Planning the 2018 Vegetable Garden!

Happy New Year!

 Here’s to New Vegetable Garden Adventures!

I would have posted sooner, but while I was researching seed varieties for this year’s vegetable garden the motherboard on my computer decided to give up. sigh… Cost to repair my pc was the same as buying a new one. Sooo, bought a new HP and spent two days troubleshooting, trying to get that one to update and not drop the internet whenever I clicked on anything… bummer, right out of the box, a defective drive (or card, depending on which “geek” I talked to).

Was told to bring it in to exchange for another. Returned to store to exchange it, no more in stock. Off to the Destiny store and swapped it for a Dell. With the exception that all my passwords and last year’s gardening info is on my old computer, everything is working and this one seems to be just fine. I still need to connect the old drive to this pc… OK, on to today’s topic…

Seed catalogs!

My New Seed Catalogs Arrived!

I guess I’m a bit old-school, but I enjoy a good old fashioned seed catalog. There is great joy to be found flipping pages back and forth, comparing the descriptions of new vs old varieties. You can make notes on the pages, circle the ones that have potential and make your final list based on things like growth habit, size, disease resistance, expected yields and “days to harvest”. Sometimes the picture or name compels you to try it. Mine was seeing “Cucamelons” for the first time! Last year it was “Chioggia” Beets! This year it’s “Listada de Gandia” Eggplant, an heirloom from Valencia!

Eventually I do log on to their sites, as there is usually more information to be found there. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are usually more seed varieties listed there, which results in amending your first “final” list. I usually amend mine at least 4 or 5 times before I place my orders. Once you’ve done all your research and have decided on which seeds to buy, ordering is simpler online, too. This year I am buying from these three sources:

Botanical Interests

Last year I came across this seed company for the first time. I immediately fell in love with their packaging! Instead of the usual plant or produce photo on the packet they use hand drawn botanical illustrations. Totally frame-worthy art. The back of the packet holds the usual description of size, planting depth and more. The unique thing that sets them apart from the rest, is that the inside of the packet is full of interesting educational information including plant history, recipes, growing tips and even a drawing of the emerging seedling so you know what is sprouting. Their seeds are all untreated and offer a very good selection of certified organic seeds. Last year’s seed did extremely well, so I am ordering more from them this year. You can even print out their beautiful botanical coloring books here. They are offering 30% off all seed starting supplies and all new 2018 seed varieties thru 1/31/2018!

Burpee

Burpee is my go to, not only for seed, but for more online information about seed starting, timing, and growth habits of most vegetables and herbs. They offer a large selection of organic seed and untreated. Sign up for their newsletter and you will receive emails about new plants and seeds, frequent sales and specials and timely gardening information. I have never been disappointed in the quality of their seeds and the germination rates have always been close to 100% for everything I’ve planted. They have a lot of good information available in the form of articles and videos, and customer service is great! I ordered from them again this year.

True Leaf Market

True Leaf Market is new to me this year. I had never heard of them, but I received a gift certificate for them for Christmas. (Now that’s a good gift choice for me!) I didn’t have a catalog for them so I went straight online. Nice selection, again lots of organic choices, microgreen and sprouting seeds, fermenting supplies, garden supplies . Some plant descriptions were more descriptive and extensive than others, but all in all it was pretty good. I used my gift certificate today and look forward to my seeds arriving soon! I will post an update review after things get growing.

It’s Getting Close to Decision Time.

If you are starting some of your seeds indoors it’s getting closer to start time for some of us. Tomatoes and peppers should be started 6-8 weeks before last frost date (start by March 15 here). Some things like celery and rosemary take 12 weeks to start! (that would be by Feb. 15th!) Here is a post about starting your own seeds indoors.  I didn’t want to be too repetitive about vegetable garden planning, so you can refer back to this earlier post from last year which explains a bit more about choosing which vegetables to grow.

Remember the vegetable garden journals or notebooks I keep advising everyone to write everything down in? Unless you have perfect recall, these notes will make your seed choices a lot easier.

OK, you grew a tomato last year that was absolutely delicious… what variety was it? You really like green beans, but the one you grew last year was stringy and did not produce well… what variety was it? You love squash, but the one you grew had 12 foot vines that took over the entire garden… Did certain plants fail due to a heat wave, lack of water, monsoon-like rain or insects, or did everything go right and a vegetable just wasn’t that great or what you expected? Did you not get enough harvest (or too much) from something and need to plant more (or less) this year? These things should be considered when choosing the right seeds for your  2018 vegetable garden.

Keep, Try again or just Fuhgeddaboudit?

Keep. You grew something last year that you just loved. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a keeper so Grow it again!

Try again. You grew it and liked it but something went wrong. Vacation and no one was home to water, no rain, too much rain, didn’t plant it in a sunny enough spot, allow it room to grow or give it a support to grow on, etc? You probably know or suspect what went wrong, so if you really liked it, try again.

Fuhgeddaboudit. You grew something, didn’t like it, took up too much time or garden space, or nobody in your family ate it. Just fuhgeddaboudit and try something else. Remember, you are growing what you will be eating, so don’t plant what you won’t eat!

And while you’re deciding, try adding something new! A new vegetable, fruit, herb, or just a different variety of a veggie you already like. Try purple beans, black cherry tomatoes, white beets or even golden cauliflower. Who knows, it could become your new favorite! This year I am trying celery, lima beans and stevia as well as some new varieties of old favorites.

There is so much I read or hear people say that isn’t always accurate when it comes to the next topic. I will make this pretty short and sweet to help make your seed decisions easier.

Heirlooms, Hybrids and GMOs

Heirlooms.

Just like the set of dishes your Mother passed down to you, it is something old and loved. Well, not always loved, but that’s another story… Heirloom varieties technically are the same now as what was grown decades or centuries ago, and have been passed down from one generation to the next within a family or community. You can save and store the seeds from heirloom vegetables to plant the following year and the vegetables would be the same from year to year. This is true unless nature intervenes…when pollen from another nearby variety gets in the mix.

Hybrids.

A hybrid plant happens when one variety of say, a tomato, is grown in close proximity to another variety. Bees, bugs and wind cause pollen to be deposited from one to the other. Or when pollen from two different varieties or species is crossed with some human intervention. Any seeds saved from these now cross-pollinated tomatoes could grow into something different… a combination of, or having traits from both parent plants. Sometimes the results are getting the worse traits from both parents. Sometimes these traits are desirable and a definite improvement from the original plants. Plant breeders do this to develop new plants that are improved in some way. Consider the Kentucky Blue pole bean.

 Kentucky Wonder pole beans were cross pollinated with Blue Lake beans in an attempt to develop a straighter bean for the Japanese market. The resulting Kentucky Blue was straighter, but it also didn’t become stringy if it wasn’t picked quickly enough and was sweeter. Another happy surprise was that it was also naturally resistant to some strains of Bean Rust and the Mosaic Virus. 

There is nothing wrong or unhealthy about hybrids. The only problem comes with saving the seed to replant next year. The resulting seed will be genetically unstable, could be sterile, will most likely not produce the same vegetable that you got the seed from, and will be considerably less vigorous.

GMO’s.

The 10 genetically modified crops available so far include: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets. GM seed is currently only available to farmers. They are not available to the average backyard gardener from seed companies for home use. Some seed companies, or their parent companies, have been purchased by Monsanto and others, but the seed available to you is not genetically modified. The food you might buy in grocery stores on the other hand… let’s just say it’s probably better to grow your own.

The genetically modified seed is produced in labs, where they take the genes that carry desired traits such as salt, disease or drought resistance, etc. from one organism (a plant, mold, bacteria, etc) and inject that directly into a seed. This is a HUGE difference from just hybridizing two plant varieties.

There is a lot of talk on both sides of this coin. From one side, the GMO Frankenseeds are toxic and will kill you and the Earth, and that is all there is to know.

From the other side, they have increased nutrition value, increased food production and there is less environmental impact from farming and that is all they will tell you.

In my humble opinion, I think we need to learn a lot more facts about the implications of GMO’s. But until then, rest assured that the seed you are buying for your vegetable garden is safe. Also, if you buy from small local organic farmers you can always ask them about where they get their seed and if it is non-GMO.

Now if I could only get everybody to give up the chemicals and grow an organic vegetable garden I would say my job here is done and that I have truly made a difference in my little corner of the world.

 

 

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