Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Art of Seed Shopping

I've been talking about it for quite some time so I'm sure you all thought I had done this by now but I finally got around to placing my seed orders for spring.

Ordering seeds always takes more time than I think it will.  First perusing the pretty photos, making lists of the things I simply must have, making lists of all the pretty things I want to have, reviewing the amount of beds and the space available, moaning over my bank account.  The order list has bloomed and faded, the numbers going sky high and then crashing down again.  What do I need, what do I want, what can I afford and where will it all go.

After weeks of dallying the final list is as follows:
  1. Drunken woman lettuce
  2. Borage - Borago officinals
  3. Nasturtium - mixed
  4. Miner's Lettuce - Claytonia perfoliata
  5. Ruby Eclipse Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
  6. Love Lies Bleeding - Amaranthus caudatus
  7. Veestar strawberry plants
  8. Tyee spinach
  9. Napoli carrot
  10. Cat grass
  11. Sweet basil
  12. onion sets
A pretty reasonable list if I do say so myself.  I stayed away from tomatoes since I already received a packet in a Christmas card.  I will try growing these and then purchase any extra plants I need from a nursery (such as the scotia tomatoes pictured above which were nursery bought).  I don't want to start too many seeds indoors this year as I need to experiment with seed starting in a new house.  It will take some fussing to find the right spot to do this and get lights and trays set up properly.  Basil, tomatoes, amaranthus, maybe a few flowers will be plenty enough to start indoors while I work out the kinks.

Although I just placed the order I'm already waiting impatiently for it to arrive.  One plant that will be started indoors immediately is the cat grass.  I need it to prevent more of this from happening.

Who's hiding in my houseplants?
Gino (the cat) grew up with us in the much warmer climate of coastal British Columbia.  Snow and wind do not agree with him and for the last month he's been house bound.  And taking his frustration out on my spider plant.  The cat grass should help to appease him.

The Tyee spinach is a replacement for the tortoiseshell spinach I used last summer.  Tortoiseshell barely grew an inch before it was covered in white spots and then bolted.  I will plant both this year and see if either one manages to grow.

When considering what to order I was tempted to add peas to the list.  I have an old packet of peas in storage and I attempted to germinate them recently to see if they were viable.  I placed the seeds in a wet paper towel and then put the towel in a plastic ziplock bag.  The bag was left on the top of the fridge for a week.  Nothing seemed to happen so I assumed the seeds weren't good.  By then I had decided there really wasn't enough room for peas anyway and I crossed it off my list.  Maybe another year.  Oh but what's this?  While cleaning on the weekend I discovered a plastic bag in an upstairs closet.  I found this inside.

Germinating peas.  Note to self - next time write down where you put all the bags of germinating seeds.  Otherwise you're bound to find a crop of vegetables growing out of the closets.  So it looks like I might have to find a spot for peas in the garden anyway.

There's some new flowers on my list as well.  Plants I've never tried before that I'm very excited about.  After all I need to have some fun.  A pink sunflower and love lies bleeding are headed for the new border behind the garage.  I think it's always important to try new plants and experiment.  I've learned more about gardening in the past by being sucked in by a pretty plant than anything else.  Experimenting, curiosity and failure are the best tools I have.

Ultimately I tried to hold back on buying too many seeds because I want to focus on building beds this year.  There are 5 beds in the vegetable garden presently and I intend to add, at minimum, another 5 beds.  That will mean lots of digging, building, and mixing of dirt.  Not to mention the work I'm planning for flower beds.  If I can focus a little more on beds this year then next year I can buy all the seeds my heart desires.


  1. Hi dear Marguerite,

    Aren't you lucky to have the name of a wonderful flower?

    Just stop by a store and buy some red wheat. Start shallow containers of it (a few at a time). Water daily, it will sprout in a week, and will give your kitty a perfect nibble without fail.

    I keep wheat grass "lawns" going all the time.

    Love and happy seed anticipation,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  2. Ahhh, the lure of seed catalogs! I have a simple solution: One of everything, please!! :o) (Just send the bill to someone else!)

  3. Great seed list! So you went with the Napoli so undecided but that certainly is one I am considering also.

    The love lies bleeding is so beautiful..both the deep red and the lime green. will love it.

  4. There is pink sunflowers?... alternate them with yellow will look interesting...

  5. I can talk myself easily into getting more seeds~They are so much more reasonably priced then plants! I am curious about the miner's spinach and wonder if it has a flower at all like Claytonia virginica /Spring beauties. gail

  6. The idea of choosing seeds is fun, isn't it? The idea of getting 5 beds ready seem rather arduous though. But it would lead to more fun next year...

  7. My cats do the same thing. I think it is some kind of cat spite. I like your closet garden comment...funny.

  8. Aw, I totally empathize with your poor, freezing cat. I always hole myself up indoors too when the temperature sinks too low. Good luck with all your garden planning. I wish I had so much room for a large veggie garden!

  9. I have to be strict with myself when it comes too seed catalogues. I admire your restraint Marguerite :)

  10. Sharon - Red wheat, that's great. I've purchased 'cat grass' before but wasn't aware what type of plant they were using. This makes it much easier.

    TS - you're absolutely right. If I could have one of everything, or at least try one of everything in my life, I'd be a happy girl.

    Gardeningbren - I still have some leftover seeds for chantenay red cored carrots which were wonderful but I needed more so I decided on the napoli which is a slightly earlier carrot. I love fresh carrots so anything I can do to extend the season.

    Bangchik - I know! One catalogue had over 20 some varieties of sunflowers, it's astounding. Ruby is pink petals tipped with yellow. I couldn't resist.

    Gail - I noticed claytonia on your blog. I think the plant you feature is native to eastern north america and the one I purchased is native to western north america. In fact I have no idea how it will do here out east but I'm going to give it a try because it tastes divine in salads.

    One - unfortunately I have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming years. I'm trying to do just a few beds each year so it's not too much at once. but it's still a lot of digging!

    Gardenwalk - rotten beasts they are. He cries at the door and when I open it up to the snow he runs away like he's seen a ghost. Then he eats my plants. Can't win.

    Floridagirl - I do empathize with my kitty somewhat, it's so easy to curl up indoors when the snow is flying out of doors.

    Melanie - it was tough, I could have tripled the order easily, but the thought of digging more beds kept me in check.

  11. I have never heard the call of the seed catalog. I am to much of a procrastinator and purchase all ready started plants. Of course, I never said I was a very talent gardener.

  12. I'm impressed at your restraint! I managed to negotiate the edibles seed order fairly well, I was shamed into moderation by my stock-take of what I already had. Next challenge is the pretties, which I had been all restrained about until I got the allotment, and therefore more space, and lots of full sun. So many plants, so little time...

    Good luck finding the best spot for seed germination in your new home! Something they never seem to include in the house buying details ;-)

  13. LifesHighway - There's nothing wrong with nursery plants. They are the back up for when my seed starting attempts go sideways! Seeds just make me feel like I'm gardening all through the year instead of only a few sparse months in summer.

    Plantaliscious - With all that new space you must feel like a kid in a candy store. I agree it's difficult to decide between edibles and pretties. Edibles are very satisfying when you've filled your kitchen with fresh food but pretties make my heart sing.

  14. Nice job being more moderate with your seed ordering (I cannot admit to doing the same). I've never heard of 'Drunken Woman' lettuce... what a great name!

    I want to invite you to submit a post for the next issue of How to Find Great Plants. Here's the link:

    If you don't have time to write a new one you can use one you've already written (like your recent dahlia one).

  15. Eliza, that sounds like fun. I'll have to think about what plant I want to include. Talk to you soon.