I don't know which time of the year I like more. That first day you see tiny little sprouts poking up out of the seed trays, or that week you get your first cherry tomatoes off of the vine when everything is lush and green.
It's a difficult call.
Last night, after finishing my scrapbooks for other relatives, I got the seed starting mix out, and brought my extra metal shelving unit in, along with seed trays and little stakes for designations so I could mark what is what. I unpacked my grow lights and my seed heat-mats and proceeded to pick out the varieties for the garden this coming year.
Follow me through the orange portal if you are afflicted with seed propagation fever as well!
I discovered that I had not picked up Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, so I will probably just buy the seedlings from a trusted vender for that particular variety. Purple Cherokees, Sungolds, and Prize of Trials do extremely well in high heat. These plants will set fruit when other tomato plants are shooting sterilized pollen due to the heat. Be aware my Purple Cherokees set their fruit close to the ground and we lost more than a few to pill bugs--More Staking and pinching perhaps?
I did have seeds for Big Rainbow and Black from Tula. If only I had Carmello seeds--if you have ever had a Carmello Tomato, it just melts in your mouth. I will have to buy some seeds for next season. I have limited space, and so unless I want my garden to be ALL tomatoes, I have to pick and choose. It's a burden of course, but I do what I have to.
Eggplant: Casper. When you read on the package that the flavor is reminiscent of portabello mushrooms, that is no joke. This heirloom variety has an amazing, mellow, complex flavor.
I have one last package of Red Ruffles sweet peppers from Seeds of Change--before they were bought by Monsanto--I don't know how to do the strike out function, Seeds of Change was bought by Mars, not Monsanto--apologies. These are fantastic, lipstick red peppers, and very sweet. I use them to make spaghetti sauce. This is also where the Prize of Trials tomatoes come from, and which is also my last package. The link provided here is so you can see what they look like. I have no idea where this company gets their seeds. If I cannot find a reliable supply of Red Ruffles, I will replace them with Corno di Toro peppers. These are lovely too! You can scroll down this page to read a description. These are large horn shaped sweet peppers, I prefer the red variety, they can grow quite large!
John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds is one brand I have used often, they provide some choices I don't find in other places like those carmellos and snow-on-the-mountain.
I have TAM mild Jalapenos. I like to make my own salsa, but I don't like it much hotter than hot garlic. And with that, I have planted yellow, green and purple tomatillos. In my opinion, tomatillos are one of the main ingredients for good home made salsas. This is another plant that does well in high heat.
Genovese basiland common oregano are some herbs I intend to grow. Basil is an annual. I like to plant it and nasturtiums in between the tomatoes for pest control, and to attract pollinators [bees love basil] and because the tomatoes will pick up some of the basil-flavor through their roots when planted next to each other.
Bees are especially attracted to Blue Basil. I used to buy it as seedlings, and I believe this may be the seeds for starting it. I plant this in it's own bed, because the bees are so thick on it, that I cannot get to anything else, until it's dark.
For my pollinator garden: Hyssop, or licorice mint, various milk weeds that must be stratified, alkanet which is in the borage family [gift from a friend] borage, zinnias, cosmos, and loads of sunflowers. Notice the Tithonia or Mexican Sunflowers. Wherever those are planted, I see Monarchs. I read in Nomads of the Wind, that Monarchs would recognize this plant since they have the same origins.
The sunflowers must be directly seeded into the ground later in the season. I have a lot of seed like that, buckwheat, clover, phacelia and lead plant. I need some seeds for goldenrod, for the monarchs. Goldenrod is a favored nectar source for migrating monarchs, so if you can, grow a patch of that with some sunflowers in the fall.I also found seed for Snow-on-the-Mountain, another favorite of honey bees and butterflies. It does quite well in the heat in Oklahoma with a bit of water.
FYI, Bumble Bees are mad for Runner Bean Blooms! I planted these last year and it was like the bumble bee version of basil. There were so many that you didn't want to bump it for all the bees that come out of it.
Last week I was pondering which seeds to pick for the garden, that part is mostly done. I have a few more spots in a tray that doesn't have a heat mat. I use those mats mostly to start tomatoes and peppers--because those seeds need warm soil to germinate and that cuts the germination time in half. You can go this link and scroll down the page to Electric Seed Propagation Mat, to see what one looks like, and how it works. This page also offers DYI alternatives, because those mats can be a bit pricey. Seed mats are very useful for growing Hot Peppers like Fatalii or Lemon drop etc., Those pepper plants are tender annuals in temperate zones, they are actually tropical plants, so the heat is needed to not just trick them into germinating, but also to get them to grow period. Otherwise you could take a month or more to germinate those seeds.
I learned this the hard way.
This page shows grow light systems. As you can see they are quite pricey. You can get grow lights and shelving for a fraction of the costs shown here. Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, etc., have a variety of components you can use to create your own shelving units, or if you have a small garden you could just get one light, for one tray of 72 mini-pots for starts. As long as you start with fresh seed, and reliable seed starting medium, you should have fairly good results.
I know some of you wonder why I don't just put these seeds in a sunny window. Well my glass is treated to block certain forms of solar radiation and this affects seed propagation, and temperature, which is why I built my own grow light units. That and the cat likes to lay on the seed trays when the soil gets warm in the sunny windows. She doesn't bother with them much on the shelves, probably because the wire shelf is wobbly when she tries to climb on it.
A new plant I would like to grow: Salsify. I cannot wrap my brain around the flavor description, so of course I am curious. I am also intrigued by the flower. I wonder if the bees like it. It looks like a thistle of some sort. If anyone has any comments or experiences with this plant, let me know!
Sometime in the next week, many places will start carrying seed potatoes and onion sets for this zone. My favorite onions are Yellow Granex and any kind of Cippolini I can find. I usually buy the sets locally though, but there are also seeds available.
For potatoes, I like the Purple or All Blue, Fingerlings, Russets, and red skinned potatoes. I also usually buy these locally from nurseries as seed potatoes. I have some left over in the fridge from last season that have eyes on them, so I might not have to buy as many seed potatoes this year.
Right now I have to plan my flower beds behind the house. Normally I would put them in the field, but because we are expecting drought again this season, I will plant them nearer to the water spigot so I don't need 100 feet of hose to reach them.
A word to readers: I have provided links to a variety of commercial sites that show different seed varieties and other products. Other than Scheeper's, Seed Savers, and Baker Creek, I am not endorsing any other site, but merely using the link to show examples of products I use or what is available. If you have a favorite vender, feel free to provide links in the comment section below, especially if you know a better price, or one that provides sustainable products as well.
12:05 PM PT: GOOD NEWS! I found my Purple Cherokee Seeds. I hid them from myself inside my desk. Pure Genius! If I hadn't been digging for paperclips I might not have found them til May.