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. Michelle says:

    I prefer the “plain” chard too. I bought some rainbow chard once at the farmers’ market and threw it in with the cabbage in haluski. It turned the egg noodles a weird shad of pinkish brown that didn’t look very appetizing, so when I started growing my own I went for the green. The rainbow is pretty in people’s gardens though

  2. Linda says:

    Margaret you should try suyo long cucumbers. They are sweet and delicious and the only ones I grow now. They get long and skinny, stay crisp and should be in everyone’s garden!

  3. Tenille says:

    My seed tally is embarrassingly large this year as well. So glad we’re in agreement and blame the winter that never ends! seeds = hope!

  4. priscila says:

    Your seed selections are very impressive, Margaret, with TONS that I’m not familiar with. I’d better get checking out those seed companies so I can branch out from my “comfort zone”! Thanks for the gentle push. I can’t think of a better way to spend a dreary/rainy Sunday when I can’t get out and play in the dirt : )

  5. Liz Davey says:

    My list was also long as will be the number of perennials and summer bulbs that will soon be making an appearance on my doorstep. It snows: I order. I am hoping the weather clears up soon so that I can use my small sun shed for some of the transplanted seedlings I am sure to have spilling out of the sunroom and light shelves in the coming months.

  6. dash says:

    Yowsa! That is some list. I will be starting some of my seeds on Tuesday (April Fool’s Day); I still have 2 feet of snow in my garden here in northern N.H. and feel that date is appropriate this year.

  7. mikeinportc says:

    I always overdo it somewhat. Never know exactly what is the “too much” part until I get to it, or not. I saved seeds from every tomato, some peppers, lettuce, groundcherry, and “Purple Peacock’ broccoli, so that helps.

    I grew ‘ Hyper Red Rumpled Wave’ last year. I think you’ll like it. It lives up to billing, and is quite cold-tolerant. Along with eating it, I used it as an ornamental, in fall containers. I put it in several pots with Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ , &/or ‘Flashback’ calendula. Also , one with variegated lavender.


  8. Helga G says:

    Hi Margaret! I guess we’re both in the same boat “without a paddle” :-) since I am doing the same thing. Always getting too many seeds. But as long as I have my neighbors that appreciate my fresh grown produce, I guess that’s a good enough excuse. So I’m adding another 4’x8′ raised bed (with my neighbors help) and a multitude of pots, planters and some of those “grow bags” for my potatoes. Also I love chard. This year I added Italian Silver Rib, Pot o’Gold and Scarlett Charlotte from Renee’s.
    Did you ever hear about Oca and Yakon? I am giving it a try this year.
    Happy Growing Season to everybody.

  9. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    I love the Garden of Eden pole beans from Johnny’s. They go and go, right up until frost for me. I first saw them on a TV show starring Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman. Eliot ate a raw bean in the field to informally test it and exclaimed so loudly with delight that the camera crew ran to find him. I grow them on a tall expanding plastic trellis with 8 foot rebar woven through it, fastened with zip ties. Garden of Eden pole beans are still edible even when they get long and thick, missed at the previous harvest. They freeze well. My favorite recipe for these pole beans is to serve them at lunch, microwaved, chilled in ice bath, drained, drizzled with pepper, oil and vinegar and topped with feta cheese. Yum.
    I also like your choice of Sugar Ann Peas and Merlot lettuce. My little lettuce seedlings look lip-smacking good and are just going outside into large pots with copper netting fastened around the upper edges (against slugs).I can totally identify with the muck over top of the frozen ground. We are just now losing the last of our snows in a 3 day rain event. I hope to plant my peas ASAP.

  10. holly says:

    Hello. I was lucky enough to win a gift certificate for Uprising Seeds. When I had a little trouble placing my order, they were SO helpful–a delight to work with. For my Central California (a little bit inland) garden, I decided to try all new (to me) varieties including Pokey Joe Cilantro (rare), Spring Raab, Cascadia Snap Pea, Crane Melon, Divina Butterhead Lettuce, Green Wave Mustard, and Black Swan Poppies. I planted the cool weather veggies outside and have started the melons inside. So far the germination rate is very good. Thank you, Margaret, for getting me started with Uprising Seeds. Here’s to healthy and delicious food! Holly

  11. Marsha says:

    Sitting here watching the snow AGAIN!!! in Washington, D.C. when I should be out planting my potatoes. Will I ever get them in to this soggy, soaked soil? Really love your blog and podcasts.

  12. Liz says:

    Oh, Margaret. I have that problem every year! The seed catalogs come in December and January. They know how to rope us in.
    I have seeds from years past. I usually take the older ones and mix them up in a bag, then drive down the highway throwing them out the window on to the dirt on the shoulder. LOL I have actually seen some of the plants growing–herbs, peas, flowers–until the annual mow happens.
    This year I hope to grow pumpkins for the first time. Yikes! And although I vowed not to overdo the tomatoes, I did it again. Oh well, my boss and co-workers do love my pico de gallo when the tomatoes start to avalanche! And I’m hoping to give some seedlings away. Maybe my neighbors will take some.
    Happy gardening! (I would do some today, but it is snowing again!)

  13. joyceroth says:

    Margaret, don’t think of your seed order as extravagant. Think of how great it is that you are helping boost the economy and making your corner of the world such a beautiful place. I quite frequently go to your online photos as a respite from the brutal winter here in Michigan. I am so happy to have discovered your web site. Thank you so much and garden on. Joyce

  14. Margit Van Schaick says:

    Margaret, look at it this way, you can experiment with these wonderful seeds, and then teach us all about them, what’s good and useful. Thank you for your adventurous spirit!

  15. Tracy says:

    I have almost 60 milk jug seed greenhouses I sowed in January, about 55 small peat pots starting bare root perennials, and over 300 summer bulbs, corms or tubers to plant as soon as I can poke a trowel in this mess of wet, miserable soil.

    I need a 12 step program…

  16. Mark says:

    I was remarkably good this year at planning tomuse up more of my existing seeds but I know after I do my final check I’m going to have to visit the garden center at least once, probably for beets won’t I think I sprouted most of mine. And speaking of beets, I don’t think I’ll be growing ‘Chioggia’ again. I’ve grown it in the past with no complaints but last year several of the roots were all white and rather unappealing to look at after roasting.

  17. Kristi says:

    I am also skipping potatoes this year. I was feeling a bit guilty, but am feeling the need to mix things up.

    Impressive beet selection, now I’m reconsidering mine…

  18. Kathy says:

    It’s encouraging to see where your seeds came from because they’re places I’ve also ordered from plus a couple I’ll now check out. Thanks, Margaret!

    1. margaret says:

      you are welcome, Kathy — all good sources, I think, and there are a few other goodies i didn’t need anything from yet this year of course!

  19. Mathew G says:

    Margaret, that tromboncino squash is amazing. At a previous residence I grew it along a chain link fence, as it is a climber. The leaves are stunning – darker green than most squash with silver markings. I used mine as a summer squash; when picked young they’re just like zuchini in texture and flavor.

  20. Joe says:

    Last fall we bought a house with a nice big yard. Having spent the past several years living in an apartment with all gardening done in a small community garden plot a few miles from home, our new place is a dream come true for the gardener in me. So I spent all fall and the long winter dreaming about what I could do, and then the seed catalogs came. Luckily I pared down the list substantially before I actually made the order (my ever logical wife convinced me, for example, that 4 varieties of cauliflower is quite excessive). Even still, I have more varieties of vegetables than we will have room for, even if I can find the time to prep all the planned new garden spaces from scratch.

  21. MN.Reid says:

    I am trying butternut rugosa again this year, and will try and cheat the season a bit. Last year they only ended up looking like normal butternut squashes. I will plant them in my compost bin with half high quality black dirt, and the compost that is left in there after I empty it to make room for the top soil/black dirt.

    I am also trying Merlot lettuce for the first time.

    I never have enough room under lights to do a lot, but still, I ordered probably at least 20 packets. I had to try Japanese Black Trifele tomato. I also am trying a winter squash similar to butternut called, “Greek Sweet Red.” Long Island Cheese, and Peanut pumpkin will keep my freezer full for a long time. I will also attempt to grow a monster pumpkin. I will be overtaken with vines! Speaking of vines, Malabar Spinach will be new for me too.

  22. Jen says:

    I’m with you on the seed binging!! I should not be allowed into a hardware store, garden nursery or to see a seed catalog without a chaperon this time of year! Happy growing!

  23. Susan says:

    Here in Europe, we had a very short, mild winter. No snow in Paris this year. Today there’s a predicted high of 70°F. And I’m feeling horribly behind on my seed planting! I figured I had until mid-march to get things in the ground, but it’s already really bright and warm. Still having some overnight frosts, but nothing below the 20s. I’m more worried we’ll have a drought this summer if this keeps up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.