.
Simply place the seeds on some paper toweling or paper napkins. Fold the edges over and moisten. Place the paper in a clear plastic container with a lid, or in a Ziploc type bag. Keep in a warm place, checking daily to be sure the paper stays moist.
When you see the seeds have sprouted, just carefully plant them as you normally would have.
2. Or soak them in compost tea.
Just as you give your plants fertilizer when they are growing, giving them some at planting time can really make a difference in how well they do. We recommend Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea because we know it works, and especially because it comes from pasture raised cows that are not eating genetically modified and heavily pesticided corn.
For most seeds you can soak them anywhere from a few hours to overnight. This works best for larger seeds than tiny ones like carrots, which don’t like to be transplanted anyway.
3. Give them some air.
Many gardeners start seeds in lidded containers, whether recycled or purchased domed seed starting kits. These help create a moist environment that will help your seeds sprout. Unfortunately, mold likes the same conditions. Take the lids off or open your containers every so often. If you can, run a fan in the room to circulate the air. Be careful, as this can cause the pots to dry faster. Just water again if needed, and replace the lids, etc. This will help keep mold away and your seeds will be safer.
Read these posts to learn more about starting seeds:
When to Plant Seeds Indoors and Out
4 Problems with Starting Seeds
13 Items to Upcycle for Starting Seeds
Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow
13 January 2015, by gj
Botanical Interests, Baker Creek, and the Seeds of the Month Club share the fact they don’t sell GMO seeds.
The original plan was to post this in a cute Dr. Seuss related lyric, but this is just too important. So let us just say this:
You can’t buy GMO seeds. Not nowhere, not nohow.
Unless you are a farmer, but farmer’s probably aren’t reading this. Or, if you happen to know an unlucky farmer who plants corn down wind of a Monsanto farm, and is selling seeds… but the chances of that are rare. And just in case, many seed companies check their supply, to be doubly safe.
So, why do seed companies say they sell non-GMO seeds if everyone sells only non-GMO?
For precisely the same reason we post this information, because there is still confusion out there. They want to be sure their customers know what they are selling. The problem is though, that this makes some people think that if some companies say they ‘don’t sell GMO’ then other companies must sell GMO.
But that simply isn’t the case.
Even companies owned by Monsanto do not sell GMO seeds. They just don’t.
The other problem is that there is some confusion between GMO seeds, aka Genetically Engineered by someone with at least a PhD., and a hybrid seed, which both man, breeze and bees can create. I doubt I have ever met a bee, let alone a breeze, with a PhD. Hybrids are not GMO’s as the term is currently used. They are simply a natural cross between 2 plants.
Recently I read someone suggest that a graphed plant was a GMO. FYI, that is when the top of one plant is attached to and grows with the bottom of another. Dwarf fruit tress, a dozen of which we have, are a common example. Not GMO’s, and even if they were, which they aren’t, then you wouldn’t be able to buy them.
So again, please pass this on to your fearful seed buying friends. They can relax for now at least, and buy seeds to their heart’s content without a worry of accidentally buying GMO’s.
And to all the seed companies signing the Safe Seed Pledge and sharing the truth about GMO’s, our sunhats are off to you!
Update 1/16/15 Don’t just take my word for it, read this.
How to really hurt Monsanto.
Categories: all about seeds
10 January 2015, by gj
Okay, okay… for those that know me well, you can stop laughing.
There is never really an end to ordering seeds it seems, but at least the majority of what we intend to grow has been decided. Some will be successful we hope, some will be failures we’re sure.
But for what it is worth, here’s what we will be working on that is new or is another go at it:
1. Amaranth- for both beauty and seeds.
2. Quinoa – likewise.
3. Micro Tom Tomatoes – Indoor pea sized fresh tomatoes year ’round.
4. Stevia – Yeah, it’s about time.
5. Pixie Grape – Year ’round indoor potted grape plant.
6. Papalo -Hoping the second time’s the charm.
7. Hamburg Root Parsley – likewise.
8. Butterbush Hybrid Winter Squash – Tiny squash plant that can be grown in a container. Do we sense a theme?
9. Apollo Hybrid Brokali – no misspelling here.
10. Veronica Romanesco Cauliflower -Green flower heads.
11. Cheddar Cauliflower – Likewise, but yellowish-orange.
12. Kossak Hybrid and Superschmelz Heirloom Kohlrabi – Let’s compare the two largest kohlrabi varieties side by side.
13. Centennial, Beauregard and Georgia Sweet Potatoes – vs. Homegrown slips from local organic sweet taters.
14. Easter Egg Tree – Really an eggplant not a tree, but hey… fun is fun.
15. Celeriac – Likewise #4.
16. Chicory – ibid.
17. Celery, Giant Red – Because, as you can see, we love different colors.
18. Kajari Melon – Interesting variety now available to the US.
19. Jelly Melon Kiwano – Who can pass up a cucumber described as having lime-jello colored juicy flesh?
20. Celtuce – Really, this exists?
21. Calico Popcorn – Growing corn in pots. This should be interesting.
22. Butterfly weed – As a group effort, Gardenaholics Anonymous is going to do their part to help the Monarch butterflies.
And last, but not least:
23. Winter Squash, Lakota – Because we live in an area previously worked by our indigenous peoples, we strive to grow as many of their heirloom plants as we can; its our small sign of respect.
For more information on these seeds, visit:
And wish us luck!
Categories: all about seeds
10 January 2015, by gj
Now we’re not talking about buying seeds from the seed display your local grocery store might set up, or even buying open pollinated produce like squash or cantaloupe and saving those seeds. Certainly this isn’t about purchasing roots like ginger and horseradish to grow.
No, this post is a wee bit different.
We’ve talked before about buying dry beans that are packaged for soup, and growing those.
This idea holds trues for a lot of edibles. Here are a few to consider:
- Besides soup beans, look into growing lentils, edaname and chick peas aka garbanzo beans from the packaged ones at the store. Be sure they are not processed, but are simply dry beans; otherwise known as seeds.
- Quinoa that isn’t labeled ‘instant’ or ‘seasoned’ is most likely nothing more than seeds.
- Check out herbs such as Coriander, Mustard and Cumin seeds. Here, just be sure to look at the unit price. We buy in bulk, but if you don’t the price of an herb seed may be higher than a pack of seeds per ounce. Other herb seeds, such as Fenugreek, can be found in bulk online. If you intend to use a lot, check out and compare prices.
- Sunflower seeds, often sold for bird food, are likely untreated seeds that will not only make the birds happy, they can please the gardener as well.
- Peanuts outside the shell are nothing more than seeds. Again, you need to find some that are not roasted. A little hard to find, but they’re out there.
- Pumpkin seeds and the like are usually found roasted as well. If your store has plain, unroasted seeds, you have a gold mine at your fingertips.
- Amaranth is also sold as a grain and usually untreated. Again compare prices, but you are likely going to be able to eat your amaranth and grow it too.
One other thing to keep in mind is that these seeds packed for consumption may be older than what the seed supply stores sell. For the most part, that doesn’t matter.
When you’re at the market, keep your eyes open for things you may just be able to grow. In the picture above, we have germinated coriander seeds sold in the spice section of the market, and red quinoa sold where the rice is carried. The quinoa was what was left in the bag my husband was tossing out.
Not bad, eh?
Categories: all about seeds
23 December 2014, by gj
Part of the fun of gardening is trying new things. In the past we tried growing horseradish from a store bought root, and have been harvesting it now for years.
Last season we planted ginger and turmeric, bringing them outdoors when the weather was warm then back inside to continue their long growing season. The ginger we have now came from that planting, and we can harvest fresh ginger as we need it. The turmeric still has a while to go, but we expect the same result.
Last summer we also grew flax, and although the harvest was minor, the flowers were lovely and we enjoyed the experience enough to do it again. We intend to add quinoa to our grain repertoire, as well as bring back amaranth that we stopped growing only because we didn’t realize it was edible at the time.
We also tried, though unsuccessfully, to grow cardoon. Never let a good failure stop you though, so we’re going to give it another shot.
A few other things we have found are parsley root, which tastes like parsley except that you prepare it more like a carrot or parsnip. Neat. We’re also going to try to push the envelope and plant some Chia seeds. These are really meant for warmer climates, which makes the challenge to grow them in the north all the more fun.
Our Facebook group Gardenaholics Anonymous is going to grow both cucamelons and milkweed as a group project. It should be fun to share what happens in these gardens from around the world. If you would care to join us, just be sure first that milkweed isn’t invasive in your area, and choose a variety that likes your climate.
Of course, there’s always fun to be had trying some new varieties of more familiar edibles, as you can see in the picture above.
So what’s new on your list this year?
We’re always open to new ideas you know, hint hint.
Categories: Addiction, all about seeds, How to Grow
9 December 2014, by gj
Here are two different seed suppliers to check out for 2015:
Mike the Gardener
While a lot of seed companies are mailing out eye candy in the form of catalogs, Mike has done something different. He lowered prices.
How perfect is that in today’s economy?
By joining his Seeds of the Month Club, you can receive 4 packs of seeds in the mail for less than $3/month. This is a great way to get started on building a seed supply, and to keep one going. Not to mention how wonderful it is to get seeds when the ground is covered in white.
Mike’s seeds are all either heirloom or open pollinated varieties, so you can save the seeds from what you grow.
We’ve never received a pack we couldn’t use, but if that happens, there is a Facebook group for trading. His website also offers a great deal of information on gardening. You can even sign up to be an affiliate and make a little extra cash.
Johnny’s Select Seeds
Based in Maine and employee owned, Johnny’s offers what we consider to be the most informative catalog we have ever seen. We probably have learned more about gardening over the years from them over any other printed source.
Johnny’s carries both heirloom and hybrid seeds and plants, and they cater more to market growers; so you’ll see many of the 318 new products for 2015 are along those lines. Because of this, they offer a lot of hybrids that are resistant to particular pests, diseases, and weather. These seeds can help insure the success of your garden if you have been having specific issues.
One new seed that caught our eye was this summer squash, don’t think we have ever seen a yellow ball type. The fact that it will turn into a pumpkin if left unattended is neat.
They carry a wonderful selection of flowers and culinary herbs, many new varieties this year to choose from.
We have found both of these companies to have great customer service and wonderful products. Note that we are not compensated in any way to write about them.
Happy garden shopping!
Categories: Addiction, all about seeds
2 December 2014, by gj
And so it begins.
The catalogs are already arriving in the mail, the emails have started to show up as well; the new vegetable varieties for 2015 are here. It is always fun to see what new varieties are available to try, or what is new that a favorite seed company has stocked.
Of course we can’t list everything here, or even all the companies in one post. So for the month of December we will offer some links as well as our personal take on some of what we find.
Then you can go have at it!
A wonderful company that we have purchased from for years. For 2015 they have 50 items new to their line of seeds, including some fairly priced seed tapes.
Eggplant Listada de Gandia is a variety that has been around, but we haven’t tried yet. It was recently recommended to us by fellow GA member David G.
The Cucamelon Mouse Melon is another heirloom seed they are offering, and one we are anxious to try. We have heard some gardeners have a difficult time with this one. If you have tried it, please let us know how you made out.
Be sure to check out their new hybrid Sunstripe Summer Squash. It is a beautiful yellow striped bush variety that produces early. Just lovely.
They also have a nice assortment of seeds for edible sprouts.
The people at rareseeds.com are always on the look out for new heirloom varieties. This year they once again do not disappoint. They have over 300 new items total, it is easier to separate the veggies away from the rest of the new items by using their catalog vs. online.
Pink and purple sweet potatoes, the list goes on.
We were impressed with the Sunrise Bumblebee Tomato for its visual appeal, the Moranga Squash aka Pink Pumpkin, and the huge 1 pound Oxheart Carrot which is great for those with heavier soils.
Don’t even get us started on their selection of Amaranth.
So here are two companies to get you started. Get out your notepad, make a few lists; and the best of luck paring that down.
Been there, bought that.
Categories: Addiction, all about seeds
22 November 2014, by gj
There are a number of items you may be recycling that can save you some money when it comes to indoor growing.
You can start seeds in a lot of clean containers, such as:
1) Yogurt Cups
2) Plastic produce containers
3) Empty toilet paper rolls
4) Likewise, scaled down paper towel rolls
5) Aluminum cans, be careful cutting these
6) Tin cans from canned soup or veggies
7) Milk cartons
8) Wax cartons such as for orange juice
9) Disposable cups such as solo cups
10) Other food grade plastic containers such as tofu tubs, guacamole, and ready to eat food trays
The main thing to remember is that you need some form of drainage holes. This is easy enough to do in plastic with a scissors or sharp knife. Use caution of course.
For metal containers hammering a nail through them in a few places should do the trick.
Keep in mind you need enough room for the plants to be able to establish their root systems. We would say no less than 3 inches.
You can aid germination by covering containers with (11) recycled plastic sandwich type bags, as shown above. You can see a tiny seedling just sprouting, surrounded by water droplets. This creates a green house effect, keeping your seeds moist until they sprout.
And when that happens, there is one more way to upcycle using a sharpie marker. (12)
Don’t tell me you’ve been getting rid of free plant markers.
13.) When you transplant, you can still use some of the larger food containers, 5 gallon buckets, as well as reuse pots from plants you have purchased. Again, be sure all containers are clean and have drainage.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, How to Grow
11 October 2014, by gj
Saving seeds is a great way to have some food independence.
There are a few things to keep in mind to make you more successful:
1. Which seeds to save.
Every gardener wants next season’s harvest to be as good or better, so save the best seeds. This means the healthiest squash, the biggest or best tasting tomato, and the corn that grew more and plumper ears.
2. What your seeds might be.
Natural cross pollination can easily take place in the garden. The veggies that are the most susceptible are squashes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, corn and tomatoes; probably in that order.
Not only can sweet peppers cross with each other, they can also cross with hot peppers, making the seeds you harvest questionable. Other than that a naturally made hybrid is not necessarily a bad thing, and can even be fun to grow.
3. How to get the less obvious seeds.
Everyone that has ever thought about it knows not all veggies have seeds inside, take carrots for example.
So how do you get those?
Root veggies need to be allowed to go to seed. Some, like radishes, will do this during the growing season. Others, like carrots and parsnips will need a full year to bloom and produce seeds.
Leafy veggies and herbs only need to bolt, and then produce seed you can gather.
4. How to save the seeds.
Some veggies, like peppers, are easy; just let the seeds dry on a plate then store. Corn for seed isn’t harvested until it dries on the stalk. This process is recommended for both tomatoes and cucumbers. Once you get the information you need, it becomes second nature.
5. How to store your seeds.
Be sure your seeds are fully dry first. Many gardeners recommend a simple envelope for storing. This allows for air circulation and can be labeled with the contents. Some gardeners save empty seed packets for the purpose.
We have also seen advice that suggests envelopes be placed in a food grade glass container, and a silica gel packet added. The container prevents any critters from getting at your seeds, while the gel packet insures no undetected moisture can cause an issue.
6. How to know you were successful.
Of course you don’t want to wait until you have planted your saved seeds to find out whether or not they will sprout. Just to be safe it is a good idea to test for germination ahead of time.
Take a few of the seeds, 10 if you have a lot, and place them between two paper towels. Moisten the towels, and keep them moist. Wait to see if the seeds sprout. If they all do, you have a wonderful germination rate and you are good to go.
If some do, but not all, plant a little heavier.
If none sprout, give it a little more time. You may want to have a back up though, to play it safe.
So that’s it folks, pretty easy and fun to do.
We’re off now to knock a few more corn seeds off the cob and be ready for next year.
Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow