It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Words cannot express how excited I get over picking out new seeds. I am also thrilled to be writing about my garden again. I know it is still months away from thawing out, but this is the time of year I can actually imagine it existing again – I haven’t seen anything resembling a garden in my yard since some time in early November. I guess November wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like its been a year, especially when the really cold weather hit.
Before I get too deep into things here, I must say that I do not need any new seeds. I have more seeds in my collection than I could probably ever plant (especially tomatoes), but that isn’t going to stop me from acquiring more. I always plant the tried and true, but I also love to experiment and grow new things – it is just part of what keeps me coming back, even if the experiments fail. I’m sure lots of people can relate to this. And because I need to further justify my purchasing more seeds, I usually end up giving away seeds to friends and family. Still don’t need new seeds, whatever.
I usually casually start the process of selecting seeds for the next growing season at the end of the last gardening season – making notes of things that worked well, seeds that may need to be replenished, or things that I’d love to try. Thankfully I was ahead of the ball last year because I took the initiative to go through my three binders of seeds (yes, three), and toss any seeds that I was never going to plant again or that may not be viable anymore (this means old seed or seed that may not be very old, but that is past its prime – we’ll talk about seed viability on another day). I was hoping that by sorting through my seeds, I would miraculously be left with a reasonable amount of varieties, thereby making it easier for me to select what I would be planting. Hahaha! That didn’t happen. I still have like 30 varieties of tomatoes and no where near the room to grow them. Is that stopping me from buying more tomato seeds? No. I’m a gardener, I want to grow all of the everything.
Anyway, this year was actually pretty easy when it came to selecting which types of vegetables I wanted to grow. I knew that I didn’t want to grow eggplant because I failed hard at it the last four seasons (last year was the biggest success year with one eggplant being about the side of a halloween-sized candy bar – if you can call that success?). I might come back to eggplant another year, but thankfully we have a good local grower so I’ll just continue buying them from someone else and save myself the disappointment. Then there are the brassicas. Kale is in – I always seem to have good success with kale and it is something I can easily grow in the community allotment (no one wants to steal kale and it doesn’t mind being neglected), but anything else in that family is out. It’s not like I can’t grow it – I did have a little bit of success last year with cauliflower. But the caterpillars love to slither their tiny green bodies over the brassicas and munch holes through the leaves. Then lay their disgusting eggs all over it. And then I eat the eggs and caterpillars grow inside of my stomach (maybe). Anyway, no brassicas, besides kale.
Alright, now let’s talk about what I will be growing. The ultimate list will be at the bottom of this post, but I wanted to elaborate on some of the selections so I’ll go in to more detail now.
Tomatoes: My favorite things to grow are tomatoes. Growing them in my climate is a bit of a risk. I usually stick with the smaller varieties of tomatoes because I know I’ll have at least some success with them. The larger varieties are usually out for me, which does make it slightly easier to select varieties for growing (don’t get me wrong, there are like 1 million smaller varieties to choose from, but subtract that from the 2 million larger varieties and it does make a bit of a difference). So first I make cuts from the seeds I already own – if there is a variety that I just didn’t like the taste of last year, it gets thrown in the “NO” pile, same thing if it was just a crappy plant (blight, unhealthy plant, etc). Sorry rejects. Everything else goes in the “MAYBE” pile and then I divide those seeds into categories based on color. If there is only one variety per color category, that tomato gets the privilege of growing in my garden. If there are more than one variety per color category, I must make hard decisions. Do I grow all of those varieties? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I usually have a really hard time with the green tomato varieties because those are my favorite taste-wise, so I more often than not, end up growing all of them. When it comes to selecting new varieties I always select varieties that I have not planted before – this year I am really into dwarf tomatoes (which is good because they are very small plants, hence dwarf variety). I’ve also selected a few varieties that I like the look of (a yellow/blue variety, yes please!). And then I end up cursing myself when it comes time to plant them in the garden because I’ve grown 30 tomato plants and comfortably have room for 20. Off to the garden centre to buy more pots!
Peppers: If you’ve been reading the blog since last growing season, you’ll know that I only really got into growing hot peppers about a year ago. I’d grown them a little before that, but my season is short and cold, so they are not exactly an ideal candidate for me. But last year was the first full growing season with my greenhouse, so my ability to successfully grow peppers increased significantly. Choosing pepper varieties was actually a lot easier than the tomatoes. I knew which ones I wanted to grow from the seed I already had and I had a better idea of what I was looking for in a hot pepper (I like the milder hot peppers and my husband like the really, really hot ones). I knew that I wanted a few sweet pepper varieties as well, so that was fairly simple. I also knew that I wanted to grow every type of habanero pepper I could get my hands on. I think growing hot peppers is my new thing.
Squash: This was sort of easy, sort of hard. Easy because I was and wasn’t restricted with space. I knew I wanted to grow a few of the larger vine pumpkins in my alley in the raised compost bed (formerly Sod Mountain) – space isn’t really a concern here, it is out of the way and not technically in my yard (the parking space and compost bins are on our property, but are not actually in the fenced in portion of our yard). It is risky growing things in this area because of pests of the animal and human variety, but I have been growing raspberries in the alley for several years and I haven’t gotten any horrible diseases yet, so whatever. The main thing will be actually remembering to water the plants back there (out of sight, out of mind?). When it comes to actual yard space, maybe I don’t have the most room for squash, so I try to select my varieties based on size. I have quite a few compact bush-type squash, so that works well for my raised beds or larger pots. I do grow a few of the larger varieties vertically so that also helps with the space issue. I have plans to build some raised beds in the front yard for growing vegetables, which will expand my options for growing space, but I don’t have an actual timeline on that project so for now I’m just planning for the space I have. The point is, I am going to start quite a few squash plants in the house and I may or may not have space for them.
Flowers: For a few years I actually believed that planting flowers was a waste of perfecting good vegetable growing space. Oh how wrong I was. Planting flowers that will attract beneficial insects is probably just as important as planting vegetables to ensure a thriving and healthy garden. And it is so easy. I’ve gotten in to the habit the last few years of sticking random marigolds in to my raised beds, but last year I did the same with zinnias (which are now my favorite). I don’t have a ton of flowers on my wishlist, but the few that I do have are ones that will provide a bit of extra color throughout the growing season, as well as attract the little bees and butterflies that I love seeing in my garden.
And lastly, I always try to plant something completely new-to-me each year, so this year I’ve chosen cow peas, fava beans, orach, mexican sour gherkins, sorrel, and shisho.
The Big Seed List 2015:
Blue Gold Berries (indeterminate)
Purple Bumble Bee (indeterminate)
Sunrise Bumble Bee (indeterminate)
Blue Beauty (indeterminate)
Golden Bison (determinate)
Hahms Gelbe (dwarf)
Ditmarsher (determinate – hanging basket variety)
Lime Green Salad (dwarf)
Pearly Pink Orange (dwarf, hanging basket variety)
Yellow Pygmy (dwarf)
Pimiento De Padron
Mini Chocolate Bell
Mini Yellow Bell
Crookneck Early Golden (summer)
Marina Di Chioggia Pumpkin (winter)
Jarrahdale Pumpkin (winter)
Thai Kang Kob Pumpkin (winter)
White Acorn Squash (winter)
Zucchini-Lungo Bianco Squash (summer)
Patisson Panache Blanc Et Vert Scallop Squash (summer)
Patisson Strie Melange Squash (summer)
Lemon Squash (summer)
Meraviglia Di Venezia Bean
Alaska Garden Pea
Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto Fava Bean
Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber
Dragon’s Egg Cucumber
Bloody Dock Red Sorrel
Queen Lime Red Zinnia
Royal Purple Zinnia
Morning Dew Pansy (edible)
Mary Helen Marigold
Okay now to go burn my seed catalogs before I start to add things on to my seed order.
Seed sources: Tatiana’s Tomatobase (Canada), Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (USA), Heritage Harvest Seed (Canada), West Coast Seeds (Canada)