Good seeds, and true, you must have if your garden is to attain that highest success which should be our aim. Seeds vary greatly - very much more so than the beginner has any conception of. There are three essentials; if seeds fail in any one of them, they will be rendered next to useless. First, they must be true; selected from good types of stock and true to name; then they must have been good, strong, plump seeds, full of life and gathered from healthy plants; and finally, they must be fresh. It is therefore of vital importance that you procure the best seeds that can be had, regardless of cost. Poor seeds are dear at any price; you cannot afford to accept them as a gift. It is, of course, impossible to give a rule by which to buy good seed, but the following suggestions will put on the safe track. First, purchase only of some reliable mail-order house; do not be tempted, either by convenience or cheapness, to the gaily lithographed packets displayed in grocery and hardware stores at planting time - as a rule they are not reliable; and what you want for your good money is good seed, not cheap ink. Second, buy of seedsmen who make a point of growing and testing their own seed. Third, to begin with, buy from several houses and weed out to the one which proves, by actual results, to be the most reliable.
Yes, it's time to be ordering your seeds, if you haven't already! We just finished up this week, leaving only the potatoes and sweet potatoes to be determined. I've said a lot about ordering seeds before, here and here, and I won't get into describing all the seed suppliers again. Go and check them out through the links..
Once again, let me draw your attention to the Seeds of Diversity site. Their list of available varieties in Canada is a wonderful resource.
We are definitely slowing down on the ordering of 60 gazillion different seeds each year; after 3 years gardening some distinct favourites are starting to emerge. Also, we bought a lot of seed last year and still have much of it. The big exception is beans; the heirloom varieties tend to come in small packets. I would have saved seed, but we had a bean virus in the garden last year, so we are ordering new this year. And of course, there are always a few things we just have to try.
From Heritage Harvest, we are trying a lot of beans: Desoronto Potato Bean, Dolloff Bean, Mennonite Purple Striped (a local heirloom for me!), Annelino Yellow and Early Riser. We're also going to have a go at Listada de Gandia eggplant, Weaver's Mennonite Stuffing pepper, and Gaspé Flint corn.
From Cottage Gardener, we are getting Cherokee Trail of Tears bean, Chervena Chuska, Sweet Chocolate, Fish, and Orange Thai peppers, Guatamalan Blue squash, Patisson Panache Verte et Jaune summer squash, Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon, Country Gentleman and Double Standard corn and Australian Brown onions.
From Annapolis Seeds we are getting First & Best #2 and Misty peas, Purple Peacock beans, Musquee de Provence and White Bush Lebanese squash. We just sent him off a cheque, but I notice he is getting set up to start taking PayPal orders which will make things much easier there.
From Prairie Garden Seeds, True Red Cranberry and Grandma Nellie's beans, St. Hubert dried peas, Costata Romanesco squash, Orchard Baby and Simonet corn.
From Ontario Seed Company, Chioggia and Early Wonder beets (starting to look like staples for us), Sweetness III carrots, Hollow Crown Improved parnips, White Vienna Kohlrabi, and our old fave, Early Yellow Globe onions.
From William Dam, Spaghetti Squash, Sun Sugar tomatoes, Groninger Blue leaf cabbage (like collards, I guess), Imperial Star artichokes, DeCicco broccoli, and Harris' Model parsnips.
The main new seed supplier for us this year is Hope Seeds in Nova Scotia, from whom we have ordered Red Express cabbage, Jaune de Doubs carrot, Gilfeather rutabaga, Golden Midget watermelon (totally an impulse purchase) and Golden Grex beets (ditto). They have some very interesting stuff here, including a lot of east-coast heirlooms. Our main object here was to get the Red Express cabbage. We got seeds for it last year from Greta's Organic Seeds, but alas, not a one germinated. Hope it's not a system-wide problem.
That just left King of the Garden lima beans from Stokes (had to throw in some Painted Mountain corn and Jersey Giant asparagus too), and Santa Clara Canner tomatoes from Upper Canada Seeds.
So you see, this year we are really restraining ourselves on the new variety front! Hardly a single new, experimental item! So, yeah, when you stop laughing here are some more links for you, to my latest time-waster: old gardening books on line. The following 4 are probably worth dipping into:
The Plain Path to Good Gardening, by Samuel Wood. (1871)
Vegetable Gardening, by Samuel B. Green. (First published in 1901.)
Vegetable Gardening, Ralph, L. Watts (First published in 1911; also, written as a textbook and more technical and detailed than the others.)
Sweet Potato Culture, James Fritz, (1886) Short and, er, sweet!
Oh hey, and let me add: Squashes, and How to Grow Them, James J. H. Gregory, 1867.
And also, The Field & Garden Vegetables of America, Fearing Burr, 1865
What exciting things are you growing this year? Seriously, I'd like to hear!