It’s seed catalog season and I’m gearing up for a garden that will go down in history as the year I grew all my vegetables for the entire…I really want to scream YEAR, but a more realistic goal is half the year since I’m a beginner working with sub par soil.
Nevertheless growing enough vegetables for six months will still be a huge feat for me and my family who are all very supportive of this goal and definitely think it is achievable based on our past experiences.
Did I mention my success as a gardener is limited to mostly killing plants and that I have yet to successfully grow a bumper crop of anything except those things my family really doesn’t want to eat. Take cabbage and zucchini, for example. I have a feeling we may be eating mostly fruit and meat for six months.
Tips for purchasing seed or – how to avoid overspending on all the seeds in the catalog
Grow what you love
It may seem like a good idea to try growing your own brussel sprouts but it won’t be if your brussel sprouts stay on the stalk to rot because it turns out brussel sprouts really aren’t your family’s favourite. Just so you know our family has never done anything so wasteful – at least not more than a couple times.
And I know how cool collards, kohlrabi and fava beans sound, but think carefully about your family’s reaction when they are staring at it on their dinner plate possibly for the sixth night in a row.
Beware of seed catalogs
One of the best seed choosing tips I have ever received is from Alyson Chisholm from Windy Hill Organic Farm in McKees Mills, New Brunswick during one of her excellent organic gardening courses, which will be held again this March on Saturday mornings.
When you are perusing all of these enticing seed catalogs and trying to figure out which of the amazing vegetables you should grow (because they will all sound amazing) read between the lines.
For example, if the catalog says a cucumber is vigorous and has excellent disease resistance, but doesn’t mention anything about its great taste, there is a good chance it is not the most delicious variety. And vice versa.
So if the catalog raves about its sweet flavour and beautiful colouring, but mentions nothing about disease tolerance, it’s most likely not.
What this means is you have to decide what’s most important to you. For me, it’s taste. I will choose the tastiest variety over disease resistance, early maturing, high yielding, etc. Hmmm…maybe this is one of the reasons why my garden is nothing to rave about.
Beginners should stick to the basics
If you aren’t careful, you can easily spend hundreds of your gardening dollars just on seeds. I ordered over 80 seed packets and plants for my first small garden. I’m not joking. I planted everything from skirret and sea kale to soapwort (because I was, of course, going to dry the roots and make homemade soap. As you have likely guessed that never happened, but I had dreams…oh so many dreams for that little garden.)
I have since learned that it is best for beginners to start with the basics and branch out as both you and your garden grow.
Here are a few of our family’s favourite seed choices that I hope you will enjoy as well:
Kimberlee’s top pick:
Mystery Keeper Tomatoes from Mapple Farm in Weldon, New Brunswick
Every single cold climate gardener should have Mystery Keeper tomatoes in their garden. You know the picture of my mozzarella cheese from last week’s post? The featured tomato is from my garden. We’re in January and I still have fresh tomatoes to chop up and use in salads or on top of pizza.
You don’t even have to keep them in any special storage conditions. I simply keep mine on my kitchen counter.
No, they are not the best tasting tomatoes I’ve ever had, but they are very good and they save me from having to spend hours and hours water bath canning or buying tasteless, expensive tomatoes at the store during the off season.
The key to success is to harvest them after they begin to lighten from their greenest stage AND before frost hits. Harvest them at the wrong time and they will not keep well.
One of the strange things about keeper tomatoes is that they ripen from the inside out. So on the outside they may look orange or pink, but inside you will find ripe red flesh.
Jeremie’s top pick:
We grow tonnes of carrots in our garden because they are easy to grow in our poor soil, which we are still trying to remedy, and can simply be stored in the soil until ready to use.
If you have kids, or even if you don’t, you should try growing carrots in a rainbow of colours because it’s fun and they’re tasty. This year I ordered the coloured carrot collection from Veseys, which contains purple, white, yellow, and light and dark orange varieties. We have had great success, especially with the Rainbow carrot in our clay soil. Typically carrots fork in hard soil, but these guys are extremely tough and grow nice long roots even when we’ve had to dig them out.
Ella’s top pick:
Aunt Molly’s Organic Ground Cherries
Ella doesn’t like tomatoes, but she loves ground cherries, which I would describe as tropical tomatoes with a hint of pineapple taste. Each plant produces loads of these cherry sized delights in a Chinese lantern like wrapper. They can be preserved, but the kids eat them even before I can bring them in the house.
Jack’s top pick:
Honey and Cream Corn
Jack simply likes corn so I think his pick has more to do with his favourite garden food than with the actual variety. Nevertheless the corn was tasty and best of all – it grew! This was the third summer I’ve tried growing corn using different varieties and this is the first year I’ve had success. So yes, I will be growing Honey and Cream again.
These are the best tasting tomatoes I’ve ever had. They are little balls of pure sugary delight that rarely make it into the kitchen. Instead they are gobbled up on the vine and fought over. My mom introduced me to these bright orange, cherry sized fruits last year and they quickly became our family favourite tomato.
My kids only eat salad greens when I force them to, but they both love this perennial leafy herb. Probably because it doesn’t taste like a salad green, but like lemon sour candy. It is one of those herbs that is easy to grow – so beware.
How about you? What are you growing in your garden this year?
Hey there, how do you get the ground cherries to ripen? I tried planting these in “fall” here in zone 10a but they dropped off when they were still green. None of them ever ripened and I eventually took the whole plant out because it was such a sprawling mess of wasted space. 🙁 I was so excited to try them because there isn’t a ton of fruit that we can grow here (bushes and plants anyways) but it was a real disappointment when I got nothing from the plant.
Kimberlee Bastien says
Hi Natalie! 🙂 I have been growing ground cherries for several years now. They are a must have in our garden and the kids love them. But I have never experienced this problem. What variety do you plant? Is it planted in full sun? It does do better in low-fertility soil. If the berries are not yellow, but have a greenish tint, you can place them on a windowsill (like a tomato) and they will continue ripening.