Tag Archive for Pinetree Garden Seeds

Seedy ideas for Connecticut edible gardens

Choosing which variety of tomato or other edible to grow from seed can be overwhelming, particularly for gardeners new to seed starting. If, after following my earlier recommendations, your head is  still spinning here’s some of my favorite edible varieties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tomatoes: I grow standard, paste and cherry varieties. My absolute favorite for flavor and color is one I tried for the first time last season, the heirloom Cherokee Purple. The vines were prolific, produced solid, heavy, meaty fruit of a wonderful purplish red color and the sweetest ever flavor. Until Cherokee Purple took the top  spot on my favorite tomato list, Pruden’s Purple, also an heirloom with large fruit and a sweet taste, was number one.  I will continue to grow both of these full-size tomatoes plus the yellow heirloom, Manyel (smaller fruit, later maturity). These varieties are available from many seed suppliers, mine came from Pinetree Garden Seeds.

For paste tomatoes I like Roma (Pinetree Garden Seeds) and Milano Plum (Kitchen Garden Seeds). For cherry tomatoes I choose Sweet Million – it lives up to its name. Last season I grew an additional tomato, Super Bush, from Renee’s Garden bred specifically for container growth. It produced late, two- to three-inch sized fruit, but lacked the intense, sweet flavor I expect from homegrown tomatoes. Try it if you have limited space for a tomato that remains about three feet tall, but don’t expect the flavor of an heirloom.

Note: I grew standard, plum and cherry tomatoes in large pots filled with rich compost-based potting soil. All did remarkably well and produced lots of fruit with monthly fertilizer applications of liquid fish emulsion to the soil and as a foliar spray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Peppers: Most of my peppers are the hot variety, Early Jalapeno, Hot Hungarian Wax, Italian Pepperoncini (all from Pinetree Garden Seeds). Last year I tried a mild habanero chili pepper from Renee’s Garden called Orange & Red Suave. It did not germinate as well as some of my other hot pepper varieties and the cool, wet spring set it back a bit, but the plant was s a lovely addition to a perennial bed and it eventually produced attractive orange fruit. Habanero peppers are normally very hot. I’d rate these as milder than normal but still packing serious heat, not for the faint of tongue.

For sweet peppers I’ve had good luck with Sweet Banana (Pinetree Garden Seeds) and Romeo Bell (Kitchen Garden Seeds).

Eggplant: I often transplant eggplant seedlings directly into perennial beds. The plants alone add structural interest, as to the fruit.  My favorites for full size fruit include Ichiban and Lavender Touch (both from Pinetree Garden Seeds). Last season I tried the container-sized variety, Little Prince (Renee’s Garden). The container-grown plants produced abundant and adorable single-serving, tasty fruit under less than ideal conditions – lots and lots of rain – so Little Prince gets another shot this year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALettuce: I’ve grown multiple varieties over the years – Green Ice, Red Deer’s Tongue, Oakleaf, Red Fire, Buttercrunch, Winter Density, Rouge d’Hiver Romaine, Rouge Grenobloise Batavian, Tom Thumb, and I’m sure there’s more. Of all, my absolute favorite is Merveille de Quatre Saisons, a French heirloom available from many suppliers (mine came from Kitchen Garden Seeds and Renee’s Garden). The other lettuce types are all good and perform well, I’m just enamored by the looks and taste of Merveille. Beyond this beautiful looking and tasty bibb lettuce, I am also quite impressed with the adorable small crispy heads of Tom Thumb.

Beans: My favorite bush beans are Sequoia and Purple Queen – both grow delicious purple pods that turn green when cooked (Kitchen Garden Seeds) – and Pencil Pod, a yellow Heirloom (Pinetree Garden Seeds).

Peas: I’ve struggled to get a good supply of snow peas from each spring sowing. The voles love the tender plants as much as I love the tender pods and, so far, attempts to grow a bumper snow pea crop in pots have not been highly successful. Still, I would not want to go a year without trying. You simply cannot match the sweetness and tenderness of freshly picked snow peas so, even if my yield is small, I’ll always plant edible podded peas. My current favorites are Snowflake Pea Pods, a self supporting upright bush-type growing about two feet tall, and Golden India Edible Pea Pod, with six foot tall vines of flat pods (both from Kitchen Garden Seeds). In a previous garden with more space and fewer voles I had great success with sugar snap peas. These should be on every new gardener’s planting list. They are prolific producers that bring early success.

This is not a comprehensive list of the edibles I grow. It’s just a good place to start. Here are links to the seed suppliers mentioned above: Pinetree Garden Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Kitchen Garden Seeds.

Garden thoughtfully … and please share the vegetable varieties growing well in your Connecticut garden.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Seed Catalogues: Read, Weed then Order

January is the time for Connecticut gardeners to dream up plans for the spring and summer garden. For gardeners who start indoor seedlings, it’s time to order seeds. This can be a daunting task if you read every catalogue that comes in the mail. Most people don’t have this amount of time … I know I don’t … so my first weeding project of each growing season involves weeding seed catalogues.

If you’ve ordered seeds before, you’ll have no shortage of catalogues delivered by mail. I go through my stack to find the page or pages  with general  company and seed information. I avoid seed that is treated or genetically modified and prefer seed organically grown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Next, companies from Connecticut, or at least the Northeast U.S., go to the top of the stack. Those providing the most information on specific plant types and varieties get my first look. I order from other companies only if I cannot find a sought-after seed variety locally.

I find it much easier to order from a thinned-down group of catalogues. If new at seed ordering, you might want to limit yourself to ordering from just two for comparison purposes. Familiarize yourself with the key, the U.S. hardiness zone map, ordering instructions and general product information for each company, then allow yourself to become entranced with the promises of ‘the sweetest, the biggest, or the earliest ever.’

Indulge yourself. Mark all seeds and varieties that spark interest. Then put the stack down and let your senses rejoin reality.

Return to your stack of wishes with a clear head and the understanding that catalogue descriptions, and photos, are there to sell seeds. By all means enjoy these descriptions – someone worked hard to make each irresistible – but when it comes time to develop your actual order do so with a clear head and a realistic understanding of what you have time and space to grow.

Keep repeating the phrase right plant, right place.

If you want to fit multiple edibles into a small growing space avoid rambling squash vines and try seed varieties bred for compact growth.

Understand that most vegetables need a minimum of six hours of full sunlight. They will grow leggy and may not fruit well in less light.

Look at your seed wants versus your space and time needs and concentrate on varieties not available or too pricey at local markets. If, like me, you crave certain heirloom tomatoes and have ample space and light, by all means grow them. Just don’t try to squeeze competing edibles into the space your craved plant needs.

If you don’t have an indoor space to set up a grow light or lights or a sunny, heated greenhouse, purchase seeds you can sow directly into the soil once it warms. In Connecticut’s zones 5 and 6, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers need to be planted outdoors as transplants. Trying to start seeds inside without supplemental light results in leggy seedlings that don’t transplant well.  You’re better off purchasing these and other long-season heat-loving annuals as transplants from a reputable local garden center.

Gardeners with a grow light set-up often start more seeds than they have time to care for or space to grow. I do this every year – intentionally. I like the safety net of having too many, as opposed to too few, transplants. The strongest go into my gardens and to family and friends. The weaker ones become compost.

In spite of all this pre-growing season weeding, you are still likely to order more than you can possibly grow in one season. Don’t despair. Most seeds remain viable more than one year. Just store remaining seeds in a dry location – mine stay in their packets in a box on a shelf in my office. I’ve had great success germinating seed packaged for a prior growing season. Generally, properly stored seed more than two years old will not germinate as well. I don’t count on seed more than two years old, but will try germinating them to use as back-ups in case other seeds run into some fatal issue. Experiment to find what works best for you.

Connecticut- and Northeast-based seed companies I have, or would order from:

  • Kitchen Garden Seeds – great growing information, no photos, but lovely plant drawings, online cookbook and seed gardening guidebook, sign up for their email newsletters for seasonal suggestions, tips and deals. Based in Bantam, CT.
  • Select Seeds – open-pollinated, heirloom flowers and some edibles. Based in Union, CT.
  • Comstock, Ferre & Company – the regenerated version of the old Comstock, Ferre in Wethersfield, CT, specializing in hardy northern seeds.
  • Pinetree Garden Seeds – great prices, most selections sold with smaller numbers of seeds for home gardeners. Based in New Gloucester, ME.
  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds –  employee-owned company offering an extensive list of seeds. Based in Winslow, ME.
  • Fedco Seeds – cold-hardy seeds, trees, fruit, and bulbs. Also a good source for garden supplies. Based in Waterville, ME.

Other seed companies I have, or would use:

Try some of these vendors and let me know how you like their products and customer service. If you are a veteran or new seed starter, share your tips and experiences. And, as always, garden thoughtfully.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Historic Seed Company to Sprout Again

This morning when I visited the Comstock, Ferre & Co. website I was greeted with the message below:

Logo

Comstock is undergoing reorganization.

Note: Image from http://www.comstockferre.com/.

Next week the retail and seed operation that closed its doors back in August 2009 will reopen.  Comstock, Ferre & Co., which operated for 189 years, has been purchased by the owners of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, according to today’s article in The Hartford Courant. Good news for the town of Wethersfield, Connecticut … and for all who enjoyed Comstock, Ferre & Co. seeds.

The owners, the article notes, plan to operate the seed store as if time stood still – employees in period dress, creaky wooden floors, no computers in sight, and eventual historic reenactments and educational events. The retail store will open with older Comstock, Ferre merchandise but will soon stock Baker Creek seeds. They will add Comstock, Ferre seeds once the line is re-established.

I have no experience with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Based in Mansfield, Missouri, they operate an historic village in Bakersville, Missouri. Sounds like they hope to run a similar operation in Wethersfield. They also plan to continue the line of Red Wethersfield Onions which I planted for the first time this year (found them at Pinetree Garden Seeds) – so far we love the mild, fresh flavor of the few small onions picked for salads. Last year the company also opened the California Seed Bank in Petaluma.

I’d love to hear the experience of anyone familiar with Baker Creek … reading their press release about their plans for Comstock, Ferre & Co., it sounds like they could become an interesting presence in Connecticut.

Interested in a visit? Hit this Google link for a street and an aerial view of Comstock, Ferre & Co. Click Historic Wethersfield for additional info on what else you could do during a visit.