Push a seed into the ground, then step back to wait for it to grow. It’s a spring ritual practiced by all gardeners. Those seeds are like good friends, ready to bring another season of good food to my table. All I need to do is invite the magic to happen – and choose the right seeds.
I am often asked if I start seeds or buy plants and the truth is a little of both. Every spring, I order seeds with the intention that I will save money on transplants, yet between the cold weather and chipmunks, I am never as successful as I planned. I prefer to start most of my own garden plants from seed for the sheer variety available, a choice that goes beyond what my local plant nursery can offer.
My kitchen garden design starts by planning out the garden on paper first, yet like most gardeners, my garden season starts at the kitchen counter with a pile of seed packets. To (loosely) quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens while you are planning other things” because rarely does my actual garden match my original vision that I set on paper. I am an experimental gardener, always eager to try something different each year, and never enough space for everything I want to grow.
In early April, the seeds are planted in growing medium indoors, on a sunny windowsill. Each year, it becomes easier to imagine how everything will fit together as a whole and I’ve learned what works from seed and what is best to simply buy as plants. And here we are in late May, another garden season about to start all over again, and I am now taking pleasure in transplanting those tiny, green seedlings. Some are so small their leaves barely poke above the soil. Since I don’t sow straight rows, instead prefer arcs and curves, this means everything must fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The most satisfying part now is filling in the gaps with more seeds that will become a second crop later in the season. Succession is key to a long season of good eating from the garden.
About Seed Catalogs
My biggest order is placed with Wild Garden Seeds, where I buy all of my hard to find greens, mesclun mixes and lettuces. Then I switch to flowers, and adore thumbing through the catalog of Select Seeds. When I find a favorite, I try a whole range in the same plant family such as ordering every color of nasturtium (about 15) I can find. Instead of planting just one type of Artichoke, I try three: Green Globe Seeds, Purple of Romagna from Seeds of Italy, and Colorado Blue Star from Johnny’s. Same is true for runner beans: Chocolate Runner from Fruition Seeds, Painted Lady and Trionfo d’Violetto.
Since I began writing The New Heirloom Garden, I have been researching seed catalogs that offer more diversity of seeds beyond the larger commercial catalogs. If you prefer the unusual and hard to find, follow this link for a list to go beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary. Heirloom Seed Sources