From seed Ideas, Tips & Guides

Are you growing these herbs? you should be. with k greene of hudson valley seed - - India - New York - county Hudson - county Valley

Are you growing these herbs? you should be. with k greene of hudson valley seed

WHEN SHOPPING the seed catalogs, I realize I’m probably more likely to consider a tomato or pepper I haven’t grown before, or some unusual annual flower, than to try some new-to-me herb. But what a shame. I need to modify that behavior and spice things up a bit.

Expanding the zinnia palette, with siskiyou seeds’ don tipping - - New York - state Oregon

Expanding the zinnia palette, with siskiyou seeds’ don tipping

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE about zinnias? Organic seed farmer and breeder Don Tipping of Siskiyou Seeds and I both vote an emphatic “yes” in favor of making zinnias a part of every garden year.

Getting organized for seed season, with ken druse - - state New Jersey

Getting organized for seed season, with ken druse

IF YOU THINK nothing’s on the to-do list in winter, fellow gardeners—that we’re all meant to be dormant, like the cannas in the cellar and the herbaceous perennials outside and the flower beds—well, think again.

Time to succumb to sweet peas, with matt mattus - - state Massachusets

Time to succumb to sweet peas, with matt mattus

EVERY YEAR when I get to the sweet pea listings in the seed catalogs, I think: This is the year, the year I’ll organize some supports in the garden for them, and indulge in their unmatched extravagance of color and fragrance.

Seed catalogs to love, with jennifer jewell - - state California - state New York

Seed catalogs to love, with jennifer jewell

HO-HO-HO: It’s seed season, among other festive reasons to celebrate in December. Today I invited a similarly seed-obsessed friend, Jennifer Jewell, to help me curate some seed-catalog recommendations you might not otherwise browse, and to talk seeds in general.

Seed shopping, with lia babitch of turtle tree seed - - city New York - New York

Seed shopping, with lia babitch of turtle tree seed

LET THE seed shopping season begin. The 2024 offerings are being loaded into seed-catalog websites, and the earliest print catalogs are already arriving in our mailboxes, as if to help soften the separation anxiety we may feel if we’ve already put our gardens to bed for the winter.

How to grow shallots (+ some late-season succession tips), with k greene - - New York - county Hudson - county Valley

How to grow shallots (+ some late-season succession tips), with k greene

The harvest video was on Hudson Valley Seed’s Instagram account, and one of that New York-based organic seed company’s co-founders, K Greene, talked with me about growing shallots and their more commonly grown cousin, garlic. He also shared some other ideas for succession sowing of edibles whose planting time still lies ahead—whether for fall harvest or to over-winter and enjoying in the year ahead. Read along as you listen to the Aug. 7, 2023 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) o

Ripening tomatoes—and saving seed, with craig lehoullier - - state North Carolina

Ripening tomatoes—and saving seed, with craig lehoullier

With all that in mind, I made my annual frantic call with some urgent tomato questions to today’s guest, Craig LeHoullier in North Carolina, the NC Tomato Man as he’s known on social media, author of the classic book, “Epic Tomatoes” (affiliate link). Craig knows more about these cherished fruits than almost anyone I’ve ever met. He even shares that in live sessions each week on his Instagram account where you can ask your questions and get solid answers. I asked Craig how he’s doing and what we should all be doing to bolster a bountiful harvest and also about which fruits to save next year’s seed from anyhow and other tomato questions. Read along a

Say what? the bud of all buds on angelica gigas - - North Korea

Say what? the bud of all buds on angelica gigas

A. gigas is a star of high-to-late summer, with 6-to-8-inch domed flowerheads of the darkest wine color in much of August or longer. But for me the show begins them those insane-looking buds form, always prompting garden visitors to ask “What’s that?” Indeed.This most dramatic of angelicas wants moist soil, and is adaptable in my area to sun or shade, but seems happiest in bright shade (the old happy medium of gardening conditions).To have a successful colony, as with any biennial, you need to be vigilant and not accidentally weed out your self-sown babies each spring. You also will need varying generations of plants: some at blooming age (one year old) and some babies (to bloom next year). So I suggest to get started you buy yourself some p

What ‘deep’ means (to a tomato) -

What ‘deep’ means (to a tomato)

Tomatoes will produce best if they are well-rooted, so bury them deep, right down to the topmost pair or two of leaves. They are able to root all along their stems if you plant them very deep or even sideways, in a trench. The latter goes like this: Dig a small trench about 6 to 8 inches deep and almost as long as the plant (including its rootball) is tall. Lay the plant horizontally in the trench, gently bending the top end upward, and bury all but that end with the upper pair or two of leaves. Because my soil is acidic, If I am feeling organized I give tomatoes a dose of lime in the planting hole, along with bone meal and an organic fertilizer labeled for vegetables. Some gardeners think tomatoes benefi

Big rig: my circa 1989 seed-starter stand -

Big rig: my circa 1989 seed-starter stand

YOU CAN BUY ONE IN A CATALOG, or you can make your own seed-starting rig as I did 20 years ago. It’s still growing strong. I promised the details in a comment the other day, and got reminded of my stray remark, so here they are:

Psychedelic spring: in praise of anthocyanins -

Psychedelic spring: in praise of anthocyanins

The common bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis (epecially the gold-leaf cultivar ‘Gold Heart’), gives the peonies a run for their money; so does Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf) and many heucheras. Scientists postulate that in some cases anthocyanins, flavonoid pigments which are often masked in the main growing season by the green of chlorophyll, may either serve to deter herbivores from nibbling tender new shoots or perhaps help attract pollinators, a kind of lurid “come hither” ensemble. If you don’t look like a leaf, maybe nobody will eat you–and looking like a flower extra-early increases your chance of getting pollinated when your flowers come not too long afterward.These pigments probably taste bad, too, compared to green ones–another deterrent to nibbling–and may help also tender young leaves cope with excess light (meaning the pigments are “photoprotective“).Whatever the particulars, I am happy to crawl around enjoying it, camera in hand. Crawl around with me in a quick slideshow? (Click the first thum

Planting do-over’s: more beans and greens - - Switzerland

Planting do-over’s: more beans and greens

I PUT MY BEANS UP ON A PEDESTAL because they are one of the crops that’s finally producing here in the Year of Big Rains. In fact, I just planted another whole row of bush beans, along with more collards and kale, among many things. Welcome to Week 3 of the cross-blog Summer Fest 2009: Beans and Greens Week, a perfect time (if you hurry) to fine-tune the vegetable garden and eke out some produce for late summer, fall—and beyond.

Grafted tomato plants: a juicy followup - - state Ohio

Grafted tomato plants: a juicy followup

I’d first read of the tactic being used commercially, particularly in greenhouse growing, to improve yields from less-vigorous varieties like some heirlooms, and counter certain tough conditions or diseases. Now it’s available to the home gardener, too–and you don’t even need a razor blade or grafting clips of your own.The extensive article I wrote last January on tomato grafting explained all the steps, with help from a video from Ohio State.Our plants did fine; the grafts took easily, once the initial awkwardness of the slice-and-dice-and-reconnect motions were semi-mastered. Matching up rootstock (which you behead) with a scion (the top of another plant, the one you want the tomatoes from) was the

Warts and all: the ‘bule’ gourd gang - - Greece

Warts and all: the ‘bule’ gourd gang

I SEE PERPETUAL, DEEP LAUGHTER IN GOURDS. For that reason, all are welcome at my place; in fact, one moved in with me a few winters ago and hasn’t budged since. Meet ‘Bule’ (pronounced boo-lay). With seed-catalog season imminent, it seems like a good time for introductions to such great (if oddball) botanical companions. Ready to get acquainted?

Waiting, waiting (for a ripe tomato) -

Waiting, waiting (for a ripe tomato)

I’m hoping some of my 2008 progeny will start turning red, but if not, I have a stash of green-tomato recipes. (For now I’ll hold onto them, as it’s not yet time to give up…look for them in a few weeks here, and enjoy the Oven-Roasted Tomato idea down at the bottom of this post meantime.)But really, I marvel each summer-into-fall when I stock my freezer with the harvest turned to many quarts of sauce: How did I even get one ripe fruit, considering what could have happened?No fruit. Only green fruit. Fruit with spots. Fruit with black bottoms. Fruit with cracks. Fruit eaten by marauders of every taxonomic order.Tomato leaves spotted. Or dropping off. Or eaten and just plain gone (ho

Starting to think about starting seeds -

Starting to think about starting seeds

EVEN IF I WERE STARTING LEEKS AND ONIONS indoors from seed, two of the earliest things one might sow, it isn’t time yet here in Zone 5B. But if you live in a slightly warmer zone, or want to do a mental dress-rehearsal, I’ve assembled some of the seed-starting tips and tricks from around A Way to Garden, for easier reference. More to come as the time gets closer.Seed-Starting Basics: This one is what it sounds like, the basic countdown and gear and all the rest.

Links: a thoughtful video, beginner blunders, more - - Usa

Links: a thoughtful video, beginner blunders, more

MORE RAIN THE LAST WEEK MEANS a happier landscape, and also more links to share, since I sat sidelined, waiting for breaks in the action to go out and tidy up–or take pictures of a fiery doublefile Viburnum leaf, above, and whatever else is still smoldering. From a tender video of one man’s 40-year garden-writing career, to the story of a “seed library” up in my neck of the woods, to beginner blunders and the impact of gardening on the restaurant business (think: big), the latest digital harvest:The Thoughtful GardenerAA READER SENT NEWS of the understated but powerful video from garden writer Robin Lane Fox of “The Financial Times,” who recently marked 40 years at his enviable post.

Thinking about saving seeds, with ken greene - - county Hudson - county Valley

Thinking about saving seeds, with ken greene

First, of course, you want to make sure the crop you’re considering saving seed from is open-pollinated, not a hybrid. Hybrids won’t “come true” from saved seed one generation to the next.“Start with the super-easy things,” said Ken, “like anything with a perfect flower and a pod—beans, and peas, for instance.” Perfect flowers contain both male and female parts, or stamens and pistils, such as lettuce, tomatoes, brassicas, beans; in imperfect ones, such as on squash and cucumbers, there are separate male and female flowers.“Before you even transplant your first seedling, you can start thinking about seed saving,” Ken said, and also wrote in a new article on the Seed Library blog.For beginning seed-

Dame’s rocket: asset, or invader? - - Usa - state Wisconsin

Dame’s rocket: asset, or invader?

It seems that dame’s rocket, a short-lived perennial and prodigious sower, is taking up more than its share of the natural spaces it spreads itself into (read: becoming invasive). In my area it is common along roadsides and woodland edges, in the filtered light of those spots, and really breathtaking at its peak. My plants blew in from across the road. But some states, such as Wisconsin, are noting its invasive tendency: the fact that it “escapes cultivation” so easily and takes up space that natives then must yield. Dame’s rocket has been on our shores since the 1600s, so it is no newcomer, but it is not a native American species, hailing from Eurasia. It’s often sold in “wildflower” seed mixes, and in packs by itself.What do you think about our responsibility as gardeners when it comes to growing plants that are non-native, and this enthusiastic? It’s a subject I have a fair degree of knowledge about, having collaborated on “The Natural Habitat Garden” with Ken Druse some years ago and pondered many times since. Including just the other day on this blog when H

Doodle by andre: sowing hope - - Jordan

Doodle by andre: sowing hope

WHAT BETTER WAY TO START OUR NEW ERA as a nation than by sowing seeds of hope? Thanks to a recent transplant to America, doodler Andre Jordan, for a perfect message for this historic week.

A dozen unusual nicotiana, from daggawalla - - Argentina - state Oregon

A dozen unusual nicotiana, from daggawalla

I came upon Kollibri (below, curing tobacco leaves), and his farming partner, Nikki, thanks to their listing in the online collective called Local Harvest [dot] org. Why, I wondered, was my endless Nicotiana search, already many pages deep into Google results, taking me there?I knew Local Harvest as a great place to find a nearby CSA farm to buy a share of, or to order farm-made cheeses or meats or even wildcrafted salves and soaps and such—but Nicotiana? Turns out that Kollibri and Nikki are former CSA farmers from the Portland, Oregon, area, and so the connection. And I couldn’t resist their online claim, under their internet store called Daggawalla Seeds and Herbs, founded in 2012 [UPDATE: Daggawalla is h

Succumbing to the ‘hudson valley seed library’ - - county Hudson - county Valley

Succumbing to the ‘hudson valley seed library’

Hudson Valley Seed Library’s motto is “Heirloom Seeds With Local Roots,” and they specialize in heirloom seed “rooted in the history and soils of the Northeast.” The co-founders’ goal for their first-year business is to grow all their seed locally by 2014, much of it on their land in Accord, NY. Ken Greene and Doug Muller want to rekindle the knowledge and spirit of seed-saving at a local level, “to close the loop from seed to seed that is necessary for a truly local sustainable local food system,” they say.I think it’s a great reminder for all of us, wherever we live, especially right now: We can save some of our seeds from year to year, and also share it. Fostering this kind of consciousness and engagement is what the Seed Library is excited about.Anyone anywhere can order from their web-based catalog, and there’s a way to get more involved: Join the Seed Library, for $20 a year, which includes 10 packs of seeds (plain wrappers, not the fancy ones a

Sowing spinach -

Sowing spinach

IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY to plant spinach, and in fact I often feel as if I am running behind on that score. Even though there are snow squalls predicted for later this week in my area, it’s time. Last September through Thanksgiving would have been even better.

Refresher course: thinking about starting seeds -

Refresher course: thinking about starting seeds

IT’S TOO EARLY HERE to start anything for the vegetable garden but leeks and onions, as I mentioned in the March chores, but it’s never too soon to brush up on seed-starting timing and tactics. To that end, a little refresher course:

Tips for growing better tomatoes from seed - - state New York - county Hudson - county Valley

Tips for growing better tomatoes from seed

THAT OLD, DISCARDED ELECTRIC FAN that isn’t strong enough for the hot summers of global warming…hey, bring it on. It’s perfect for accomplishing one of the tricks to growing better tomato seedlings, which is (after all) the only thing you probably really care about on the run-up to another spring. To hell with winter.

The new greenhouse - - city Brussels

The new greenhouse

THIS WEEK I BUILT A GREENHOUSE. Well, to be more correct, Susan (who has worked with me in the garden for many years, for which I am endlessly grateful), built a greenhouse.

More tomato secrets - - Italy

More tomato secrets

Although ‘Sweet 100’ and its later sibling ‘Sweet Million’ probably dominate the cherry-tomato market, even among these little tomatoes there are outstanding alternatives to be had: ‘Chadwick’s Cherry,’ carried as seed or plants by Bountiful Gardens, is an ample, golfball-size with good tomato taste; ‘Sungold’ (shown, next to two red ‘Sweet 100’ fruits) is tangerine-orange and very tasty. Your local nursery should have this.For novelty in a salad tomato, try ‘Black Prince’ (mahogany brown and juicy inside) or pink-fleshed ‘Oxheart’. There are better paste tomatoes than the standard ‘Roma’, too, like ‘Super Italian Paste’ and ‘San Marzano’ (both large-fruited).I have not even scratched the surface, of course. Territorial Seed has more than 80 kinds of tomatoes as plants for mail-order, including many, like ‘Stupice,’ rated especially for their productivity in short growing seasons like mine.I have long used the cages of all cages (and my other tomato advice). [Update: A t

Zinnias, one color at a time -

Zinnias, one color at a time

IT TAKES A VERY GOOD EYE to be able to arrange flowers of many colors in a single arrangement. Much easier (and often more striking) is a single-color theme.

Growing and storing a year of parsley - - Italy

Growing and storing a year of parsley

Curly-leaf parsley is great for edging borders, and for planting as a “ruff” around the feet of bigger plants in pots, where it will be beautiful all season, even after substantial frost. But if you want to cook, go ‘Gigante,’ or ‘Giant of Italy.’ Flat-leaf parsley has more parsley flavor, to my taste.All parsley is extremely high in nutrients, particularly Vitamin C, folates and Potassium, as well as beta carotene. In fact, a quarter-cup of raw chopped parsley has about as much C as a quarter-cup of orange juice and double the folates (more that one and a half times those, even, of raw spinach). I include raw leaflets in salads, greatly boosting the nutritional value of

‘making more plants’ with ken druse (and how to avoid damping off) - - city Brussels

‘making more plants’ with ken druse (and how to avoid damping off)

Like all of Ken’s 18 books (!!!), “Making More Plants: The Science, Art and Joy of Propagation” is rich in instruction, but also visually arresting, since he’s an award-winning photographer, too.  It covers the botany of propagation—the why’s behind how you can make more plants of a particular species sexually or asexually or both—because as Ken says:“It is not essential to learn about botany to garden well; it’s inevitable.”Then in words and intimate pictures he covers virtually every tactic for doing so, from seed-sowing to leaf and root cuttings, to layering, grafting, division and more.  The photos are so beautiful, and Ken’s obvious enthusiasm so evident on every page, that I want to try everything. (Just what I nee

Liar, liar pants on fire: my seed order, part 2 -

Liar, liar pants on fire: my seed order, part 2

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, total $15 including shipping‘Blue Lake Bush’ bean ‘Blue Hubbard’ winter squash ‘North Georgie Candy Roaster’ winter squash ‘Jumbo Pink Banana’ winter squash ‘Sweet Dumpling’ winter squash Another confession: After I posted the previous details of the order, I suddenly felt embarrassed. And then I did the math.As I mentioned in the earlier post’s comments, I haven’t bought any tomato sauce or canned tomatoes in years, for instance. Last time I looked, the organic ones are not cheap, and I use red sauce or something made with it once a week or more. If I credit myself $2 for each container of frozen or jarred meals I created from my 2009 garden produce–just $2, e

The confession: what seeds i ordered -

The confession: what seeds i ordered

Out of the 41 total items I purchased from four companies, 9 were not seeds at all: 2 were “hardware” or equipment (row covers and hoops); 4 were tubers or roots (3 kinds of potatoes and 1 of multiplier onions); 3 others were sweet potato varieties, sold as “slips.”That nets out at 32 seed items, and 12 of those are collaborative—earmarked to share with a gardening friend. Am I cured? Doubtful. Am I a little bit more conscious? Perhaps.Here’s what I’ll be growing in the vegetable garden in 2009, alongside the viable seeds for various lettuces, arugula, spinach, beans, chard and a few stray pumpkins I already have on hand. In reviewing my orders I see one tactical error: I forgot the snap type of peas, specifically my bel

Growing a better tomato, seed to harvest -

Growing a better tomato, seed to harvest

Start with dark green, stout transplants equally high and wide, preferably about 4 inches in each direction.  (My step-by-step for growing your own includes many tricks; you can also shop locally for seedlings or by mail.)Plan to grow a mix of heirlooms and hybrids for a little insurance: Heirlooms are beautiful, delicious and a critical part of our genetic heritage, but sometimes they lack the disease-resistance (often labeled VFN) of hybrids. I like to mix it up.Remember that even with hybrids rated as having VFN resistance, the word “resistance” is the operative phrase.

Cover crops: feeding the soil that feeds me -

Cover crops: feeding the soil that feeds me

Come spring, several weeks before I plan to plant each area, I’ll cut or mow or pull the grain and legume combination down, depending on which pair I used and where they’re located, then turn under the remains. It’s like composting in place, with the foliage and underlying root system decomposing to improve soil texture and fertility.Cover crops can serve other purposes: Some specialized ones, like various Brassicas, can also provide not just biomass but other benefits including pest and disease control (more on that from Cornell). The subject is much wider than this simple explanation, but stated most simply:Grasses (like rye, sorghum-sudangrass crosses, and wheat) add organic matter to the soil very effectively. Note that I don’t list buckwheat

What i’ll miss (now that frost has come) -

What i’ll miss (now that frost has come)

LET THE LONGING BEGIN. Frost finally hit Friday, with two more visits since, bringing many things gradually to their knees.

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