It’s that time of the year when I love to open the mailbox because a new shipment of seeds has arrived. From the number of seeds I tend to order, you would think I’m planting up the back 40 acres instead of one veggie plot (and ok, the areas around that fence, various flower beds, the old garden spot that I’m still messing around with, and some new spots I’m itching to plow, etc).
A word of warning: If you—or your spouse—has just started gardening, be aware that this is how it progresses. First there’s a “garden bed” and then, the yard, and then, well…, just remember to stop at your property lines…unless you’ve worked that out with the neighbors…HA!
The first shipment of the year is from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange out of Virginia. First let me say, I’m already in love with these guys I first found at the SSAWG conference this year. Southern Exposure’s catalog is full of words like “heat-loving,” “drought-tolerant” and “cabbage-worm resistant.” That got my attention. They specialize in varieties adapted for the South and even though NW Arkansas is on the upper left edge of the South, last summer’s heat dome got me more interested in heat tolerant plants in a hurry.
Not to mention that Larrapin Garden is now classified as Zone 7, up from Zone 6 when we arrived six years ago… So it’s feeling more Southern than ever before, with a strong dose of Oklahoma thrown in for good measure. So I’m in the market for tough plants that taste great and that’s what Southern Exposure is all about.
Then my shipment arrived promptly, and beautifully packaged. The small seed packets were even bundled together and neatly wrapped in recycled seed-catalog pages. I’ve never opened such a lovely box and it not be Christmas or a birthday. Bravo and you have a new loyal customer!
Some new varieties I’m trying this year are “Big Red Ripper Cowpeas,” and “Green Glaze Collards.” Plus I ordered some buckwheat for a summer cover crop that the bees love. Oh and some hull-less oats to try as a cover crop that I could also feed the chickens. And a new watermelon variety. OH and a tomato named “Mule Team” that I just had to try. And of course I had to sample their variety of purple hull peas… And… well, you get the picture.
Since I’m enamored of seed saving lately I’m choosing mostly open-pollinated varieties and some heirlooms as well. (And wow, can’t wait to tell you about what I’m learning from writer, geneticist and plant breeder Carol Deppe, author of Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving. Deppe is my new SHE-RO!! But back to today’s post…)
There’s so much to tell you but things have been crazy-busy for winter around here because the Dig In! Food & Farming Festival is just around the corner (see below) and lordy it’s almost time to start seeds inside! Plus there’s the puzzle of if I even need to start new kale and spinach seedlings since my garden’s full of both thanks to our nonexistent winter (so far, knocking on wood here.). So I’ll close for today with a roaring recommendation for my new favorite seed company, now alongside old favorites like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.
p.s. If you are looking for spring planting dates for your area, this handy calculator over at Skippy’s Vegetable Garden is a good one.
—A Larrapin Garden. Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Please subscribe to get the posts in one weekly email. You can also get bonus links, giveaways and recipes by “liking” our Facebook page or following on Twitter.
Dig In Food & Farming Festival
Are you in the Northwest Arkansas region? Please join us for the 2nd annual Dig In! on March 2nd & 3rd. It’s going to be great fun with films, an info-fair, free seed swap, and classes on gardening, backyard chickens and more. Please check out the website at www.diginfestival.com for more info and sign up for email updates there. Update: Dig In! tentative schedule to be posted later today!Read More
When you garden, it’s a sobering fact that you only have so many practice runs (gardening seasons) in a lifetime. A musician might get to practice a particular song hundreds of time to get it right. Unless you are remarkably long lived, gardeners my age might only have 20 or 30 more times to get really good at it and that’s if you happen to get really lucky in life too! Things like summer-heat-domes, spring floods, or a season off with a bum shoulder can be a real setback. So I’ve found that doing a lot of different things in the garden—things that cover different seasons, or add to the garden in different ways, mean a lot.
As have mentioned in posts past, I paid more attention to seed saving in 2011 than ever before. The photo above shows seeds of New Zealand Spinach collected just before our first killing frost. The top ones were already dry and hard when I collected them. They look like the seeds in packets I’ve bought. The green seeds have since dried out, but I’m not sure if that affects germination. I’ll find out this Spring I hope.
One great thing about seed saving over time is that you end up selecting for plants suited to your very particular setting. This is what makes heirloom seeds so special. You also get to see natural variations in the seeds you grow out like the Larrapin Kale I’m working on. Below is another photo of this gorgeous leaf that appeared among the grown out seeds I saved. Around it you can see the more typical “Ragged Jack” leaves.
Next year I plan to let only these particular wide-leaf plants go to seed, then collect seed again to see if I can get a kale that consistently shows this leaf. A garden is nothing if not an experiment! And who will be helping me cross pollinate those lovely plants — why the bees of course! I cannot even describe how much joy having beehives at Larrapin has been. Words fail me, but the determination to become adept at beekeeping, is securely on my bucket list…
I’d love to hear your comments. You can click here to comment and share your garden news.
—A Larrapin Garden ~ Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Don’t miss any—please subscribe by Email here to get the posts in one weekly email. You can also get bonus links, giveaways and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page atwww.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. We’re even on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.Read More