Sunday, February 04, 2007

What's Growin' On: 2/4/07

Realization Of The Day:
I love the colors of winter--the muted pastels of the fields and sky, the brilliant white of the snow (that is currently covering most everything). I do not find our winter landscape drab or depressing in the least, but it does have a certain subtlety to it. While spring and summer hit us head on from every direction with their flashy brilliance, you have to slow down and look for the colors of winter. For they are there. They most definitely are there.

That said, I must admit that by the time February rolls around, I catch myself yearning for yellow. Between its prevalence in nature during spring and summer, plus its tendency to fade behind behind the vivid greens and dazzling reds in the garden, I find myself taking this cheerful color for granted. But I suppose if it never disappeared, I wouldn't have the chance to miss it.

The plant in this photo is a volunteer mystery squash that appeared late last summer in one of my raised beds. I think it is actually some sort of weird hybrid of squash and gourd. Unfortunately it froze to death before I was able to harvest any of the little whatever-they-ares. But I do enjoy looking back at this photo in all of its yellow splendor.

Bizarre and puzzling plants in the garden can be fun, but to assure yourself an edible harvest all you have to do is order seeds from a reputable dealer. The good news is that I already placed and received my two large seed orders this year. The bad news is that the post I began writing about ordering seeds back in early January still sits unfinished.

I had planned to discuss some of the varieties of different vegetables I ordered, as well as some of the things I won't be growing this year. Maybe I'll get to it, maybe I won't. All that free time I thought I'd have this winter to catch up on last year's happenings in the garden has not yet materialized (though at least I have photos). And now it's already time to start seeds again.

Regular readers already know the two seed companies I love most--Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located right here in Missouri. I have been ordering from both places for many years and have never been disappointed.

Pinetree specializes in smaller seed packets for the backyard gardener. This means you can go crazy ordering and still possibly have planting space for everything--but no promises because many of their seed packets cost under a dollar, and it's very easy to add just one more, and one more, and oh-what-the-heck-I'm-sure-I-need-one-more. . . Pinetree also offers all sorts of reasonably priced (and hard to resist) garden gadgets and accessories, including floating row covers and my beloved Oriental Garden Tool.

Baker Creek has grown by leaps and bounds since it was started by 17-year-old Jere Gettle 10 years ago. They now offer over 1000 different kinds of heirloom seeds from all over the world and the most amazing collection of melon seeds you'll probably ever find. Prices are extremely fair, too, with most packets priced under $2.00. This is the place to go if you enjoy growing the obscure, the rare, and the just plain weird. Baker Creek also hosts two giant gardening celebrations a year and publishes a quarterly magazine called The Heirloom Gardener. More information about both is available on their website.

While both companies have excellent websites where you can easily place orders, I prefer to flip through old-fashioned catalogs. They're also nice to have on hand for later reference (not to mention late season orders). And many seed catalogs are chock full of helpful growing tips.

A great place to find answers to all your gardening questions (including the ones you've asked me that I haven't had a chance to answer--sorry!) is at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' With nearly 2,000 members and over 20,000 posts, it's the Internet's largest forum dedicated to the heirloom gardener.

My favorite edible gardening book for the past 5 years has been The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith. Click here to read my review of it.

Not sure if you should take the seed starting plunge? Click here to read how you can easily and effortlessly go from seed packet to salad bowl in less than a month--no matter where you live.

And while you're waiting for me to tell you about my favorite varieties of veggies, why not share yours? Oh, and please save us some trouble and heartbreak--be sure to include the stuff on your No Way Never Again list, too.


  1. I ordered from Pinetree for the first time this year. So far, so good with prompt delivery.

    I can't think of anything on my "No Way Never Again" list right now. I'll have to give that some thought!

  2. oh, how i do love to find you! you live at the farm too!!! yay!!!

  3. This is the perfect photo for a -1 degree night.

    Thanks Susan!

  4. You say "favourite variety", I think "Mortgage Lifter". I love, love, love this tomato. It's a beautiful colour, best tasting tomato I've grown yet. I've tried to grow about 20 varieties of heirlooms and this is at the top of my list. I will never be without this tomato as long as I have a garden.

    (And the colour I'm missing most right now is GREEN!)

  5. Just wanted to let you know that you have inspired me to try growing from seed. I usually have a container garden on my patio (started with seedlings), but this year, after enlarging my patio, I have decided to add a flower bed. Well, a vegetable garden really, but someday when I sell my house it will be a flower bed. I am growing everything from tomatoes and basil to jalapenos and dill, and very excited about it!

  6. You haven't started planting seeds YET have you!?!?! Man, I'm behind and haven't even ORDERED yet...but I do have several legal-pad pages full of things from different catalogs I plan to order... Maybe tonite? Maybe tomorrow nite? Good stuff to do on a cold night to induce visions of spring!

  7. Jeph, if you were refering to me, I HAVE started seeds...I live in Texas. It's 72F here today! :) Our winter ends about the second week in March. And actually, we won't have had a frost in weeks at that point...

  8. If I live here in Missouri, when should I start seeds? Now? Next month?

  9. I have a kitchen garden in Central New York state with one semi-permanent bed, 4' x 36', and eight 4' x 12' raised beds. I order my seeds mostly from Garden Trails, Renee's Garden, John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds and The Cook's Garden. Of course I can never plant everything I'd like to try so this year I'm chomping at the bit with my first packages of color-coded seeds of mixed varieties. In particular I'm excited about a Botanical Interests package of seven! different colors of cherry tomatoes, their "Rainbow Mix". Renee Shepherd is packaging even more seeds this way. I'm trying two of her combinations of three varieties of tomato, a package of three different varieties of eggplant and another of three varieties of summer squash. So far I've started seeds for onions, Rossa Lunga di Firenze (Botanical Interests) and a new one, Italian Torpedo (Cook's Garden), cardoons and escarole. Now the hard part: waiting for the seeds to germinate...

  10. Got my Pinetree order last week. Since I have very limited space, it makes sense to order about 30 varieties of vegetable and herb seeds, right? Seed catalogs are worse than bookstores!

  11. Lovely photo of the mysterious squash. I too have been breathtaken by the yellow flowers of my juvenile zuchinni plants. No female flowers yet, which is why your photos gave me a great lift. Thanks for sharing ;)

  12. I'm envious Susan. I'm stuck in boring 'ol Ohio...Heat wave today of 43 degrees...Last two weeks have been below-freeezing temps. and lots of snow! I've got "Cabin Fever."

    Although, I must say, last night I made your 'Emergency Chocolate Cake'..It took longer than 35-40 minutes (about 55)- I think it's because I used a GLASS loaf pan instead of metal? The last 10 minutes, I just left it in the oven-turned off..Was so worried it would over-bake...It came out perfect! Moist! My family loved it! I had it for breakfast this morning...with my coffee of course :)

  13. Last year's favorite tomato came from Baker Creek seed as a free package in the fall. It was Spear's Tennessee Green. It's going into the garden again this year. I love Baker Creek - it comes from being an ex-Missourian. I was dissapointed that they weren't offering Kirby's Whippoorwill cowpea this year. Luckily, I saved some to plant. I'm trying another variety. I love those cowpeas!

    I had a big order from Pine Tree as well. I'm looking forward to the purple radishes. We should be planting them soon. Peas are going in the ground tomorrow. With our weird weather of late here in NC, I'm a little worried. I'm keeping fingers crossed.

  14. Hi! I bopped on over here from Dori's blog and thought I'd say hi!
    I have a yard that's mostly in shade, and I have yet to figure out a vegetable that I like to eat a lot that really does well in the shade (any suggestions would be welcome). Oh- our soil is a bit moist and almost boggy as we live right next to a creek- there's a natural spring back there somewhere!!!
    Anyway, I enjoyed looking at your blog, all the pictures are inspiring!

  15. last year was my first at gardening. my fav thing grown was the buttercup squash. two veg i'll never grow again are arugula and escarole...yuck

  16. Hey there - I just thought I'd let you know....I ordered seeds from Baker Creek based on your blog ... and guess what?! They opened their first retail store in my hometown in North Bay - Petaluma, CA. Turns out a large percentage of their customers are in or around Sonoma County, so they started a store. Just went for the first time today and it was better than a candy shop! so fun! Thanks for letting me know about them...i may not have ventured in before...


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!