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my binge of a 2014 seed order: the brutal winter made me do it

seed packets 2014I TOLD THE PACKETS OF EAGER PEA SEEDS, usually my first-born, to sit tight: not their turn yet.  But in a single flat filled with several smaller fiber pots, I just sowed two kale varieties and my earliest Brussels sprouts. And so another growing season begins, as I open the first of many just-arrived packets of seed, in this spring that doesn’t want seem to really arrive.

The snow that covered 99 percent of my place three days ago is now holding on to only 15 percent, thanks to a few warmer days and a crazy deluge.  But the ground remains locked up tight, an inch of deceptive muck covering rock-solid frost.

For now the kale and Brussels sit on the kitchen counter, atop a heat mat and beneath a plastic dome.  When those sprout, broccolis and parsley will go in my improv countertop germination chamber, and that first generation will move to a spot under lights.

My tradition about now each year on the website is to post my seed order, but this time I’m embarrassed at what it adds up to. I blame the endless winter, because in despair, as if it would help stave off the gloom, I binged. Some people eat; I shop for hope instead to soothe myself, in the form of packets of seeds.

There are some aspects of method to my madness:

  • Last year I shared seed with a friend, aimed at using it up faster while it’s fresh, and we’ll split part of many packets again.
  • I’m skipping potatoes for the first time in memory, to make room for more winter squash. Potatoes usually fill at least two of my 20-by-4-foot raised beds, which will be up for grabs.
  • A longtime passion for chard with thick, white midribs (contrary to the fad for colorful, narrow ones) prompts me to compare several side-by-side this year (‘Silverado,’ ‘Fordhook Giant,’ and ‘Glatter Silber’). I don’t need all three, but I’m curious. Cheap thrills!
  • Chard’s cousin, the beet root, will likewise be subjected to a little lineup. (I have leftover seed of three or four more here to add to the experiment.)
  • Some of that former potato space will also go to a closer look at more salad things: a giant Italian heirloom oakleaf lettuce called ‘Italienischer;’ extra-dark red and highly textural lettuces such as ‘Merlot’ and ‘Hyper Red Rumple’ from Wild Garden’s lettuce-mad breeder Frank Morton; some extra kales grown for use as baby greens.
  • And my recent seed-focused radio series introduced me to new friends whose specialties I had to try: beets from one, kales and winter squash form another, and so on.

Are you buying my excuses?

Alphabetically by seed company name (which you can click to visit their sites), what I confess to ordering so far:

Adaptive Seeds

  • Kale Coalition
  • ‘Morden Early’ cucumber
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • ‘Sugar Magnolia’ purple snap pea
  • ‘Red Bull’ Brussels sprouts (retain their purple color after cooking)
  • Plaza Latina Giant tomatillo
  • ‘Doran Round’ Butternut squash
  • ‘Tiger’ coreopsis
  • ‘Oregon Homestead Sweet Meat’ winter squash

High Mowing Organic Seeds

  • ‘Fordhook Giant’ chard
  • ‘Maxibel’ haricot vert bush bean
  •  ‘Fino Verde’ bush basil

Hudson Valley Seed Library

  • ‘Merlot’ lettuce
  • Dino kale
  • ‘Paul Robeson’ tomato
  • ‘Red Russian’ kale
  • ‘Sliverado’ chard
  • ‘Sugar Daddy’ snap pea
  • ‘Violina Rugosa’ Butternut squash
  • Cardiospermum halicacabum (balloon vine), meant to be not just charming but also a beneficial-insect magnet

Johnny’s Selected Seed

  • ‘Nelson’ F1 Brussels sprouts
  • ‘Corvair’ F1 smooth leaf spinach
  • ‘Garden of Eden’ flat-pod pole beans
  • ‘Verona’ tomato (the improved realtive of my longtime favorite, ‘Juliet’)
  • Mrs. Burns’ lemon basil
  • ‘Sugar Ann’ snap pea

Turtle Tree Seed

  • ‘Aunt Ada’s’ Italian pole bean
  • ‘Provider Premium’ snap beans
  • ‘Schweizer Riesen’ (‘Swiss Giant’) snow pea
  •  ‘Tromboncino’ winter squash
  • ‘Butternut’ squash
  • ‘Piracicaba’ broccoli
  • Asian greens mix
  • ‘Glatter Silber’ chard

Uprising Seeds

  • ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet
  • ‘Feuer Kugel’ beet
  • ‘Chioggia’ beet
  • ‘Shiraz’ beet
  • ‘Italienischer’ heirloom Italian oakleaf lettuce

Wild Garden Seed

  • Spring salad mix
  • Summer salad mix
  • ‘Hyper Red Rumple’ waved lettuce
  • ‘Splendid’ flat-leaf parsley
  1. Rick Stone says:

    What a great list. It makes me think I need to branch out a little bit. I usually experiment with a couple of new varieties each year but for the most part I stick with my tried and true plants. Looks like I better do a little more searching next spring!

  2. Sarah says:

    I thought I had done all of the damage I was going to do this year (it’s rather embarrassing), but when I saw your Adaptive seeds order, I had to have the “Red Bull’ brussels, the ‘Sugar Magnolia’ peas and the ‘Doran Round’ butternut. Did anyone get the Joy Markom’s Chard before it sold out?? It is just lovely. Thanks for turning me on to a new seed source!

  3. Sarah says:

    Oh, and I second Linda’s recommendation of the Suyo Long Cukes. They are the only ones we grow now. Truly the best cucumber I have ever had. We get our seed from Baker Creek, and this year trying some from Fedco’s Shuyo seed lines. Recommend trellising to get straight fruits and refrigerate in a zip-lock to keep them from getting wilty. If they do get a little wilted, just soak in ice-cold water for a bit and then perk right up. Grew them on the east coast and in the heat of North Texas and the extreme heat and water stress did not cause bitterness. Love Love Love them!

  4. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    I love that you list what you’re growing so when I’m drooling over one of your recipe posts, I know where those ingredients came from! This year I am excited to try cucamelons. I try a few new things each year. It is so fun to grow new things. I like the colors! I may have to try some of those Red Bull Brussels!

  5. Vanessa M. says:

    Thanks for binging on seeds Margaret. I’ve been learning so much from your posts. I’ll be looking forward to reading more about the ‘Red bull’ Brussels and the chards.

  6. Charlei says:

    Don’t e embarrassed. I can only justify my seed binges by sharing at seed swaps in person and online and just straight up giving them away to make it seem a charitable act rather than reckless spending!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Charlei. Good idea! I so want to organize a seed swap this year (or in the winter). Have never held one, but it would be fun.

  7. Mika says:

    Mmh – my list is almost as long… must have been bitten by the same bug. Thanks for your great suggestions Margaret!
    Just couldn’t resist those Hudson Valley Seed Library Art Seed Packs. They make the seeds seem so precious, just like they really are I suppose. Once the seeds are in, I’m going to frame those little packs & hang them in the shed! Also picked up some Butterfly Weed, Sweet Pea and am planning to mix it all up with the veggies. Worked well last year, lot’s of beneficials and no pests – keeping fingers crossed for a repeat. Now if those 2 feet of snow would just disappear already…

  8. Julie Martin says:

    My list was just as long, mostly because of your interviews! I’m really excited about Kale Coalition and my Purple Peacock Broccoli (I’m also going to frame my Art Pack). I also got Art Packs from Hudson Valley for Brilliant Beet Blend and Komatsuna. Many veggies are going in my flower beds as edibles. I’m hoping to confuse the aphids. Julie

  9. Leslie says:

    Loved this! Plants and produce get all the glory…but the promise of tiny seeds waiting to fulfill their potential is pretty incredible. You might enjoy this comparison of some of our 2014 seeds, loosely arranged from smallest to largest. The first time I saw a swiss chard seed, I was fascinated – didn’t know if I should plant it, or put it in my granola! :-)

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