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.