all about seeds

More of What’s New in Gardening for 2015

save money on seeds

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!

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Categories: Addiction, all about seeds

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New Vegetable Varieties for 2015

baker creek seed catalog

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!

Botanical Interests

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.

Baker Creek

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

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13 Items to Upcycle for Indoor Growing

a very tiny greenhouse

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)

plastic ware make great plant markers

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

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6 Things to Know About Saving Seeds

how to save seeds

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.

Happy gardening!

Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow

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Perennial Parsnips Part 2

parsnsip seed heads

This experiment is already over a year in the making, having first planted the seeds in the spring of 2013.
Last April we looked at the beginnings of it, and what the plan was.

Basically, it is an effort to get a biennial root crop to reseed itself, thus making it one veggie we never need buy seeds for again; and to do that in a zone 5/6 region.

So far so good, though it has taken all summer.
We did what we planned and left 3 roots in the bed to flower and reseed.

collecting parsnip seeds

And man did they reseed! Not only is the bed full of wee babes, but we also have sufficient seed to share with our friends and kids.
If we repeat this experiment, one root will be enough to fill a 4×4 bed, and keep everyone in parsnips.

The main question now is whether the seedlings will be strong enough to survive the cold. They will get a splash of some Moo Poo Tea to insure great root growth and as a way to replenish the soil.
We may also give them some help with a cold frame cover and mulch, but the less we need to intervene the better.

parsnip seedlings

It is also very possible that the timing for this may be just a little off, and that eventually we will need to plant from seeds again.

Of course, if we continue to save them each year, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Now we are prepared to take what we have learned and see if we can get similar results with carrots.

You’ve got to love free veggies.

Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow, parsnips

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5 Things Nobody’s Telling You About Heirloom Seeds

What will their grandchildren be?

What will their grandchildren be?

There is a lot of confusion right now about seeds, and understandably so.

First, know you cannot buy a GE seed, what is commonly referred to as GMO, unless you are a farmer and sign a contract with Monsanto.

Second, a hybrid is not a genetically engineered seed. Hybrids can be crossed simply when a bee flies from one plant to another, from one type of melon to another for example.
This won’t affect your veggies, only the seeds.

So why are so many people vehemently anti-hybrid and pro-heirloom?

Well, for one thing, that sells seeds.
IMHO companies that sell primarily heirloom seeds are capitalizing on the confusion.

So let us set the record straight.

With some exceptions:

1. Heirlooms are more subject to disease.

Often a commercial hybrid seed grower (remember, not GE) will cross plants specifically to develop new ones that are more disease resistant. If your garden is particularly prone to certain diseases, a hybrid may be the better choice for you.

2. Heirlooms tend to suffer more from bug damage.

Similarly, commercial hybrid seed producers try to find varieties of veggies that are less prone to bad bugs, and develop this positive characteristic.


3. Heirloom plants tend to be less tolerant of temperature and weather extremes.

Again there are exceptions, but varieties bred for heat resistance for example, may do better in your yard than mine. As for early production, the hybrid Early Girl and the heirloom Oregon Spring both have done well in our gardens. I admit I preferred the taste of the heirloom, but I got a better production from the hybrid. Every gardener should decide for themselves.

4. Heirloom plants tend to produce less.

Because of the reasons already mentioned, and also since many hybrids are bred to be more productive, this circumstance tends to be true. We planted a hybrid Cashflow Zucchini and have never before seen such production. On the other hand, the heirloom Costata Romanesco, although producing significantly less, tasted far superior.

5. You can save Heirloom seeds, but not Hybrid seeds.

Yes and no on this one. Commercial hybrids do tend to be sterile for the most part, and if you do get a fertile seed, it will revert back to one of its ancestors. We will be looking into that more specifically this coming growing season.
As for saving heirloom seeds, you can’t just grab an eggplant or a pepper and keep the seeds with full expectation your next year’s plant will be the same heirloom.

Why? you may wonder.

Because, unless you know what you are doing, you may very well have produced a hybrid seed in your own garden. Through cross-pollination, whether by bugs or wind, your heirlooms might just have become fruit containing hybrid seeds.
In fact, in most cases they probably are.

Of course this is less likely to happen with beans and peas, and tomatoes will cross but not as easily as pretty much everything else. Corn? Forget about it! So you see, you need to know how & if they cross, and how to prevent it if you want to save heirloom seeds.

So you make the call on what is best for your garden.
They are not GE (GMO) seeds, so forget that for now.

If you want to save seeds, learn how. We will be showing that too, in great detail, this summer.
If you do not care to save seeds, then choose the veggie varieties that grow best in your area.

And most of all, don’t stress it.
Above everything else, gardening should be fun!

Categories: all about seeds

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8 Reasons to Plant from Seed

Here they come.

Here they come.

Growing plants from seed is not a difficult thing to do. To start seeds indoors all you need are containers of your choice, some seed starting mix, a light source, warmth and water; and of course, seeds. Many seed packets will tell you when to start your seeds indoors or if your seeds can just be planted directly into the garden.

Here are a few reasons to consider seeds over purchased plants:

1. Variety
You get to choose that great tasting heirloom tomato over the typical plants you might find in a nursery. Over time, you will probably even choose a favorite to grow every year. When you grow from seed, you get to make the decision of which variety for every vegetable.

2. Amount
Do you really need a 4 or 6 cell pack of zucchini? If you asked my husband, he would tell you 2 zucchini plants are at least 1 too many. The same may be true for other vegetables as well. Instead of 6 Butternut squash, we would rather have 3 Butternut and 3 Spaghetti squash. By planting our own seeds, we get that control.

3. Pushing the season
If you use season extenders, such as the Wall o’ Water, low tunnels, a greenhouse, or the upcoming Jones’ Gardening System, you can plant your plants sooner than they may be available at the nursery. The garden system we designed allowed you to put your tomatoes in 4 weeks sooner than normal and you can be ready with plants you started from seed. In areas where the growing season is short, like here in Zone 5/6, this can make a big difference.

4. Saving money
Seeds can last for years, though over time you lose some viability. Still, one pack of seeds will produce a lot more plants per penny compared to buying them already started.

5. Saving bees
Did you know that some companies treat the seedlings’ soil with insecticides? Those big box stores don’t want that future sale to get bugs. Those chemicals are then transferred to your garden, where they can last for years. When you buy a nice organic seed starting mix, or even make your own, you know your plants won’t be hurting the environment let alone killing the very bugs they may need to produce food.

6. Geek joy
Have you ever thought it might be fun to develop your own unique veggie? You can try this by hand pollinating two similar veggies, such as 2 squashes. Save some of the seeds from the best specimens, and see what they produce the following year. Fun.

7. Security
With a good assortment of seeds on hand and the knowledge of how to grow food, you are putting yourself and those you care about in a more prepared position should something happen to your ability to obtain food.

8. Self-sufficiency
The ability to grow your own food gives you the freedom to be less dependent on others for what you need. When you learn to grow from seed, you are taking that to the next level.

The future really does wait quietly inside a seed.

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How to Turn a Hybrid into an Open Pollinated Type

Lots of seeds to play with.

Lots of seeds to play with.

After recently purchasing a hybrid melon thinking it was an heirloom, we proceeded to go about saving the seeds anyway. You can read more about How to Save Seeds here.

One of our Facebook equaintances knowledgeably commented:

David L. Green: “Many of the commercial hybrids have parents that are highly inbred, which means that they can be very weak. When you plant them, some will revert back to the parent line, and will be similarly weak. Cull these out from seed saving. Some may breed true (or be apparently true), so you can save and replant these for a third generation. After several generations of careful selection and saving only the truest, you will have stabilized the variety, and can be utilized as an open pollinated variety henceforth. For the average gardener, this is a lot of work, and takes a lot of knowledge, so it’s not recommended for beginners. It is a valid and useful technique for serious gardeners.”

Sounds like fun to me!
So, here’s what you need to know to develop your own open-pollinated veggie:

1. After saving your seeds, test for germination rate to see how well they will sprout. Do this by placing 10 seeds in between paper towels and keeping them moist and warm. Give them sufficient time to sprout, depending on what type of seed you have. Melons can take 3 weeks, so that’s how long we will wait.

Patiently waiting.

Patiently waiting.

2. If you get 8-9 from 10, that’s a great rate. Pack those seeds and you will be ready to plant when it is time. If you get only 5, plan on planting at least twice what you need. If you get 3 or less, germinate about 10 seeds for every one you wish to plant before planting time. When you do this depends on how long it took your first batch to germinate; in our case, 3 weeks.

3. When your plants grow, note which ones are the most vigorous. These are the ones you will want to save seed from. Also note any differences in plant health and taste of the fruit. Save the ones you think are the best.

4. Repeat the germination test with the second year’s seeds. Do this for a few seasons and as David said, you can then consider your seeds to be an open pollinated variety.

There's one so far.

There’s one so far.

5. Be careful of cross pollination. Bees can carry the pollen from one veggie to another of similar type, melon to melon for example. This is how nature creates a hybrid, and your seeds are what is affected. You may want to limit what you plant. Note that a watermelon will not cross with a melon, so we’re safe there.

Is this fun or what? We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the melon to see what happens.
If you are you a gardening geek, why not give it a try?

More on the difference between hybrid and open pollinated.

Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow, The Experiments

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On Saving Hybrid Seeds

The haul.

The haul.

Just in case you are one of the many gardeners understandably confused about the difference between a hybrid seed and a GMO seed, here is the difference:

A hybrid seed is one taken from a plant that was crossed with another similar plant. Bees can cross pollinate one tomato with another as well as many other veggies naturally. You could do it yourself as well.

A GMO is a cross between a plant and something else, like a tomato and a fish or corn and e-coli. This must be done in a laboratory by genetic engineers.

That being said…

Mandolin and I were in our go-to store for organics recently, when I heard a woman there showing and giving samples of Honeymoon melon.
“Yes!” I thought, “I have heard of that heirloom melon and now is my chance to score some seeds!”

So home one came and it was wonderfully delicious and abundant with seeds.

Remove the floaters.

Remove the floaters.

Happily I shared it with my Facebook group Gardenaholics Anonymous. They are wonderfully knowledgeable and always willing to help.

I learned from Pat Q. that this is not the right season for heirlooms, and upon doing a little more research discovered that the name in this case is actually a trademarked logo and not the heirloom I thought it was.
Drat.

The keepers.

The keepers.

Now some gardeners will tell you that you cannot save hybrid seeds, but you will never hear that from us.
The only thing is that the veggies you get will differ somehow from the parent. They can very well differ in a way you won’t even notice.

Let the seeds dry.

Let the seeds dry.

It can be fun to see what they produce. So I rinsed the seeds, removed the ones that floated, let dry and packaged most but also tested a few for germination.

Produce stickers make great packet labels.

Produce stickers make great packet labels.

We’ll see what happens this summer. It will be fun and who knows, it could be the best melons ever.

Here’s how to save seeds using fermentation, which removes more of the fruit’s flesh from the seeds.

Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow, The Experiments

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11 Things to Look For on a Seed Packet

NOTE: This was originally posted on 8/26/12. Many of you are new to the site since then, and now many are also preparing your seed packet orders for 2014; so we wanted to share this again.
Check out your packets. How many of these can you find?
Happy Gardening!
~GJ

A good seed packet should give you much of the info you need to know to grow that plant.
Unfortunately, they all don’t.

Here’s what to look for, and why:

1. Days to Germination: A pea can sprout in just a few days, broccoli raab can take as long as three weeks. Many a gardener, having assumed there was a problem, has replanted a row of a veggie that is slower to germinate only to find the first seeds planted start sprouting very soon after.
Been there, over-planted that.

2. Days to Maturity:This one is a little tricky. First, for plants that should be started indoors, not all seed packets will tell you that the Days to Maturity are from transplanting outside. Second, when is a plant mature? Is that when it begins to bear fruit or when it’s ready to harvest. Some seed packets specify Days to Harvest instead.
This is very important if you are timing your plants so they get some frost, if you have a short growing season, and if you are succession planting (planning on a second crop in the same place).

seed growing information

on the front or on the back

3. Packed For or Sell By Date: Seeds will loose their rate of germination and their viability over time. We always keep leftover seeds for the following season, and some for a few years. We also purchase ‘end of season’ seeds at a reduced rate. If you packet isn’t dated when you receive it, just make a note of it yourself. It’s easier than trying to remember.

4. How to Plant: Every seed packet we have ever seen has growing information, the only exception being the sale items mentioned above. You should find what depth to sow the seed, plant and row spacing, how much sun/shade is needed, etc. Some companies even give you little tips, such as soaking the seed prior to planting. Don’t you just love that stuff?

seed descriptions are fun

smiley face

5. How to Harvest: Much less common, helpful hints on harvesting is wonderful info to find on a seed packet. Sure, everyone knows when a tomato is ripe, but how do you know when and how to pick an eggplant?
Well, okay, you can find out here; but it’s great when it’s right there on the seed packet.

6. How to Use: Less important but wonderful to find are suggestions for eating what you grow. Did you know you can throw lettuce thinnings in salads and eat the leaves of beets? Sometimes you’ll read that right on the seed packet.

7. Diseases and Pests to watch out for: You’ll be more likely to find this information in a seed catalog or on a website, but occasionally it will show up on a seed packet. It’s usually in the description of the vegetable, such as ‘drought tolerant’ or ‘late blight resistant’. Whatever battle you fight in your garden, it helps to be armed with the right seed.

8. Personality: Okay, so this one isn’t essential, but does serve a purpose. A description of the ‘personality’ of your veggie, such as tangy, sweet, versatile, attractive, as well as probably the most common- delicious- can help not only get you psyched to plant, but also make the experience more fun.

9. A Pic: Personally, we prefer a picture of the vegetable growing to a beautiful display of a great harvest in a lovely setting. The first time we saw a kohlrabi in its natural habitat we were quite surprised.

botanical names of seeds

good to know

10. The Botanical Name: This one is becoming more rare over time. Having the botanical name of a veggie, even if you can’t use it in a conversation :-) helps you to know which veggies you can and cannot rotate and which ones share disease and predators. It also can help you when you are trying to prevent cross-pollination for seed saving. All that in two italicized words? Really really.

11. Plant Specs: Is it a bush or a vine? How tall will it get, does it need a support? This information should be made available to you right on the packet. Did you know a watermelon vine can easily grow over 6 feet in any direction? Better to find out before the seed touches the soil.

Of course you can read all these things online and in seed catalogs. Johnny’s Seeds not only have great products and customer service, their catalog is like a how-to manual for growing.
Keep your own notes, ask questions, and even save the seed packets that have the best information.
After a while, it will all be in your head anyway.

botanical gnome

reminders help

Well, maybe not those italicized words.

Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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