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. bmommy says:

    I have been fighting the urge to buy seeds for about 2 months now….becoming very weak though, especially after seeing your wonderful seed confession here!!

  2. Carol, May Dreams Gardens says:

    Seems like a reasonably sized order to me but I’ll confess to being a bit of a seedaholic, too.

    How big is your garden that you could add to this order another 20 varieties of pumpkin and squash seeds which take up so much space? I will order my seeds soon, hoping that they don’t run out from all you early birds buying up seeds!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Tessa. The catalogs without pictures are better for me, much easier to concentrate without all those sexy photos. See you again soon, I hope.

  3. Melanie says:

    Even though I don’t have room to grow pumpkins in my small yard, I bought seed of the musquee de provence 2 years ago. How nutty is that? I’m trying to convince my dad to grow them at his house.

  4. Sarah O says:

    That picture of zinnias is so retro, like an image straight out of some early 1960s how-to homemaking series of books. I love it (and I love zinnias too). I’ve read a number of bloggers complain about the colour orange, particularly orange zinnias, so I have spared everyone the images of our front walkway, which is bordered by orange zinnias, calendulas, and california poppies (plus boxwood and lamb’s ear and cotton lavender) every summer. The web may be spared, but not my neighbourhood. :)

    Re: seed catalogues, I spend a few weeks every winter daydreaming and making up order lists, and then abandon them when it becomes clear I do not have the money or stamina to grow all those plants!

  5. Susan says:

    I love your list, I will live through you and your vegetable garden this year. I have so many beds to create, I am aiming for veggies next year, but the Cinderella-shape pumpkin might be a must. How much room do I need to grow them? Did you really drag that pumpkin out in the snow?

  6. mss @ Zanthan Gardens says:

    How much space do you need to plant out 20 packets of pumpkin and squash seeds. And do you eat all the results? Or are you running a truck farm?

    I hope I don’t come off sounding sarcastic because I’m really curious to know. So far I’ve bought only 8 packets of seeds in 2009 but in my mostly shady urban yard, I will end up planting only a fraction of each. And even on a small scale, I can barely keep up with the sowing, thinning, and planting out. I’d like to know some of your organizational tips to manage what you’re doing.

  7. margaret says:

    Well, as for my usual 20 pumpkin varieties…here’s the thing: I have some kind of weird love of pumpkins and squash, and so I order all kinds and what I cannot try myself I get friends to grow. An unofficial ambassador of pumpkins, sort of.

    I first wrote about Glenn Drowns (whose collection and knowledge is unrivaled) and his Sand Hill Preservation Center long before heirlooms were commonplace, when I worked at Newsday newspaper. (I left there in 1994.)

    Then when I first freelanced for Martha 15 years ago, I brought photos of all Glenn’s wacky varieties into her offices and showed the art directors the diversity that existed, and sold them a story on the subject. They were so amazed, thinking pumpkin=jack o’ lantern.

    With Glenn’s help I arranged to ship specimens in from collectors and growers around the U.S. that fall and we did one of Martha Stewart Living’s original “glossary” type stories with them.

    So I have had this illness for a long time. I have several acres of land here, but not flat, full sun, production-growing land. Too many other plants. Limited vegetable space at present, maybe 1,500 square feet.

    The ones I do grow, I grow only one “hill” of each, a few seeds, hoping to get a couple of characteristic fruit of that variety to decorate inside the house all winter, and gradually eat. Some years I have grown 10 or 12 kinds, but not properly (not allowing enough space for maximum yields, just hoping for that one or two good fruits per to make me smile).

    The “good keepers,” that spend the winter indoors with me, are my favorites. I have two ‘Pink Banana’ squash that are still here on display after 15 months since harvest, and a blue ‘Shamrock’ of the same vintage.

    So no truck farm on the premises, but I do eat an inordinate amount of winter squash for one quite small person; last week I had a large bowl of it on three occasions for supper, with a bowl of rice and beans as well. It is perhaps my favorite vegetable, a foundation of my diet.

    So that’s my pumpkin problem. I think most gardeners have a serious problem of one kind or another, and this group of plants is mine.

  8. Neal & Cathy says:

    We always buy more than we need too, it’s a common problem amongst gardeners. We also save seeds. Cathy saved seeds from some gourds we got at the local farmer’s market as well as from a “peanut” pumpkin- a very unusual variety with peanut shaped and colored warts all over it. Can’t wait till spring!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Neal and Cathy. The corners of my house that aren’t full of colorful “fresh” squash are full of dried gourds, so I get it. Do come see us again soon, and be sure to say hello.

  9. Alejandro says:

    My confession has to do more with buying expensive seeds from Jelitto, but I couldn’t resist not to get seeds of celmisia semicordata, verbascum roripifolium, peucedanum verticillare, smyrnium perfoliatum, senecio doria, selinum wallichianum, tulipa sprengerii (so far I’ve never had any luck with it) and I guess a few more beauties that are hard to find otherwise.

  10. chris says:

    margaret, great list and idea to post it; i suspect you buy your lettuce with the corn at the farmstand?

    i am having a hard time focusing on seeds when the weather forecast is single digits, both plus and neg. my big thing this spring will be to get my new chipper/shredder onto my garden and put my pretty much ready compost through it (my next compost pile will be shredded both ex ante and ex post). so i am thinking soil more so than seeds when my idle thoughts turn to the next veggie garden.

    must admit a partiality to burpee big boy tomatoes, and plenty of green beans, peas zuchinni and lettuce…i guess i am still trying to recreate my father’s garden.

    looking forward to reprising the grateful dead phrase from me and my uncle, “it being summer, i took off my shirt, and i tried to wash off some of that dusty dirt.”

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Chris. I have leftover salad-green seeds (lettuces, mache, arugula, spinach) so I will use those up. I don’t grow corn, being surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland in a rural county; easy to buy ir fresh all season long in summer/fall, and it’s such a space-hog. I have a lot of leftover beans so I only ordered the one kind, and as for zucchini, like cucumbers, I might grow a plant (and will steal a couple of seeds from a pal), but I don’t need more than that. See you soon again.

  11. N. says:

    I’m going to do a post of my seed purchases soon :) I only purchased 15-20 seeds from four companies but in my defense a bunch of those came in a kit. I’m trying to grow a medicinal herb garden for the first time and decided a kit was the best way to go. I got the seeds and a small book of herbal teas, etc.

  12. Tammy says:

    Oh my gosh, this is sooo much fun! I am at this moment trying to figure out what I am buying for this year. I loved reading what you have bought. Thanks for sharing. Oh for more dirt…so many seeds….so little space.

  13. If you really want to have fun, save some seeds from the plants that actually do best in your garden for the reasons you dream up. Save the best from year to year. Your gardening then becomes an important genetic enhancing activity, the way it has been for 10,000 years. This is an important thing to do in an era that will see most of our genetic diversity disappear. You can find easy, detailed seed saving instructions on the website of this 20 year-old non-profit:


    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Bill, and thank you. I do save things that can be saved without risk of them having gotten frisky and having crossed with a cousin. I save beans, for instance, and can get away with saving heirloom tomatoes, usually, to name a couple of things. But squash–forget it. As your great reference resource confirms. Thanks for sharing it. Come again soon.

  14. Country Gardener says:

    Ah, your seed list looks a lot like mine used to. Once upon a time we grew a ton of stuff – even that wonderful pumpkin in your picture. In fact, we grew so many plants from seed that we had a plant sale for about five years. But I’ve cut down since I stopped having a veggie garden, and a market garden opened up down the road. My husband started a rock garden and began growing alpines from seed, and now he’s the seed man at our house. He used to get so many seeds, he kept all the info on a spreadsheet. I guess we’re managing to control our seed lust these days. Your post was a great reminder of those seedaholic days. It was a lot of fun. I remember hauling wheelbarrows of squash and gourds out of the garden, and then giving most of them away because there were just two of us to eat them all.

  15. Robin Wedewer says:

    That’s a lotta pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin bread…pumpkin ice cream…pumpkin butter…pumpkin muffins…pumpkin pudding…

    Robin Wedewer
    National Gardening Examiner

  16. You have remarkable discipline – I’d be truly embarrassed to show my seed orders.

    Have you seen Lords of the Gourd? It was on PBS a year or so ago, about people who grow giant pumpkins for competition.

    Loved those glossary features in Martha, BTW.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Entangled. Thanks for tip on PBS show, which I now have to go find. Discipline, me? I think it was just that I was going to post about all this that stifled my usual insane ordering. I have never been “in business” as a garden blogger at seed-ordering time before (started late last March) so it’s a new thing. And hey, I still have postage stamps left, so I could always send more orders…don’t count on my continuing good behavior.

  17. Molly says:

    thank you thank you for that wonderful seed list. It is so easy to become befuddled at seed ordering time, and I will use your list as a reference. Have you talked about the what next part of it? trays and lights and pinching and thinning? It all feels a bit beyond me, but maybe this year…..

  18. Leslie Shields says:

    I also love the pumpkins and squashes. They can be so beautiful, I just want to look at them. One of my best pumpkins came from a package of Chuck-a-nut seeds for critters. They are supposed to be squash but grew into wonderful huge cindrella type pumpkins when the squirrels planted them next to the lilac hedge. They silly things climbed to the top and there were hugh pumpkins (20 lbs.) hanging from the vines. All that and no work.

  19. Emily says:

    I wish I had as much space as you do! I want to grow scarlet runner beans this year but cannot think of where to put them. Do you think they’d do will using corn as a trellis, or do they sprout too early? Last year we grew a short row of silver queen along our back fence and the pole beans looked lovely spiraling up it, but I didn’t really like eating them. Do scarlet runners have better flavor, in your opinion? I might just grow them anyway, for the hummingbirds.

    And I just added that baby choy to my list.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Craig, and thank you for the link to the repository of vegetable-variety descriptions with the rating tool. Very helpful. Seems like it’s time for me to catch up with all that is going on at Cornell and on its website, which I use a lot.

      Emily, I have not grown beans up corn, but of course it is an old tradition. You can time your bean-sowing accordingly; it’s flexible. As for taste in beans, well, some like “meaty” ‘Romano’ types, others golden “wax” types (my un-favorite), others richer ‘Kentucky Wonder’ type flavor. I am trying ‘Garden of Eden’ this year because it was described as being flavorful and good to eat even when larger; I generally prefer a ‘Romano’ type bean, the Italian flat-podded kind. So it’s very individual. ‘Fortex’ is supposed to be very tasty; so is ‘Kentucky Wonder’ and the oldtimer ‘Black Valentine’ (so named for its black seeds). I read, I try, then I forget what I liked…and so the cycle repeats itself. Record-keeping sometimes falters here, I admit. But those are all good ones to try. Here’s a story about ‘Scarlet Runner’ as an edible (popular in England) and other good eating beans.

  20. Candylei Yap says:

    AcckkK! I could not post my seed list as my husband would faint. He knows it is bad, but not how extrordinary. The bummer is that sometimes the seeds are already sold out when you call, yes in January…with perennials, that is.

  21. L.T. TRAN says:


    Like most folks, I tend to over order the seeds too. There are many great local programs where we can put the extra seeds to good use by planting an extra row of vegetables, etc., to be donated to the local food shelters.

    By the way, winter sown seeds is a good thing (if I can borrow that phrase). This is another method for those of us that can’t get every thing done at once in the spring. A great way to get a jump on spring planting with healthy and hardy seedlings.

  22. Rick from Cherty Rock Farmer says:

    One advantage of my geographical location is that I get to actually go to Baker Creek Heirloom physical store early this spring and purchase our seed direct! A big little store right here in the Ozarks.

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