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Garden Planning 2010, or What I Obsess Over During the Winter

January 11, 2010

For me, when the food we’ve put away starts to dwindle and spring seems like a distant oasis, I know it’s time to start planning my upcoming garden. Each year, my husband and I try to move further and further away from industrial food, and the best way for us to do that is by producing as much food as we can on our tiny city plot. We grow fruits and veggies mostly in raised beds in our backyard, in addition to edible landscaping in the front yard and containers all around our house and yard.

We grow most of our plants from seed, and my garden plans are hatched while poring over two particular seed catalogs.  The overwhelming majority of our seeds are purchased from two places.

We are members of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, although you do not have to be a member to buy seeds from them. We choose to become members because we believe in their mission, and members get access to thousands of additional seed varieties shared by other members. Their catalog is gorgeous, full-color affair that makes me dream of summer, for tomatoes fat and ripe on the vine and fresh-picked salad every single night. Seed Savers is the largest nongovernmental seed bank in the US, and they maintain thousands of heirloom varieties on their farm in northwest Iowa. While their seeds are expensive, we’ve had great success with them, and many varieties are certified organic.  We have also ordered seed potatoes from them in the past, and will probably do so again this year unless we find a more local source.

The other place from where we order seeds is Baker Creek Heirloom SeedsBaker Creek is here in Missouri, which is one reason why we order from them.  They also have quite a few unusual offerings that make them worth our time, and the Gettle Family, who run BCHS, have several cool projects going on down in Mansfield. While their seeds are (sometimes much) cheaper than Seed Savers, we’ve also encountered a few duds in the bunch over the year.

Both websites offer a user profile for patrons, which is helpful because they allow you to create wishlists.  Right now, as my garden plan grows and evolves, I use that to keep track of what I want to get.  When I order seeds next week, I’ll have narrowed down exactly what we want.  I’ll later supplement with seeds ordered from other Seed Savers members or locally purchased plants if we have total failure.

One certainty will be the Green Zebra tomato from Seed Savers.These guys were prolific, incredibly juicy, and downright stunners as far as both looks and flavor. Pass the salt.

We also can’t get enough of these Dr. Wyches Yellows.

These are one pound-plus, sweet and juicy.  Definitely my favorite slicing tomato, these were my tomato of choice for BLTs and caprese salads, two of my summer staples.  Also makes a fabulous golden tomato sauce.

We’ll undoubtedly grow Baker Creek’s Rocky Top lettuce mix.  For our tastes, it’s a perfect compromise between crunch and flavor, and a snap to grow.

We grew carrots for the first time last year, and loved these Cosmic Purples.  They’re sweet and crunchy and we had good yields when we tended them properly.

What are your must-grow plants for this year’s garden?  Where do you get your seeds or plants? Leave a comment if you’ve got a reliable favorite.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2010 10:33 am

    Baker Creek and Seed Savers are two great heirloom seed sources. We have ordered lots of seeds form both. I would also take a look at Burpee and Johnny’s. They sell more hybrid seed which will raise production and increase disease resistance. In many cases there is a loss in flavor compared to heirloom seed.

    Ever year we also get some FREE stuff from Gurney’s. On the cover of their catalog is a $20 coupon. If your order is less than $20 (including shipping) your order is free.

  2. January 11, 2010 7:55 pm

    My Seed Savers catalog came today! I’m very excited to plan the 2010 Garden. Last year was a fallow year as we did Fair Shares for the first time, and weren’t sure what we were going to get through the CCSA. Now we have a much better idea, and I can’t wait to get into the dirt.

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