Saturday, March 02, 2013

At Last: My First 2013 Seed Order (and Two Great Gardening Books)

Bear guarding a raised bed of direct seeded beets and spring greens, taken 4-1-07
Lucky Buddy Bear guards a raised bed of direct seeded beets and spring greens, while the wire fencing laid over the bed keeps it safe from Bear—and cats and rabbits and any other destructive critters (taken 4/1/07).

I received an e-mail from Dixondale Farms the other day, thanking me for being a loyal customer since 2009, and letting me know that I normally place my onion plant order by now.

I'm a little behind in the garden department this year. I still haven't even planted my garlic, but that's because of the weather. The ground has either been too frozen or too muddy (which is why you aren't supposed to plant your garlic in January or February in Missouri), but I haven't given up yet.

On the up side, we're already just about done with lambing season, which in previous years hasn't even started until March or April, so I'm hoping I might be able to (for the first time in several years) get a jump on some indoor seed starting. (You can read about my adventures growing onions from purchased plants here and here, and learn how easy it is to grow your own garlic—assuming you actually get it planted—here.)

I did finally get my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds order placed last week, and while I managed to show considerable restraint—because my unused seed stash is starting to grow back—I'm excited about trying several new things this year. I'm also looking forward to welcoming some old favorite flowers back into my garden. Besides attracting pollinators (and sometimes even deterring pests), brightly colored flowers add so much beauty and joy. Many of them are even edible.

My Pinetree Garden Seeds order is almost finalized, and I'll share it with you once it's actually placed. In the meantime, here's what I ordered for 2013 from Baker Creek:

More below. . .
(N) means this particular variety is new to me and (TN) means this type of plant is totally new to my garden.

Calendula, Pacific Beauty Mix
Calendula, Kabloona (N)
Stinging Nettle (N)
Elephant Dill (N)
Purslane, Green (TN)
Nicotiana, Scentsation Mix
Sorrel, Green De Belleville (TN)
Kale, Blue Curled Scotch
Kale, Dwarf Siberian
Kale, Marrow Stem (N)
Kale, Proteor Forage (N)
Kale, Russian Red or Ragged Jack
Kale, Tronchuda (N)
Corn Salad (mache), Dutch
Rocky Top Lettuce Mix
Lettuce, Parris Island Cos
Parsnip, Hollow Crown (TN)
Chinese Pak Choy
Spinach, Bloomsdale Long
Spinach, Merlo Nero (N)

Can you tell I have a thing for kale? I love it raw in salads, and it makes really nutritious chicken food, so I can't wait to try the Proteor forage variety, which I'd never heard of.

I also tried to order some yarrow, great burdock, and Verde de taglio Swiss chard seeds, but they were already sold out—a reminder that I really should try to place my seed orders in early January.

If you're looking for some general gardening how to and help, I highly recommend The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, which has been my favorite gardening book for the past 13 years. I always turn to it first, and every time I pick it up I learn something new.

If you'd like some garden design inspiration, The Complete Kitchen Garden: An Inspired Collection of Garden Designs & 100 Seasonal Recipes by Ellen Ecker Ogden (founder of The Cook's Garden) is a really neat book offering instructions on how to create several different themed gardens in various shapes and sizes, plus recipes using the bounty from each. Think salad lover's garden, children's garden, culinary herb garden, etc. Both of these books would also make great gifts for new gardeners.

Have you ordered your seeds yet? Have you started any seeds yet? Are you growing anything I ordered? Do tell!

©, where everything eventually gets purchased and planted, but it may take quite a while—and one of these days I'll put up better fencing and finally have a cat- and dog-free garden. It's fun to have them hang out with you while you work, but not quite worth all the damage they do when you're not looking.


  1. I have four types of lettuce seeds and some onion seeds under grow lights in my basement. I still have to plant my garlic -- ugh! I am really looking forward to direct seeding my peas on St. Patrick's Day.

    Yesterday morning, I discovered that at least one overwintering little field mouse has been nibbling the tops of the lettuce sprouts so I had to reseed some of them.

    Last week, for the first time ever, I made my own bread using your Farmhouse White recipe. I can't believe it worked so well! Thanks for all the guidance.

    1. Hi Stacey,
      Oh good, at least I'm not the only one who still hasn't planted my garlic. And you're ahead of me with the lettuce and onions! Mice drive me nuts. They nibble so much stuff and multiply like crazy - despite our six cats. :)

      Congratulations on baking your own bread! I'm so glad you had success with the Farmhouse White recipe. Thanks for the feedback.

  2. This is too funny. I just got my catalogue today from Baker Creek. I am so in love with it!

    1. Hi Jean,
      Yeah, Baker Creek has some really great seeds. Lots of interesting and rare old heirlooms that are hard to find. I've been ordering from them for at least 13 or 14 years - since their first or second year in business. Watch out, though - it's easy to get carried away. ;)

  3. Hi Susan,
    First of all, wishing you and the farmily a good year in every way---health,weather,prosperity,ideas,love,just everything---last year was tough!

    Be careful where you plant that nettles! You don't want it somewhere that you often work because the sting is annoying and persistent; in addition it can be invasive but your raised beds should help contain it unless you let it naturalize somewhere on the farm? Are you sure it doen't grow wild there? We have it everywhere and may add it to some lamb sausage in the Spring when it is young and tender.

    I ordered from a new seed company that I think you would like: Wild Garden Seed. Great philosophy, all organic, and lots of temptations! The kale selection is particularly good---they breed and select for plants that are suitable for growers like us. Their seed is found in other catalogues I order from but I didn't realize until this year that you could order directly from them.

    Lastly, and I mean it, if you don't get that garlic planted, I am more than happy to send you a "care package" full for eating and planting! You know where to find me :).

    Tomorrow and Tuesday we shear the sheep! Just made some raspberry almond bars and lemon coconut bread for the crew (thanks to you!).

    1. Hi Dominique,
      I think I'm going to just come and live with you.

      Thanks for all the well wishes. This new year has been pretty rough so far (it would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic how beat up both of us are), but we're hoping things are going to get much better in the coming months. They have to! :)

      Thanks, too, for all the great advice. That's a good idea about the nettles. I think I will put them in their own spot by themselves somewhere. I know they grow wild around here, but I haven't been able to find any and figured it might be good to have my own cultivated patch. I've stayed away from nettles for years despite their being so nutritious and healing because knowing my clumsy self, I figured I would end up getting stung on half my body, lol, but it seems like everywhere I turn lately there's some mention of them, so I'm taking it as a sign.

      The same with purslane (well, not the stinging part, thank goodness). I know it's a weed for most people, and my Amish neighbors have it growing wild in much of their garden (and gave me as much as I wanted last year), but I've never seen it growing anywhere on the farm, so I figured I would try starting some from seed.

      Oh wow - Wild Garden Seed sounds great. I love what they are all about. And you're right - lots of temptations. I will definitely be ordering some of their seeds. Thanks so much.

      Ha - I just made some Raspberry Almond Bars last week as part of a care package for a starving shepherd friend who LOVES them. I may not have given her quite the whole batch though. ;) And I've been meaning to make a loaf of the Lemon Coconut Quick Bread for ages. I love that stuff, especially toasted. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Am looking forward to your assessment of the various kales next fall. I am sticking to my favourite Red Russian and Tuscan black strap this year, but am always willing to add another....preferably one that freezes well. Now I have to get my seed orders in....late!

    1. Hi Lib,
      Red Russian and Tuscan kale are two of my favorites too. I'm definitely looking forward to trying these new varieties. Kale is so good for you, so tasty, and so (for the most part) easy to grow, I'm at the point where I'm ready to give up a lot of other greens and just fill half the garden with it. ;)

  5. All right, I just have to ask. I notice you are ordering a boat load of kale. For the Missouri summer--really? I am from St. Louis and my sister and brother-in-law had a small farm near Van Buren, MO, so I know those hot, muggy Ozark (and St. Louis) summers. Are you really implying that kale will live through that heat?

    I am now living in South Texas (San Antonio)--dry, hot, and with an awful drought. Could kale survive in this climate? Our soil is alkaline and clay-like (most people around here don't really have soil--they've got about an inch of "soil" and then sheer rock, but I'm lucky--I've got a few inches, and I'm making raised beds). I always thought kale was a winter vegetable. Am I mistaken? I just recently learned that chard can tolerate heat--now when people mention "heat," do they really mean South Texas heat, or are they referring to the high 80's? At any rate, I'd love more detail on heat hardiness and kale.

    1. Hi Peejay,
      Well, rats. I just typed about four paragraphs to you and then hit the wrong button and poof! all gone. I'll have to (hopefully) come back to your questions, but if not, the short version is yes, kale (and Swiss chard) are both heat tolerant and I would definitely give them a try! :)

    2. P.S. You can read all about how to grow your own Swiss chard from seed (and find links to some of my favorite chard recipes) here.

  6. I so enjoy your blog! We live in NW Arkansas, maybe not so far from you? I wonder if you have some advice on how to keep rabbits from eating all my young plants? Last year I planted several rows of beans that we were going to let dry and use for storing. The rabbits destroyed them. We tried spraying with homemade yucky stuff, A scarecrow with a light on at night (which worked for awhile). I am dreading the loss of precious plants this year and the replanting. Do you think covering with row covers would help until the plants got bigger? Help!

    1. Hi Nikki,
      Ah, rabbits. They can be such a pain. Cute, but voracious. :) The only 100% guaranteed way to keep them away from your plants is to surround your garden - or garden beds - with rabbit proof fencing, which of course isn't always possible.

      I think floating row covers should help, though you may have to pin them down to the ground to keep the rabbits from ducking under them. Row covers can be tricky because some plants need access from pollinators so you can't keep them covered once they start to bloom.

      And remember that they also hold in the heat. I was reminded of this the hard way last spring when it started getting really hot and I wanted to protect my lettuce. Instead of making shade with an old sheet and bamboo stakes like I usually do, I laid the row cover directly over the plants - and turned the entire 4x8 bed of gorgeous lettuce to disgusting mush.

      I haven't had as much problems with rabbits lately as I used to since our big black cat, Mr. Midnight, is an avid hunter and loves to go rabbit hunting in the garden. Part of me wants a cat proof garden, and part of me says, "Thank you, Mr. Midnight!" Our beagle, Bert, on the other hand, spends hours each day chasing the rabbits around and around in circles. :)

  7. I hope this comment will not be too forward or too late of me: if we could all plant a little more than what we ourselves will use this year and donate the excess to our local food banks or food pantries when harvest comes? This is my request and my challenge to all of us gardeners – plan for extras around our virtual tables and help the local poor taste locavore at its finest! Thanks to all of you!

  8. We did get some yarrow from Baker's Creek, so I suppose we're part of the reason you couldn't. Sorry. ;)

    It's been a very frustrating March for us. After a mild winter, it turned cold and wet in March and we've been able to plant almost nothing. I finally did get the carrots, radishes and spinach planted, but I worry the soil will crust. We're behind on everything else.

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I recently bought the new book by Pam Dawling Sustainable Market Farming and I'm really enjoying it. Lots of great information in it.


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!