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Amy Rhodes

Seed Catalogs & Garden Planning to the Rescue!

Seed Catalogs & Garden Planning to the Rescue!

Woman lying in bed, snow outside window

If you live somewhere between Hardiness Zones 1-7, you may be lolling and snoring along to winter’s hibernation song right about now. The colors outside are drab, the daylight hours are short, and the “nothing-like-it” taste of crisp sugar snap peas and sweet cherry tomatoes picked fresh from the garden linger someplace off in the distance. 

 

Winter doldrums have you down? 

Here's a quick and easy way to snap out of the winter blah blues.  Put the kettle on for a cup of mint, lemon verbena, or ginger-turmeric tea. Sweeten it with local honey, and grab a stack of next year’s seed catalogs!  

 

My friend Kristi, an extraordinary cook who prepares nearly all her meals from local, pasture-raised meats and homegrown produce, is also an absolute connoisseur of seed catalogs!  She can’t wait for her selected catalogs to arrive in the mail. This time of year, her collection is scattered across her coffee table, dog-eared and littered with sticky notes marking her wish list for the garden.  Kristi told me, “It’s the vibrant pictures, unique colors, shapes and patterns of the seeds, flowers and vegetables that inspire me on these gray winter days. I also love discovering the newest heirloom and container varieties. I want to try them all!”

 

Request Free Seed Catalogs 

 

Baker Creek LinkBurpee Link 

Johnny's Selected Seeds LinkKristi also hinted that seeing pictures of fully mature plants in the catalog is important. This helps her visually plan how she will arrange her community of plants.  After marking the pages of the seeds she’d like to purchase, she draws a map of her garden and plays matchmaker with companion plants. Planning tools found in Johnny’s Selected Seeds Grower’s Library and Garden Tower’s Planting Design Guide are helpful when designing your garden. 

 

Planting season is closer than you think. Before you know, you'll be starting seeds and watching the world wake from its slumber.  Until then, enjoy getting lost in Spring and Summer daydreams and planning.  What will your garden grow? 

 

Cautionary note!! 

Looking at magazine

The enthusiasm induced by looking through seed catalogs can lead to ambitious plans and a bountiful garden with more produce than you can manage to eat.  This, of course, is a wonderful problem to have! Apply to sell at your local farmers’ market, start a food stand, or share with co-workers and neighbors. Your local food bank will also be happy to receive your extra harvest. Check out ampleharvest.org for a place nearby to donate. 

 

Guest

Harvest and Seed Saving Tips for a Fun Fall!

Harvest and Seed Saving Tips for a Fun Fall!

 Welcome August and the bounty of the summer garden! This is a wonderful time of year to share some of your prize veggies with your friends and brag a bit about your growing skills in the garden (pun intended). We know how to enjoy our harvest, but we often miss a secondary harvest that will reap many rewards for you—saving seeds! Even if you didn’t garden this year, you can save seeds from the foods you eat.

The world of seed saving can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be to get started. Starting out is simple and only requires a few household items, time and experimentation. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Saving the cost of seed for the next growing cycle
  2. Knowing the source of your seed and its production conditions
  3. Self-reliance and increased confidence
  4. Fascination with the history of seeds!  (Warning, it can become an obsession.)
  5. Breeding your own, localized varieties—and naming them
  6. Refining varieties that are adapted to your local environment b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_1781.jpg

So how do you get started?

1. Gather seeds from foods you’ve grown and foods you like to eat (especially organic foods). ★

       Here are some suggestions for getting started: peppers, squash, tomatoes (note these need to be fermented), beans, peas

2. Treat the seeds: Tomatoes need to be submerged in water for about three days until the gelatinous coating ferments off and the seeds are able to be dried on a paper towel. This is one of the more “science lab” types of seeds to be saved. Most seeds just need to be left to dry out for a few days. Remove any seeds that seem damaged or affected by mold or bacteria. 

3. Label and store. Once the seeds are dry, you can store them away for use in the future. Seeds should be labeled (type, specific variety, date saved, source). They should be stored in cool, dry storage. Some seed savers stick their silica packets from consumer goods in the oven to reactivate them and then put them in the envelopes or tins or jars with the seeds. I re-use envelopes from mailings and store my seeds in tins organized by the next season I’ll start sowing them.

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_1785_20150823-213857_1.JPGYour seeds are now waiting for their chance to shine in your garden!

 

Resource for further reading and research:

Ashworth, Suzanne. Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners. Seed Savers Exchange, 2002. 

★ Organic foods may have a better possibility of being more true between the vegetable or fruit you eat and the next generation. But not always. Buying from local farmers that use open-pollinated (and even heirloom) vegetable seed is the best option. However, even if you have a hybrid in your seed collection, by continuing to select for the best qualities, you can arrive at something unique and valuable. 

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Guest

Key Strategies to Keep Your Seeds on Track this Year

Key Strategies to Keep Your Seeds on Track this Year

 And they’re off! Spring has sprung and it’s time and past time for seedlings to be in their trays. Questions abound…will they sprout? Did I plant them too early? Too late? Are there enough? Too many? When do I water them? When do I transplant them? Where should I source my seeds?


What to plant?

1. Plant what you like to eat!

2. Plant what will grow in your zone and bear fruit in a season. The zone refers to the area you live and how many months of frost-free growing you have in that area. Zone 3, for example, has three months of growing between the last frost of spring and the first of the fall.  Zone 10 has ten months of frost-free growing). Latitude, proximity to the coasts, aspect in relation to the sun, and elevation above sea level all affect zones. Microclimates affect the success of plants. These shady, cool spots or warm sheltered places within your yard make a difference.

3. Plant what will work within your limiting factors. Consider the amount of light/shade; water availability; wind exposure; soil composition; your time limits). These factors can make the difference between beautiful tomatoes or wilty plants. It is important to be clear about your time, too. We all have the best of intentions in April—and busy lives in July and August when the weeds are thick and the harvest is coming on.

4. Don’t plant everything you want to grow. If you are only going to plant out a few tomatoes or squash plants; it makes more sense to buy from a nursery or farmers’ market vendor.

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Where to source seeds?

Look for more on this topic soon, but suffice it to say for now that we need more seed variety in this country. There are several good seed companies and they all need your support. Look for seed companies local to you. Look for seed companies that produce seed in a zone like yours. Look for open-pollinated and heirloom varieties. Buy organic seed if you can. Borrow from (and replenish) a seed library.           

Consider the possibility of starting to save your own seeds to start next year. With a little prior proper planning on your part, you can begin to breed your own varieties suited to your specific area. And you get to name your creation!

Some of our favorite seed companies: http://www.johnnyseeds.comhttp://www.superseeds.comhttps://www.horizonherbs.comhttp://www.burpee.com


When to plant?

This is a combination of factors. Most important is the length of time to fruition and the length of your season. Most seed packets and catalogs list when to plant and the number of days until germination and fruition. Start some plants indoors well before the average last frost. Start hardier plants outdoors (most of these can also start in trays).  Note: Trays are more subject to chill temperatures. They need the protection of plastic or a building or a heat mat to produce well. Likewise they need regular watering to maintain soil moisture.

To get continuous production in your garden, you can seed plants every several days within the window for each type of plant. For example, if radishes are your thing and you have a six month growing season, you can plant radishes every week. Radishes take about 30 days to harvest. You would have a regular harvest every week, or until it gets to be too warm or until you tire of radishes.

 

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Caring for Seedlings

We plant out several varieties of greens in trays each spring. We fill other trays with mini-rows of brassicas (cabbage/broccoli family). We even put beets and parsnips in trays. The ends of the mature root crops may not look perfect, but their success from a tray vs. direct seeding in the soil makes it worth it.  

The seedlings need light, heat, and closely-regulated moisture. They need a good, nutrient –rich soil for their growth. This soil should be light and fluffy so the roots can spread out and growth healthy plants. A well-grown seedling will have more of its mass in its roots than the stems or leaves. At the same time, the leaves and stem should be strong, a vibrant color and free of blemishes.

Start seedlings close together in rows and transplant them into individual spaces. These can be individual pots or larger spaces in deeper trays. Give them a few days to adjust to the new conditions. Then “harden them off” by leaving the plants outdoors for longer periods of time until they adjust. Now you are ready to transplant them into their garden tower or permanent growing bed.

Now, how to distribute all the extra seedlings grown? And we're off to start the next batches of seedlings!

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