the confession: what seeds i ordered

I PROMISED RESTRAINT, right here and out loud, and if all things are relative, I demonstrated at least a measure of that virtue. On the task of seed-ordering, I stayed focused and did well, or at least “well” for me. First, the disclaimers: It is typical for me to order 20 or more packets of pumpkin and squash seeds alone in any given year. There were no such binges in 2009, at least not so far (though I did order ‘Musquee de Provence,’ above). Give me ongoing strength.

Out of the 41 total items I purchased from four companies, 9 were not seeds at all: 2 were “hardware” or equipment (row covers and hoops); 4 were tubers or roots (3 kinds of potatoes and 1 of multiplier onions); 3 others were sweet potato varieties, sold as “slips.”

That nets out at 32 seed items, and 12 of those are collaborative—earmarked to share with a gardening friend. Am I cured? Doubtful. Am I a little bit more conscious? Perhaps.

Here’s what I’ll be growing in the vegetable garden in 2009, alongside the viable seeds for various lettuces, arugula, spinach, beans, chard and a few stray pumpkins I already have on hand. In reviewing my orders I see one tactical error: I forgot the snap type of peas, specifically my beloved no-staking ‘Sugar Ann.’ Oops.

I order those every other year, in half-pound size, and thought this was the “don’t need them” year. Wrong. Even the most careful following of the rules doesn’t yield perfection (as with all tasks in gardening).

From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds:

  • ‘Shanghai Green Choy’ Green stems to add more nutrients to the package.
  • ‘Extra Dwarf Pak Choy’ So small, I couldn’t resist. Blame the “cute overload” phenomenon for this purchase. Perfect for sautéing.
  • ‘Scarlet Runner’ bean. My bean-pole teepees never go a year without this hummingbird favorite, an heirloom. Eat the pods when about 6 inches.
  • ‘Musquee de Provence’ pumpkin. I bought a 20-pounder at the farmers’ market, and it’s the most deeply lobed Cinderella-shape pumpkin I have ever seen.
  • ‘Galeux d’Eysines’ pumpkin. Love this peach-colored beauty, warts and all.
  • ‘Triamble’ (‘Shamrock’) winter squash. Blue skin and a three-part construction.

From Sand Hill Preservation Center:

  • ‘Nest Egg’ gourd. The gourd of all gourds. Looks like its name, and used years ago to fool hens into sitting on their nests. (Each year it takes all my energy not to order heirloom poultry from Sand Hill’s astonishing collection to go with the gourds.)
  • ‘Jumbo Pink Banana’ squash. I’ve had them up to 35 pounds (they can get to 100, Sand Hill founder Glenn Drowns says), and these delicious squash last 12-16 months indoors with me, great dirigibles of coral color.
  • ‘Trombone’ squash. If you like ‘Butternut,’ this is the oddshaped giant cousin of it, up to 40 pounds apiece.
  • ‘Pumpkin Yam’ sweet potato slips. An heirloom with excellent yields.
  • ‘Violetta’ sweet potato slips. Purple skinned heirloom, with ultra-sweet white flesh.

zinnia21From Johnny’s Selected Seeds:

  • ‘Sun Gold’ cherry tomato. Simply my favorite cherry, the color of a tangerine.
  • ‘Brandywine’ tomato Everyone’s favorite heirloom, for good reason.
  • ‘San Marzano 168’ paste tomato A big, long Italian paste variety, on indeterminate plants, now made even earlier to harvest.
  • Mariana’ paste tomato. A new variety featuring a small plant habit; I am trying this instead of ‘Roma VFN’ this year; pray for me.
  • ‘Beauregard’ sweet potato slips. Johnny’s favorite for good yields in Northern climates.
  • ‘Moskvich’ salad tomato. At just 60 days, early…and reportedly very flavorful. New to me, though an heirloom.
  • ‘Napoli’ carrot (pelleted). If you haven’t traded up to pelleted seed for hard-to-sow things like carrots, I recommend it.
  • ‘Delicata’ winter squash. The standard small winter squash I grow and bake for supper.
  • ‘Natacha’ escarole. Desperately seeking an escarole I can sautee with garlic as they do in traditional Italian restaurants. Is this it?
  • ‘Flash’ collard greens. Smooth leaves, slow to bolt, and offers repeat harvests.
  • ‘Red Russian’ kale. I’ve been growing this beautiful purplish heirloom for what seems like ever.
  • ‘Winterbor’ kale. A hybrid that’s said to be extra-prolific, regrowing for repeat cuttings.
  • ‘Oliver’ Brussels sprouts. To grow in summer for a fall crop. I love to roast sprouts whole with olive oil and sea salt.
  • ‘Garden of Eden’ pole bean. A flat-podded heirloom said to stay tender even when pods get big (like when I forget to pick daily, as always).
  • ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar’ pea. A snow pea with distinctive reddish flowers and tinted foliage, easy to tell apart from other peas in the row.
  • ‘Giant of Italy’ flat-leaf parsley. The only parsley I like for cooking and adding to salads.
  • ‘Genovese’ basil. Traditional style Italian.
  • ‘Italian Large Leaf’ basil (pelleted). Beautiful for Caprese salads and just for eating.
  • ‘Benary’s Giant Lime’ zinnia. One of my three favorite colors of zinnias (above, from last year’s harvest), in single-color strains. Why grow the shades I don’t favor?
  • ‘Benary’s Giant Orange’ zinnia.
  • ‘Benary’s Giant Scarlet’ zinnia.
  • ‘Queen Red Lime’ zinnia. A wild-colored newcomer with maroon outer petals and lime centers. How could I not try it?
  • Hoop Loops to support row covers.
  • Agribon+ AG-15 Insect Barrier–118 inches wide x 50 feet.

From Moose Tubers at Fedco Seeds:

  • Potato onions. I tried some of these supposedly perennial heirloom onions for fall planting, and will compare to a spring batch to see how to make these work in my cold area.
  • ‘Stuttgarter’ onion sets. Semi-flat yellow onions.
  • ‘Green Mountain’ potatoes. A great-flavored white heirloom potato, ideal for baking.
  • ‘Yukon Gold’ potatoes. Dry-textured yellow flesh. I’m sure you know this one.

There, I’ve done it; confession complete. Anybody care to unburden themselves?

Categoriesfrom seed
  1. HVFarmGirl says:

    You will not be disappoined with Natacha escarole. I planted it last year for the first time and it was WONDERFUL WONDERFUL. It is as polite an escarole as you will find: just the right bitterness, lovely blanched leaves at the heart and never tough, even the end of my harvest. As promised in the catalogue, it is very heat resistant. My only regret last season was that I didn’t try a mid-summer planting for a possible fall harvest. I will this year though.

  2. leslie land says:

    Late in the discussion though it is, gotta put in a good word for Rattlesnake beans, our favorite in Maine and in the Hudson Valley.

    A-number-one, they’re DELICIOUS, from baby bean to 9 inches long and about a half inch wide ( semi-Romano type, Margaret!). Also prolific, disease resistant, moderately drought and cold tolerant, and as we’ve learned from their abundance, able to remain crisp and tasty in the fridge for what sometimes seems like forever. We’ve never grown them up cornstalks, but my guess is that they’d do well.

    Will say from the beans we HAVE grown up cornstalks that Emily’s single row of corn was a lucky accident. Corn wants to be planted in blocks but the beans of course need sun, so only the outer edge of the corn patch can be used for trellising. ( Can’t remember this bit of ag. history for sure but believe the corn originally used was both shorter than modern corn and planted much farther apart.)

  3. Emily says:


    We’ve only grown corn for the last 2 years, but not planted in blocks. We do it sort of in bunches of 3 on little hills, or in 2 rows very close together. Maybe it’s the type? It’s non-GMO, and nothing like field corn. The ears turned out beautifully. We have a very small garden, and I’m not willing to devote more space to it. I’d rather not have it at all, but my husband loves it. The stalks do look pretty late into the fall; even the neighbors think so. Personally, I’d rather put Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkins back there, but this year he’s going to try black popcorn. If only the neighbor to the south of us would sell us her back lot…less for her to mow, more room for us to grow! We’ll see.

  4. Ira Wallace says:

    I was searching the internet for comments from northern gardeners about growing yellow potato onions. I am a organize seed growers and trials for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and wanted to answer a question from a gardener in Idaho. Google sent me to your blog, what a find! In addition to my work as a worker/owner at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange I also am one of the organizers of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, September 11, 2010. Amy Goldman joined us for the 2009 Festival and as as I lost myself for half an hour in your blog I thought that you would be a wonderful speaker for the Festival either in 2010 or a future year. You can see the Festival website at http://www.heritageharvestfestival.com. I hope you will consider joining us.- Ira

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Ira. I have been a customer of SESE (as I think of it) since the beginning, when I was a home gardener; then later as the garden editor for Newsday newspaper on Long Island decades ago, and after that for Martha Stewart Living. I have loved watching you grow and teach more people about heirlooms over those years.

      As for the multiplier onions, I didn’t fare so well with them in my first adventure; I planted them in fall of 08 (well-mulched) and though they looked as if they were “doing” all summer, there was nothing but a tiny bulb in fall. I have uprooted those and moved them to another spot (actually a very well-drained raised bed area where I do really well with my garlic) to see if I can make them happy.

      It is so nice to “meet” you here. I will email you about the festival, but meantime thank you for the nice message, and do stop back again soon.

  5. liz says:

    I’m suddenly looking for new ideas for seeds to start next spring. I wonder if you could update on how the seeds you tried last year worked out? Especially wondering about the Queen Red Lime Zinnia from Burpee. I was just looking at it on their site and wonder if it grows well and looks anything like the photo? Nice seed list, too. :-)

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Liz. That zinnia was a bust for me its first year (2009 growing season), and I know there was also a shortage of seed for it since it looked so interesting people ordered like mad when it first came out. It just wasn’t the colors of the original pictures I saw — it was more muted — but maybe it’s gotten sorted out a bit by now? I didn’t try it again. I am sticking with my Benary Giant types in single colors — love the orange one and the chartreuse one.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    How did you like the ‘Natacha’ escarole? Have you planted it again? Did it work for braising? How was it for eating raw?

  7. brad mcfeggan says:

    I’ve been trying to grow peanut pumpkins….They end up ripening, but I hardley have any warts on them. do they develope more warts after i harvest them

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Brad. The answer is here, having to do with sugar content developing (or not) late in the fruit’s life on the vine.

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