The first seed catalogues of 2008, Richters Herbs and West Coast Seeds (in that order), recently arrived in my mailbox, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner even if the outdoor temperatures say otherwise.
I’m going to admit here that while I have the words, “Start to plan this year’s gardens” jotted down for Wed. January 2008 as a reminder in my day planner, I haven’t actually started much of anything. Okay who am I kidding? I haven’t started anything period. Nothing is started. I did a bit in the fall when my hand was forced by the Great Canadian Garlic Collection but nothing has happened since. The fact that I had to write it down as a reminder at all is a sure sign that I am either busy (which I am) or that my personal garden style, which tends more towards whim and fancy doesn’t lend itself to hardcore planning. It’s not that I don’t plan, it’s just that I make “plans” that are always amenable to last minute changes. While I am great at “selling” others on a leftover seedling that I’ve got to get rid of, I am also easily persuaded by the seeds and seedlings of others. Come planting season for every plant I get rid of, there are an equal number of unplanned additions that are welcomed into the fold for one reason or another.
My gardens are small and limited by any number of factors (i.e. light, location) which means that one or two unaccounted plants can throw even the most flexible arrangement out the window. As an example: I don’t like eggplant. In fact eggplant makes my mouth itch, but I have been persuaded to grow another gardener’s leftover eggplant seedling/s on more than one occasion.
But not this year! This year I am going hardcore on the planning. Don’t even try to stop me. I am unstoppable. I am an undeviating, relentless machine for planning. Once I get started. Which I haven’t.
So of course, like every year, as the catalogues arrive on my doorstep I am circling everything with a fervor knowing full well that I will never find the space for my wishlist. I haven’t made any purchases so far but here’s what I have found of interest in the first two catalogues.
Just a note to state that neither of these companies are paying me to write about them. If that ever were to happen I would indicate as such.
From Richters Herbs
- Medinette Basil – It is no secret that I love basil and am always on the lookout for varieties to try. This one is touted as a compact basil with leaves that are larger than your typical bush basil. Sounds good to me.
- Calypso Orange Calendula (Calendula officinalis ‘Calypso Orange’) – I particularly love calendula in my community garden plot because it is beautiful and long-blooming, self-seeding in the garden, the flowers and leaves are edible, it has great skin-healing properties, and it grows well as a companion alongside other less attractive food plants. The calendula always seems to invite all kinds of spiders and beneficial insects into the garden and I rarely leave a visit to my plot without taking home a handful of fresh blooms to put in a vase or dry. Richters is promoting this variety as particularly medicinally potent variety with dark centres that make it worth trying for the beautifying factor.
- Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) – Tastes like a mild garlic but it not a garlic at all but an amaryllis. I am particularly sold on the pretty flowers that are said to bloom throughout the summer.
- Afrodite Parsley (Petroselinum crispum crispum) – Although parsley has a special place in my heart as the first plant I ever grew, I have to admit that I don’t particularly like to grow it and pretty much haven’t since the early 90s. But I’ve been thinking this is the year to pick it up again and this curly variety described as looking like “lush moss” might have me sold.
From West Coast Seeds
- Orca Beans – Okay let’s face facts here: I have such a backlog of beans waiting in cue to be grown in my gardens that there is no way these are going to make it anytime soon. The catalogue states this type is “fun for kids” but as a gardener who gets excited about pretty beans I have to say these are fun all around. So pretty! And an heirloom to boot. And you know me, give me a good back story and I’m sold.
- Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Brassica oleraceae) – This cold-hardy, spring sprouting biennial sounds fascinating but my guess is that it’s not really suitable for my climate. I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried it.
- ‘Atomic Red’ Carrot (Daucus carota) – I’m pretty partial to ‘Purple Haze’ but this bright red carrot sure is hard to resist.
- ‘Black Spanish Round’ Radish (Raphanus sativus) – Now that I have mastered the radish it is time to branch out into new terrain.
I took this photo back in October (Is it really very nearly the end of the year already?) on our trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, I can not recall which plant this is. I might have known what it was when I took the photo having more of the plant for context. And there is always the possibility that I might have known it based on a photo of the flowers rather than the seed pods. I have never been very good about keeping track of the plants I take photos of, relying on what I always think is a good memory only to realize later that I have no idea what the heck this thing is.
I’m excited about a plan to add a regular photo feature to the site in the New Year as a way for me to actually use some of the countless plant and garden photos I take during the growing season. I am especially excited about showing more of my film photography because that is actually where my heart is. It is a big part of my life (and my gardening life) but has never really felt like it had a home here. I’ve got to do a separate design for it since I want to be able to post those photos larger than 450 pixels wide hence the wait until after the New Year.
I want this book! We took a week off last month, staying at the home of an avid tomato gardener whose name I have not sought permission to reveal (and therefore will not). While there she introduced me to the Kokopelli Seed Foundation, a non-profit organization based in France who are working to actively address issues of food security and preserve biodiversity by producing organic open-pollinated seeds as well as educating and promoting these issues globally.
One of their projects is the book, “The Seeds of Kokopelli” by Dominique Guillet is a massive 440 page, hardcover tome introducing Kokopelli’s work and farms, as well as proper pollination, seed production and saving techniques for an assortment of vegetables. The bulk of the book functions as a food plant directory introducing thousands of open-pollinated and heirloom herb and vegetable varieties. My host had the French version of the book at her home
(“Les Semences de Kokopelli“) which proved to be a bit of a tease given that I could only gaze at the photos, picking up a line or two of French here and there. Even still, on quick glance the book introduced me to a few interesting varieties that I’ve got on my list for next year including:
What I saw has absolutely convinced me to order a English edition for myself. $46 (includes shipping to Canada) is an excellent price for such a massive encyclopedia of plants. The price including shipping to the US is a deal at $34-38.
Sure we’re already mid-way into the growing season but it’s not too late to plant seeds and it is certainly not too late to buy seeds with pretty packaging. I found these Asian seeds by Kitazawa Seed Co. at Soko Hardware in an Francisco’s Japantown and could not resist their understated but well-designed packages for my collection.
I plan to try out the watercress seeds immediately as an experiment and will use the daikon seeds in my sprouter. I already have my shiso crop in place for this year and being hardy self-seeders probably won’t need the seeds next year but I thought, What the hey, and bought them anyways.
Browsing through the website I can see that they have a huge selection of Asian veggies and herbs that I have never seen anywhere else. Check out ‘Tankuro’, a black seeded soybean, ‘Japanese Long Scarlet‘ an elongated, red radish, and ‘Kurogoma‘ black sesame seeds! Too late and too much for this year but possibles for next year’s experiments.
Gaze upon this lineup of vine-ripened tomatoes I photographed last fall in my pal Amy’s garden. Remember fresh, ripe, sweet, rich, juicy tomatoes? On toast. With fresh, homegrown basil. Don’t forget to get your tomato seedlings started so you can enjoy these babies come August!
And if you’re in Toronto next week I’ll be giving a hands-on workshop on starting seeds at Grassroots Environmental Products Store.
Get your hands dirty and learn the ins and outs of starting veggies, herbs, and flowers from seed in this hands-on, organic growing workshop. Thrifty hints and tips for beginners, apartment dwellers and small space gardeners. Participants will each take a seedling-to-be home with them.
When: Monday, April 23, 2007. 7:30 pm
Where: 372 Danforth Ave, Toronto (at Chester subway)
$10 ($5 students/seniors/unwaged)
Pre-registration and payment is necessary to reserve a space.
Space is limited to 20 people. Register at either Grassroots locations or call (416) 466-2841.