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December 9, 2019

One of the joys of getting a bit older is having the time to putter around in the garden. Below is my garden blog. This site also contains sections of recipes and features about specific, and often obscure, gardening lore.

Monday, December 9, 2019 - Seed Savers Exchange Catalog

pp16-17 Seed Savers Beans
Seed Savers Tomatoes

Seed Savers Exchange 2020 Catalog CoverOur print copy of the 2020 Seed Savers Exchange seed catalog arrived in today's mail. It turns out to be one of the most beautifully illustrated seed catalogs we've received so far this year. Each vegetable variety offered is accompanied by some great photography of the vegetable. (Sorry for the effusiveness, but remember that for few short years, I worked as a professional photographer.)

SSE changed the format for some sections as shown at right. My scans don't do the pages justice.

The Seed Savers catalog is all open pollinated varieties. Something I noticed in their listings was a change of standard packet sizes. They now offer a lot of their seed in a packet, 4 oz., and one pound sizes, eliminating the 8 oz. standard half pound size for stuff like beans and peas. For me, that's a plus, as I'm going to have to throw out a lot of five year old half pound bean packets this year when I do our seed inventory. While I've kept the seed frozen between seasons, five years for large seed is pushing things a bit.

Note that the Seed Savers Exchange catalog is offerings from the exchange's vault of saved seed varieties. Seed Savers began from its Member Exchange. As Rob Johnston, Jr. once wrote me, "I believe that the [Member] Exchange is the core of SSE." Rob, who was the founder of Johnny's Selected Seeds, was also instrumental in supporting the growth of Seed Savers, serving many years on its board of directors.

The Member Exchange is available online all year round. It's annual print yearbook comes out in January or February each year. It lists all of the member offerings.

I Didn't Think This Would Happen

When I wrote the column, Time to Let Go, I thought I was done with the Seed Savers Exchange. But there have been some changes that have drawn me back to the organization I first joined in the late 1970s.

The biggest change in my opinion came from the replacement of the previous Executive Director of the Exchange with Emily Rose Haga. The previous director seemed committed to downplaying or spinning off the member exchange. Ms. Haga's introduction at the front of the catalog sounds like she has her head screwed on straight, recognizing all the facets of the exchange.

I also noted a number of changes that made me add some footnotes to the Time to Let Go piece, noting some improvements that I thought would help SSE.

I mailed my membership renewal (at their new seniors rate of $25) yesterday.

Getting Ready

With a dark and rainy day today, I brought our big bag of saved seed in from the freezer anticipating beginning our annual seed inventory. But with the arrival of a new seed catalog and a number of household chores that couldn't be put off any longer, the inventory will have to wait until another day.

Saved seed bag and gloxinias on dining room table

One thing I hadn't anticipated for the inventory was where to sort the seed bags and packets. I usually do it on our dining room table, but this year we still have lots of gloxinias putting up an occasional bloom or two. I'll need to figure out a place. Maybe I can move the gloxinias somewhere else for a day or two. At any rate, I plan to inventory tomorrow, as our high temperature for the day is predicted to be just 28° F. While I seem to have beaten my bronchitis, I'm still not well enough to work outside in that weather after being sick most of last month.



Saturday, December 7, 2019 - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Catalog

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 2020 catalog coverBaker Creek catalog page 89Our copy of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 2020 catalog arrived in today's mail. Their catalog is always a beauty, wonderfully illustrated with great photos and even a sense of whimsy here and there.

Baker Creek offers a wide variety of open pollinated and heirloom vegetable varieties. I counted sixteen different vegetable varieties in our seed inventory today from Baker Creek, including some of our favorites: Red Ursa kale; Tam Dew honeydew; and Ali Baba watermelon. Tam Dews have a slightly spicy honeydew flavor we like while Ali Baba remains our most dependable watermelon variety.

I also noticed that they're offering a cucumber named Japanese Long for the first time in their print catalog, although from the reviews, it appears that the variety was available from them online last year. We gave Baker Creek a large sample of our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed at their request several years ago. If this one is from our seed, that's another load off of my mind, as it's one more of the endangered varieties we preserve that is once more being commercially offered (and thereby somewhat protected). Last year, the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative began offering another of our endangered varieties, Earlirouge tomatoes, that they grew out from our seed.

Varieties come and go from Baker Creek's catalogs. I was disappointed to see that they no longer offer Southport White Globe onion and Picnic watermelon seeds, both of which we've ordered from them in the past. Fortunately, the Seed Savers Exchange offers the Picnic watermelon variety and both Reimer and Stokes Seeds offer the Southport White Globe onion.

Baker Creek is also staying with offering free shipping on their seeds which they began last year. Obviously, they're including the price of shipping in their packet prices, something I really like. If you're looking for attractive and fun seed catalogs, Baker Creek's is one you really should request.

Howden Pumpkin Seed

We got twenty good pumpkins from our hill of pumpkins this year. Our seed came from R.H. Shumway and High Mowing Organic Seeds. I direct seeded three seeds from each vendor and all germinated. Two pumpkins that didn't go to our grandkids and a local food bank got carved for Jack O'Lanterns with their seed saved. Sadly, the saved seed totally flunked two germination tests. I also left one extra pumpkin sitting on a bucket lid on our back porch for weeks and weeks. With its bottom beginning to rot out, I harvested seed from it today before hauling it and bunch more decomposing material to our compost pile. The seed from this last pumpkin seemed a bit fatter than the previously saved seed, so I'm hoping that it will prove to be viable. While we have plenty of commercial Howden seed remaining in frozen storage, I'm hoping this last batch of seed will prove viable so that we can begin adapting the variety to our specific growing conditions.

Annie's Heirloom Seeds Catalog

An email today told me that Annie's Heirloom Seeds' 2020 seed catalog has gone to the printer. But I also saw that the catalog was already available for download.

Annie's offers a nice variety of open pollinated and heirloom seed varieties. I like the company, as it's a responsive family operated business.

Heirloom seed from Botanical Interests Organic seed from Botanical Interests

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - Winnowing Seed

Amaryllis from Burpee
Use promotional code AMARYLLIS19 at checkout. Valid online only until 11:59 P.M. ET on 12/5/19.

Our Senior Garden - December 4, 2019It's warm (50° F) and sunny today with a good bit of wind (20 mph). While not a day I'd pick to work outside all day, it was nearly perfect for winnowing saved seed. I had asparagus, basil, broccoli, and lettuce seed to winnow. There was also some marigold and gloxinia seed that needed to be moved to the freezer.

I've now cleared our seed drying area of seeds to be saved. That's a last step before doing our annual seed inventory.

Winnowing seed is a bit tricky. You want enough wind to blow away plant debris while hoping seeds in the mix are heavy enough to drop out and not get blown away. I dumped seed from a paper plate onto a small cookie sheet in the wind to do the job. While I didn't get all the plant trash out of the seed, I did enough that I felt confident to store the seed in the freezer for future use.

While I wanted to get the last of our kale and lettuce out of our main raised bed today, I heeded my wife's advice (admonition, command...) not to overdo things working outside as I recover from a nasty bronchitis infection. So when done with just a few outside chores this afternoon, I retreated inside to write this posting.

Fedco Seeds Catalog

I wrote about receiving the Fedco Seeds print catalog last Friday. I noticed today that they've now posted their 2020 seed catalog online as a downloadable PDF file. Fedco is an employee and consumer owned seed cooperative that sells both open pollinated and hybrid garden seed at very reasonable prices.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Our Senior Garden - December 1, 2019
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Extended Weather Forecast
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

Not having gotten a lot of our fall gardening chores done last month, they become priorities in December. I still need to clear our main raised garden bed of the last crops that froze out it it and remove some remaining mulch that could harbor insects or plant diseases.

As long as our ground doesn't freeze, I should be able to plant our garlic in the next few days.

At some point, I'll need to clear the stalks from our asparagus patches. If our old compost pile is thawed, I'll screen some compost and move it to the patches.

There are still a few tools and sprayers on the porch that need to be moved to the garage. Our chemical tub on the back porch needs to be moved to the basement to prevent frequent freezing and thawing that can degrade chemicals.

I didn't get our annual seed inventory done last month, so that job needs to be done before we order any new seed for the coming season. Our garden plans need a little finishing, although most of that work is done for our initial plantings.

Shopping Guides

Gift Guide for GardenersShopping Guide for GardenersSeveral years ago, I put together a couple of shopping guides. The first one I did was a guide for non-gardeners shopping for a gardener. My wife often asks me what I'd like for a birthday, anniversary, or Christmas present, knowing that I usually want some gardening item (kneeling pad or bench, rain barrel, buckets, etc.). This guide gives some garden gift ideas and where one can purchase them.

Having said that, it is appropriate at this point to include the required FTC disclosure statement:

Some text and banner links on this site go to our affiliate advertisers that will result in our being paid a small commission if you go through the link to purchase something.

After doing the gift guide, I realized that there were a lot of gardening items I wanted to mention, but weren't quite appropriate for a gift guide. So I put together a rather mundane page of stuff we like and use in our gardening efforts that didn't fit the gift guide.

Both pages get updated (links checked, items added or subtracted) a couple of times each year.

One big surprise I got when doing the updates was the price of corn knives. I think I paid about six bucks for ours, and until recently, they'd run a bit under ten dollars. I'm not sure why (possibly trade tariffs with China), but corn knives and machetes now run thirty bucks or more!

Broccoli Seed

The broccoli seed project I'd worked on all summer is over. I feared that freezing weather had come to soon for the plants to produce any seed. I crushed the Goliath broccoli seed pods yesterday between my fingers and in the palm of my hand. I got an awful lot of dust, but also got a few seeds. There aren't enough seeds to run a germination test and still have seed to start in the spring, so I won't know until then if the seed is viable.

Burpee Seed Company

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