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December 04, 2023
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Gardening: It's Time to Order the Seeds

The spiral tips of broccoli romanesco
The spiral tips of broccoli romanesco
Thousands of seeds to choose from
Thousands of seeds to choose from
February 28, 2007

It’s the end of February, the latest I have ever ordered my seeds for starting indoors but soon enough to start the germination process by mid-March. Depending on the crop, I normally start the seeds six-to-eight weeks before transplanting them outdoors. Here in Cornwall-on-Hudson we are in zone 5b, and based on the guidelines of how our climate sIhould behave, the last frost should occur by April 30. Most gardners here do not start planting until after May 15.

However, being the type of person who shows up early for everything, I try to force an early start to the growing season by planting seedlings on Mother Day’s weekend. Mother’s Day is my weekend, when I don’t have to take care of the three men who make up the rest of my household, two boys and a husband. I can work all day in the garden if I want to and let someone else worry about what’s to eat or if the kitchen sink is clean.

I placed my order for seeds on the internet after I had studied the dozen seed catalogues that were delivered to my door. This year, I decided to order only organic seeds for planting. I have never used chemical fertilizer or pesticides in my garden and although I probably couldn’t meet the federal standards of organic produce, it is close enough for me.

Only three of my catalogues offered a good array of organic seeds, Abundant Life Seeds, Seeds of Change, and Johnny’s Seeds. Abundant Life Seeds features many rare varieties and also runs the Organic Seed Alliance, which supports the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed. Along with a wide variety of seeds, Seeds of Change also markets a line of organic food products that you can find in most stores. Finally, Johnny’s Seeds, based in Maine, offers a limited variety of organic seeds.

Here’s what I ordered:

Healthy Sweet Red Peppers that promise great taste and ability to ripen in cool, cloudy summers. Last August was quite rainy and cool, but there is no telling what the weather will be this year. I’m taking a chance with these peppers, but they look worth the risk.

Tennis Ball Loose Leaf Lettuce, a black-seeded lettuce popular in the 17th-century that Thomas Jefferson, a prolific gardener, grew at Monticello. At seven inches, it is smaller than many other varieties and more appropriate for my small gardening space.

Marketmore Cucumbers, a standard cucumber for slicing.

Wautoma Cucumbers are cukes that grow only 4-5 inches long and are perfect for pickling. I tried my hand at pickling cucumbers last year and while the results were far from perfect, I will give it a try again.

Long Island Brussel Sprouts take a long time to grow and are tastiest when harvested after the first frost of fall. Surprisingly, I found only one company offering these organic seeds.

Russian Banana Potatoes, an heirloom gourmet fingerling variety brought to this country by Russian settlers. This will be the first time I have planted a root crop.

Waltham Butternut Squash, a favorite!

San Marzano Tomatoes are tasty roma tomatoes, fleshier and less watery than other varieties and perfect for sauces, canning, and paste,

Brandywine Tomatoes are heirloom tomatoes that are sweet, juicy and delicious eaten right off the vine.

I also did an inventory of the seeds I still had from last year and decided to try germinating them. That includes tangy mesclun, which I am going to plant inside now for eating later this spring, and broccoli.

I found the packet for the broccoli romanesco** seeds I had planted last year but, alas, it was empty! If anyone has a couple of seeds to spare, please let me know!

** I mistakeningly deleted my column praising the broccoli romanesco but as a reminder I hereby publish another photo of this beautiful, and tasty, vegetable.


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