Seed Orders

In mid-February we gathered up all our notes and dog-eared seed catalogs, and finally made our seed orders. In past years we’ve mostly bought seeds from Seeds of Change. They have a really good selection of organic vegetables, herbs, and cover crops, and we like how all of their seeds are open-pollinated, which allows us to save and plant our own seeds if we want.

This year we also spread our seed purchases out among some other suppliers who have held our interest for a while. We ordered quite a wide variety of herb seeds and plants from Richter’s, an herb specialist in Ontario. They have a huge selection of medicinal and culinary herbs, so we restocked on some basics, like parsley, cilantro, and thyme, and got a lot of new ones to try: wild bergamot, salad burnet, sorrel, comfrey, and even a ginger plant.

We also bought some seeds and supplies from two smaller Oregon seed companies, Territorial, and Nichols Garden Nursery.

As always, we got a lot of seeds. Most notably, though, we have decided to not grow several summer standbys this year: tomatoes, tomatillos, cucumbers, and pumpkins are all, as they say, Totally Off The List. We have decided that our garden is simply too small to accomodate these sprawling plants. We did get zucchini for the first time in years, because we know it to be a highly productive plant, and now that we have chickens to eat the overgrown squashes, none of it will go to waste. (I checked it out with some storebought: The girls love raw zucchini.)

We grew our first successful chiles last summer, and found them to be well-behaved, compact, and prolific plants. This year we’ll grow Serrano and Rio Grande varieties.

Last year we also had a lot of success with basil and runner beans. Both produced well and stored easily, providing us with food throughout the winter.

The basil was made into pesto and frozen. This year we will plant both Genovese, for pesto, and Thai, for curries. We’ll see if we can freeze some Thai basil in leaf form for use in the winter.

The runner beans ripened the vine and were threshed and dried to storage-hardness on drying racks. This year we will plant the Scarlet Runners and the heirloom half-runner Cannellini, both from seed we saved from last year’s harvest.

In general, we plan to grow some summer crops (beans, basil, sunflowers), but we want to also plant some longer-term crops (greens, lettuces) to keep growing throughout the winter. Too often, our garden is so crowded with summer plants that by the time everything is harvested and cleared, it’s too late to get anything (other than cover crops) growing for the winter. We’ll see if we can circumvent that this year.

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4 Responses to Seed Orders

  1. JAC DUQUETTE says:

    A GARDEN WITHOUT TOMATOES? IN THE 30s & 30s MY MOM WOULD “PUT UP” ABOUT 200 QUARTS WHICH JUST ABOUT GOT US THRU THE WINTER.
    HAVE YOU READ SQUARE FOOT GARDENING? WE GREW TOMATOES AND PEPPERS IN VIRGINIA ALONG WITH A NUMBER OF OTHER CROPS IN A RAISED
    BED MADE OF LANDSCAPE TIMBERS ABOUT 4’X 8′. CUT INTO SQUARE FOOT PLOTS IT CAN MANAGE AN AMZING VARIETY.
    JAC.
    IF YOU WERE IN MICHIGAN YOU WOULD REALLY MISS THOSE TOMATOES COME JANUARY AND FEBRUARY.

  2. Holly says:

    Jac, you’d probably be surprised to discover that it’s harder to grow tomatoes in our little Oakland microclimate than it is in Detroit. Our summers do not attain the nice heat that yours do, with cool breezes starting up here in early evening, and keeping temperatures fairly moderate. We actually had much better luck with tomatoes in Seattle than we ever have here. We did moderately well last year with a variety of roma, but really poorly with the slicing tomato we tried (one in a long, optimistic line of attempts). So this year, with our teeny space, we decided to go with what flourishes, rather than what we wish would flourish. (Loath though I am to give a nod to Rumsfeld, I must admit that his macabre comment about going to war with the army you have, rather than the army you wish you had [too bad we were FORCED to go to war, huh?] has become a darkly useful turn of phrase around here! But I digress.) Fortunately, folks in the Central Valley can grow tomatoes, so we can get lovely ones from farmer’s markets.

  3. Leila says:

    It’s so weird what does and doesn’t grow in Oakland. And the microclimates change as fast as the freeway exits.

    When I first moved here I lived on the Oakland Berkeley border, at the edge of Rockridge. I met a man (who later married me) from Berkeley, North Side. “Colby street?” he said. “You have really nice weather over there.” I couldn’t believe it. He lived 3 miles away. How could the weather be different? But he grew up on South side and explained it to me. The fog comes in through the Golden Gate, makes most of Berkeley cold, but stops somewhere near the Oakland line. Sure enough – I looked out my porch window one summer afternoon and there was the fog, creeping up Ashby Street towards the Claremont Hotel, but I was two blocks away in the sunshine. “Rockridge,” my future hubby explained “has the best weather in the Bay Area.”

    A dozen years later, in East Oakland (South of Hen Waller, but that’s another story) we’re in a banana belt, with prickly pear cactus, plum trees, rosemary, and yes even a few banana trees. One friend grows nice cherry tomatoes – try those. I’m heartened to hear that you can grow basil – I thought that was another one that wouldn’t like our cool nights. We have so many damned snails (and raccoons, and squirrels) that I’m afraid to try. However if I keep reading your blog, I’ll be inspired to bring back ducks (the previous owner left a duck pen next to the stream), to eat the snails natch.
    You guys are the coolest. You’re living out my secret fantasy (which I’ll never do for myself, I could not do what you’re doing).

  4. Holly says:

    Oh the ducks are a great idea, they’d love the snails, and apparently they are much less agressive weeders than are chickens. I was kind of surprised to see that we do well with basil as well, given our tomato challenges, but we were swimming–very happily–in basil last summer. I love your Bay Area weather story, it’s so true, and so hard to understand before you live here. I didn’t realize that Rockridge was the warm center though. Perhaps that explains its popularity.

    I won’t try to convince you that you should do what we do, but I will say that 5 years ago we weren’t gardening at all, I had never heard of permaculture or urban farms, and would never have imagined owning a chicken, much less killing one. And that getting here, from there, has been a lot of little, tiny, manangeable steps, each of which has led to the next because it nurtured us. That is what I would try to communicate the most about what we do. We do it not because of some noble mission, but because it is the part of our lives that nourishes and sustains us, literally, in the activity, the contact with the earth and living interdependent beings, and spiritually. To grow things is to nourish life, and to be nourished by it.

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