I spent some time with my seed catalogs this weekend and got all the seeds ordered and bought for the coming gardening season. Woot! None of that business like last year when I didn’t start one seed inside, no sirreee. I learned my lesson as I had to shop at a number of nurseries and stores and still couldn’t find all the varieties I usually plant each year. In the ten years that I had consistently started seeds of tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, etc. I had forgotten what it was like to be at the whim of whoever decides what varieties to offer.
Luckily, last season wasn’t a complete loss since my lovely blog friend, Shannan, shared some of her seeds with me – which coincidentally were mainly the varieties I like, too. Great minds and all that…
So with this experience fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share with you some of the great reasons to start your main garden plants from seed as well as share how I plan and organize, and a few of the new-to-me varieties on my list. I hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts in the comments, too.
Why bother starting seeds?
I wrote all about this last year with links to lots of how-tos. Seems like I needed to be reminded of this, too!
Buying & Organizing Seeds
- Make a list of the seeds you have from the previous year(s). Some are viable for 2-5 years.
- Next to that list, write down the seeds you need to buy, like ‘shell pea or ‘1 roma tomato.’
- Go through your favorite catalogs to find the specific varieties you want to try of the ones you need and write the names next to the “need to buy” column.
- Now you have two options: buy seeds from a store or the catalogs. I usually take the list to a store offering 40% off quality seeds (Fred Meyer here) in order to get each packet for $1-1.50 each. What I don’t find there, I order from catalogs. I order online and the bulk of my order is from Pinetree Garden Seeds. I also buy a few from Territorial, another great catalog to get.
A few varieties I’m trying (with updated information on what I thought):
Fortex pole green bean.
Of course I grow a 10-ft. row of Emerite pole beans every year, but I like to try a different variety on another 10-ft. row. I’ve read a lot of good things about the flavor and production of Fortex (a filet like Emerite, which are my favorite).
Result: I LOVE this bean – it’s a great compliment to the timing of Emerite, so I now grow these two beans only – I’ve stopped trying other varieties!
Soloist Chinese cabbage.
When I’ve grown Chinese cabbage in the past they are all ready at once and they are huge, so it was hard to use them before they went bad. These are smaller heads that are somewhat heat tolerant (for a C. cabb, that is) so I think they will be good for early spring and fall production.
Result: They all did mature at once, but the smaller heads were a lot easier to use up. I didn’t try them for fall. Will grow again.
Early Frosty shell pea.
I already grow Cascadia snap pea and Oregon Sugar Pod snow pea, but I haven’t found a shell pea that I like as well. This pea is good for places with cold springs (definitely the NW) and short seasons (sometimes) yet produces a full-size pod.
Result: this is a good shell pea option. They didn’t hold well on the vine, though, so I think I’ll keep trying others if I want shell peas.
Jarrahdale blue/gray squash.
I’ve been wanting to grow one of these for years and now that our daughter isn’t interesting in carving pumpkins anymore, I don’t have to grow orange pumpkins and have room for these – along with my favorite white pumpkin, Lumina.
Result: LOVE these so much for decorating. I now grow them every year, making sure to save the seeds from the previous year.
Speckled Roman tomato.
I actually think I have grown this before, but I read someone’s blog who said this is their staple roma tomato each year, so I’m giving it another go. Plus, it’s so fun looking, isn’t it? And the other new tomato I wanted to try was already sold out (it’s January, for pete’s sake!), so this guy’s it for a “new” tomato.
Result: Now I remember why I didn’t grow them anymore. They are mushy and oddly shaped and just didn’t produce as well as solid red tomatoes for me. Oh well.
What about you – anyone thinking about vegetables, flowers, and herbs?