Our 2023 Garden: Veseys seed order is in

One more order of seeds is now done! This is actually our second order with Veseys for next year’s garden.

We had intended to order our potatoes from here, as they have varieties we tried two years ago we really liked. Unfortunately, all their potatoes are currently listed as sold out. There were issues with this last year, when no potatoes were allowed to be sold out of PEI. I’d hope that wouldn’t be an issue, this year! This order ended up being just seeds. No trees or other such things that would be shipped in the spring.

One thing I noticed with their new inventory for 2023 is that their seed prices have increased substantially. I’ve seen increased prices across the board and was expecting it, but the increase seems quite a bit higher here. High enough that it actually affected some of our purchasing decisions.

As with our other seed orders, we have purchased a few things we’ve bought before. This includes the Pixie melon that we enjoyed so much the first year we grew melons, but weren’t able to save seed for, Lakeside spinach, one of three varieties we’d purchased as a collection, Lewis green beans and Merlin beets.

These are the new items and varieties we’ve ordered this time. All images belong to Veseys.

Purple Queen Improved Bean

The first variety of purple bush bean we’d ordered before did very well, even under drought conditions. In fact, all the purple items we ordered did better. I didn’t see it listed anymore, so I decided to try this similar one. The description notes that it has “amazing flavour”.

Red Swan Bush Bean.

These are noted for their exceptionally high yields, and long production season. It can be used as a fresh bean or a cooking (shelling) bean. I will have to remember to leave some of them specifically for shelling, while harvesting others fresh, so we can try it both ways.

Custard Bean

A new variety of yellow bush bean to try that’s noted for being prolific.

Yeah, we’ve got a LOT of beans on order this year. I like to have the different colours, and a mix of types to try. With how prolific these and the other varieties are supposed to be, we don’t have to plant a lot of each. There tends to be quite a lot of seeds in each packet, so we can likely have enough to last us 2 or 3 years, at least.

Dalvay Peas.

This variety of shelling pea is noted for its long pods, well filled with at least 10 peas per pod, and sweet flavour. We’ve had poor results with peas for the past two years, due to weather conditions, and I’d really, really love to finally have more than a snack’s worth of fresh peas! 😁

Sarah’s Choice melon.

This variety is described as the most flavourful in Vesey’s trials, and matures in only 76 days. Our first year growing melons was better than expected, while the second year’s melons were flooded out, so I’m really hoping we have cooperative weather for 2023. We really like melons in this household!

Honeyboat Delicata Squash

I’ve been hearing rave reviews for Delicata squash, but I also saw warnings that they were not a good storage squash. So when I saw this variety was noted as high yielding and a great storage variety, I figured it was worth a try!

Talon Onion

I was planning to get the Oneida onion again, but choked at the price increase, so I picked these, instead. They are described as a great storage onion that does well in dry conditions, and matures 85 days after transplant.

Ambition Shallot

I was going to try the Conservor shallots again, but the price increase was even higher than the Oneida onions. There was another variety that interested me, but it was already sold out. We’ve had no luck growing shallots from seed so far. Our first attempts were destroyed by cats, and the second by flooding that even killed off the shallots we planted from sets. This variety is supposed to be easy to grow, and store extremely well. Here’s hoping we succeed this time!

Cheyenne Pepper

While we have quite a few varieties of sweet peppers, my daughter requested we get a hot variety, too. This is a high yielding variety of cayenne pepper that is ideal for growing in a pot.

Naval Carrot

I was happy with the Napoli carrots we’ve ordered before – I got two years out of the amount of pelleted seeds we got. However, their smallest size packets currently available was more than we needed, so I chose this variety, instead. It is described as keeping its sweet flavour even after months in storage, and as easy to harvest.

Espresso Corn

We actually discussed not doing corn again for 2023, and waiting until we had better soil conditions for such a nitrogen hungry plant, but I think I know where I want to grow these where they should do quite well – I hope! This variety matures in only 67 days, which solves another of our problems, too.

Classic Eggplant.

Yes, we have the Little Finger Eggplant, with their long, narrow shape, but I thought it would be good to have the more traditional type as well. It is described as having “tremendous yields”, and matures in only 75-80 days, so they should work out well.

Roma VF Tomato

Yes, we saved seed from the Cup of Moldova Paste tomato, and we do want to keep that rare variety growing, but they weren’t exactly a flavour power house. At least that’s what my daughter tells me (I can’t eat non-processed tomatoes). I still want a paste tomato, so I chose this Roma variety. I don’t know what the VF stands for, but they are supposed to be quite prolific, and mature about 75 days from transplant.

Lemon Grass

Another request from my daughters, for our culinary herb garden. It has a hardiness zone of 8-9, though, so this is going to be grown in a pot, and in a very sheltered area. I know just the micro climate spot to put it in!

German Winter Thyme

This culinary variety (they also had ground cover varieties) is a bit hardier, but still a zone 4 – 8, which means it will likely be in a pot, too.

And that’s it for this order – and for any other orders until next month’s budget! Those most of what’s left that we want to get is stuff like potatoes, and more sea buckthorn to replace the ones that died – stuff that won’t be shipped until spring. Still, we don’t want to wait to long to order them, as I expect things will be selling out quickly.

We’re ordering a lot more seeds than we actually need, but if there’s one thing we learned from our 2022 garden, it’s that it’s well worth planting more than we think will be enough. In fact, we planted with that in mind, and it still didn’t cut it!

Nature can be brutal.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Baker Creek seed order is in

For most things, I try to order from Canadian seed companies. The chances of success is higher, for starters. Plus, there’s the dollar difference. Baker Creek has some pretty incredible stuff, though, so I’m ordering from them again this year. I don’t know if I’ll keep it up, though; orders higher than $20 will now get charged customs duty. I’ll see how much that turns out to be before I decide if it’s worth buying from the US again.

As with our Heritage Harvest order, there are some things I am ordering again. This includes the Red of Florence onion, Uzbeck Golden carrot (last time, these were the free seeds our order came with), plus both the Kakai and Lady Godiva hulless pumpkins.

New with this order, we will be getting:

Mammoth Sandwich Island Salsify

Yes, you read that right. The same variety of salsify that I ordered from Heritage Harvest. And yet, they look quite different, as is the taste description. I figured we can try both and see if there really is a difference, and which one we like better.

Indigo Blue Chocolate Tomato

An indeterminate variety for my tomato loving husband and daughter, for fresh eating.

Black Beauty Tomato

Another variety for my husband and daughter for fresh eating. The description neglects to mention if it’s a determinate or indeterminate variety, but apparently they are extremely tasty, and only 80 days to maturity. The description even says the flavour even improves with room temperature storage.

Sweet Chocolate Pepper

We’re going to have a lot of varieties of peppers this year! These are supposed to mature in 75 days, which should not be a problem for our area. I figure if we grow a few of each variety, we’ll know which ones we like best to narrow it down to in the future.

Well. My husband and older daughter will know. My younger daughter and I don’t like peppers.

African Drum Gourd

Have I mentioned I’m a sucker for punishment? And that I’m determined to grow gourds?

They can reach maturity in 90-140 days, so there is a possibility that it will work here. We have a growing season of about 110 days, on average.

On top of these, our order qualified for 2 free packets of seeds. It should be interesting to see what we get!

So that’s it for our Baker Creek order. I’ll be placing at least one more order for our 2023 before the end of November, but that order will include things that won’t be shipped until spring.

I think these planning stages can be some of the most fun in gardening!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Heritage Harvest seed order in

It may be the end of November, and I may still be sick, but I can still do at least some garden things!

I got two seed orders in today. This first one is from Heritage Harvest Seed. We ordered from them last year, and I was very happy with them. Plus, they grow their own seeds, and are located even further north than we are, so we can be assured that, barring unusual circumstances (like the flooding we got in 2022!), anything we order there should be able to grow where we are.

Though we do still have seeds leftover for some things, I went ahead and ordered a number of things we ordered last year. Among the things I have re-ordered are: Tom Thumb popcorn seeds (we got none last summer, due to flooding, so for 2023, these will be planted in a completely different location, in a raised bed), Little Finger Eggplant, Canteen, Apple and Yakteen gourds, and Zucca melon (because I’m a sucker for punishment and determined to grow more gourds), Styrian hulless pumpkins and Boston Marrow. I am also getting Georgia Candy Roaster. Last year, we ordered those from Veseys, but I want to try Heritage Harvest’s seeds this time.

New for 2023 are:

Red Warty Thing.

Gotta love that name! I wanted to order these last year, but they were out of stock when I was placing my orders. I wanted to make sure I had some seeds for this year. According to the description, they are great for soups and roasting.

Pink Banana Squash.

This is another one that I had wanted to order last year, but they were out of stock.

Mammoth Sandwich Island Salsify.

My older daughter requested we try salsify, because it apparently tastes like seafood. More specifically, according to the description, this variety tastes like oysters. Apparently, they can be very difficult to harvest and break easily, so she plans to grow them in something deep, like garbage cans (we have a remarkable number of garbage cans around here), so they can be just dumped out to harvest.

Red Wethersfield Onion.

Last year, I was torn between ordering these or another type, so I’m trying these ones for 2023. They are noted as being a good storage variety. There are only 50 seeds per packet, so I ordered two.

We’ll be ordering a lot of different onions for 2023. We just can’t seem to grow enough of them!

Chamomile.

Lawn chamomile grows wild where we are, but this is the larger type that is what you would find in the chamomile teas you buy in stores. Over time, we will be planting a tea garden, and this is our first start!

I’ll be doing an assessment of our 2022 garden later, but we had a lot of failures, especially with the squash. It is unlikely we will have the level of spring flooding we had this past spring again next year, so I hope things will have a better chance of surviving. I was really looking forward to trying the different varieties of winter squash we’d planted, but we’ll just have to try again!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: first order in, with Veseys

We haven’t even done a thorough assessment of our 2022 garden, nor fully decided what we plan to grow next year, but I’ve gone ahead and made our first order for next year’s garden, today.

The main reason is, there are things I wanted to order before they have a chance to be out of stock. Particularly with trees for the food forest we are slowly developing. These will be shipped in the spring, and we won’t be billed until they are shipped. I ordered seeds as well, because I used a sponsor promo code from Maritime Gardening, which gives free shipping if there is at least one package of seeds in the order.

This is what I ordered today. All images belong to Veseys, and links will open in new tabs, so you don’t lose your place. 😊

The new Trader Everbearing Mulberry is the main reason I wanted to place an order right away. We tried a different variety before, that promptly got killed by an unusually cold night shortly after it was planted. Cold enough that even if we had this variety, it likely would not have survived, so soon after being planted.

Here is the description from the site (in case you’re reading this years later, and the link is dead).

Morus alba x rubra. There are so many things to love about ‘Trader’ Everbearing Mulberry! First, the tree itself is absolutely beautiful and can be grown as a single trunk or multi-stemmed shrub. Big, glossy black fruit are present throughout the summer and are an irresistible blend of sweet and tart. Even the leaves are starting to be considered a super-food and can be made into a powerfully healing tea. ‘Trader’ is winter hardy (Zone 3-4), vigorous, long-lived and disease and pest resistant.  We ship 8-12″ non-grafted tree.

Please note: Due to a crop shortage, we are not able to supply the Mulberry in a 3.5″ pot. We can supply in a 2.5″ pot. Since these are smaller, we will send 2 of the smaller size for spring 2023.

That last bit about pot sizes is another reason we wanted to order the mulberry right away. They may be smaller, but we’ll be getting two trees for the price of one. Which means chances are better for at least one of them to survive!

The other tree we ordered was Liberty Apple. From the website:

Malus. Superlative variety resistant to a host of diseases. This apple has outstanding flavour and is aromatic and juicy. The conical red fruit is among the very best and as an added bonus is excellent for cider. Crispy, juicy apples right in your back yard. Good Scab resistance, making them much easier to look after. For best results, two varieties should be planted. We are offering 1 yr. whips. approximately 18-24″ in height which have been grafted onto hardy rootstock. They should mature to about 15-18 ft. Hardy to zone 4.

Yes, it says zone 4 and we are zone 3, but we will just have to take extra care in where it’s planted, and to protect it while it’s small. We have crab apple trees, but no regular apples. One apple tree should be enough to provide for our needs, and the crab apples will be the second variety pollinator.

Then there are the seeds.

While we didn’t have much to show for peppers this past summer, that had more to do with our horrible growing year in general. My pepper loving daughter had thought we would be ordering several varieties for this past year, but I’d only ordered the one type. I think we learned enough about growing them to order more varieties, so I ordered a sweet bell pepper combo.

This is Vesey’s Sweet Pepper collection, and here is their description:

A few of our favourite sweet peppers! This collection contains 3 pkgs, 1 each of Early SunsationEarly Summer and Dragonfly sweet peppers.

Early Sunsation: Bright yellow and big. Very heavy yielding with thick, juicy walls. This variety stays nice and crisp even when fully yellow. 3 lobed fruit. Resistant to Bacterial Leaf Spot races 1-3. 65 days to green; 80 days to yellow from transplanting.

Early Summer: Elite, early and extra large! Early summer is an early maturing, yellow bell pepper. The fruit are large at 5″ and an elite disease resistance package gives Early Summer a winning combination.

Dragonfly: Sweet and colourful. Dragonfly’s early production was a standout for our trial staff. Fruit emerges green and turns deep purple when mature. Dragonfly continues to produce fruit into the fall even after temperatures have dropped.

The Early Summer is new to Veseys for the 2023 growing season.

There was another new for 2023 item I just had to order.

The Caveman’s Club Gourd! This is definitely something for the “just for fun” list. 😁

Truly different! This 12-16″ gourd produces a dark green, ridged, alien-like, bulbous fruit that are not like anything we have seen before! Growing them on a trellis ensures a straight neck. Plant early for best results. Matures in 120 days. Approx. 15 seeds/pkg.

I just couldn’t resist. This will be an ideal thing to try growing on the new trellis tunnels we will be building in the spring.

After we’ve taken the time to assess things from our 2022 garden, then gone through what seeds we still have, we’ll start making final decisions about what else we want to order for the 2023 growing season. One thing we will almost certainly be ordering are different raspberry bushes, that mature at different times. Any raspberries we order won’t start producing until their second year, so what we order to plant in 2023 will be to have raspberries in 2024. As we add to our perennial food producers, while still staying in budget, it’s a balancing act between ordering things that will take years before they start producing, like the apple and mulberry trees, and things that will start producing more quickly, like the raspberries.

Little by little, though, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: planning ahead with spinach

With company coming tonight, I headed out this morning to do a couple of errands.

I’m glad I was able to do at least a bit of mowing around the driveway yesterday, so our guests will have someplace to park. Even if the grass had not gone to hay, I couldn’t have mowed all of it, as there is still open water along one side of the driveway.

Definitely a place to dig a drainage ditch.

As it was, just mowing along the edges took quite a bit of going back and forth, even though I had the mower set higher than I usually do. The rest will have to be done with the scythe.

Since all the dandelions have seeded and died back, we could actually keep the hay we scythe for mulch in the garden, now. As long as we cut it before the seeds are fully developed. Otherwise, we’d just be planting lots of grass in our garden!

My errand of the morning was to head to our little hamlet’s general store/post office/gas station/liquor store to pick up some booze for our guests. We’re all out of our home made hard cider (looking forward to making more!).

They have a small seed display from Lindenberg Seeds Ltd, and I ended up picking up a couple of packets.

The spinach we planted in the high raised bed is doing well. The spinach we planted in the low raised beds, not so well. In fact, they’re barely there. I can’t tell if they’ve been eaten by insects, or if it was just too wet for them. I know they haven’t been eaten by critters, because the beds have onions planted around them, and if anything had gone through, the onions would be flattened in places. They care completely undisturbed.

We do have seeds from one variety of spinach left, if I remember correctly, but I decided to pick up two more. Bloomsdale and Hybrid Olympia. It’s getting too for spinach now, though. These will be planted at the end of July/early August for a fall harvest. Hopefully, we will have generous quantities like we had last year, that we can dehydrate for later use. It was very handy to be able to add a spoonful of dry spinach to dishes every now and then. We’ve been out for a while, though, and I miss it!

Spinach is definitely one of our favourite greens, for all of us.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: Lindenburg seeds – snap peas and cylindra beets

I couldn’t resist.

This afternoon, I went to the post office, where I was able to get a money order made out and mail it off, along with an improved printout photo of myself, to the RCMP for my PAL application. Hopefully, that means I’ll have my PAL certificate soon.

Since I was there, I took the opportunity to pick up a few things and…

I couldn’t help it.

I got sucked in.

There was a new seeds display.

We don’t need more seeds.

I got some, anyhow.

The peas we have now are shelling peas. Which would have been enough, but I do like snap peas, so I went ahead and got some. We also have a variety of beets already, but I decided to try the cylindra variety, too. The elongated shape is apparently much easier for getting consistently sized pieces for canning.

At least they aren’t something that need to be started indoors!

I think this is the first time I’ve picked up seeds from Lindenberg. Unlike a lot of other seed companies, they don’t have all their products viewable at their website, but had a downloadable catalog you can scroll through, instead.

Oh, dear.

I might just have to spend a bit of time ogling their selections now.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: reboot and new set up

Quite a few seedlings, pots and trays got moved around today. The only things that didn’t need to be moved where the onion seedlings, inside the small aquarium greenhouse. That tank doesn’t fit a lot, so they get to be undisturbed for now.

These are the survivors of the Great Cat Crush.

They are still struggling, but it looks like most of them will make it.

Also, the second seed in the cup with the Canteen gourd sprouted! That makes for a 100% germination rate on those!

As for the luffa, there were two peat pots, with nothing coming up, so more luffa seeds were set to soak, this morning.

Last time, the seed coats were scarified by carefully snipping them with nail clippers. In the off chance that they were damaged by this, I used sandpaper on an edge of each seed, instead.

When it was time to plant them, I used the tip of a chopstick to loosen the seed starting soil – and see if I could find the old seeds. I found only one (there should have been 2 in each pot), and it was just the shell, completely empty.

Hopefully, we will have better luck with the new seeds.

I also decided to do more Wonderberry. We started seeds in two Red Solo cups, and one of them now has a second seedling in it. The other, nothing. So a few more seeds were used to try again. We do still have some left over.

Next to do were the Sophie’s Choice and Cup of Moldova tomatoes. There were barely even stems left with the Sophie’s Choice, and all the leaves on the Cup of Moldova were withered away. These were the ones we transplanted to thin out of the original pots. While a cat destroyed the Sophie’s Choice seedlings, I still don’t know what happened with the Cup of Moldova seedlings. They had been doing so very well, after transplant. 😦

We reseeded the Sophie’s Choice minimally, and still have some seeds left. I managed to get a couple of seeds into each Cup of Moldova pot (though I noticed some seeds were stuck together, so a few have more), and finished off the packet. If these don’t work, then all we’ll have is anything that survived the Great Cat Crush.

The newly planted seeds went into the big aquarium greenhouse. My daughter has hung her orchids in front of the window, and I found a place for our aloe that will hopefully dissuade the cats from digging in their dirt. That allowed me to set up a surface for a second tray.

The Sophie’s Choice, luffa and Wonderberry are on the heat mat, and there was space enough for a metal tray to hold the Cup of Moldova on the other side. The Red Solo cups don’t fit in the black trays as well. If they weren’t the exact size for the mini-greenhouse, I’d be using nothing but those baking trays!

Speaking of the mini-greenhouse…

We emptied that out, removed the plastic cover, then lined the back and sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. The whole set up is now closer to the window for more natural light.

The remaining seedlings went back into the mini-greenhouse. The shallots are now in here, along with the two other Canteen gourds that sprouted while in the big aquarium greenhouse, as is the sprouted Wonderberry. The new location should mean more natural sunlight – especially first thing in the morning – and the aluminum should help reduce any stretching towards the light from the seedlings. They’ll still be checked and turned as needed, of course. Eventually, it’ll be moved even closer to the window, but it’s still too cold for that.

I had hoped to be able to block the front opening of the cover with the window screen we used to use on top of the small aquarium greenhouse, but it’s not big enough to keep the cats out. So, we have the little fan inside again. Since today is quite overcast, I’ve also added the light fixture that also provides a bit of heat. There’s another lamp we use, but it doesn’t fit inside the mini-greenhouse, and will sit in front, instead.

The tray with the baggies of paw paw and tulip tree seeds is back on the top shelf, where it has the least amount of light, but is also the warmest. It should still be a while before we start seeing anything happening with those.

You know, all of this would be a lot easier, if we didn’t have to protect everything from cats! 😀 One or two shelves in the living room window, and we’d be done.

Ah, well. It is what it is!

Hopefully, the newly planted seeds and the new set up for the mini-greenhouse will work out.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: seedling therapy!

After seeing my weather apps flashing warnings for the blizzard that, thankfully, missed us, now I’m seeing new alerts.

This time, for extreme cold.

Which is NOT missing us!

The -23C/-9F is one thing. The -36C/-34F wind chill is something else. And look at those overnight temperatures! Yikes. Thankfully, the wind is mostly from the north. One of my daughters and I were out there for an hour or so, shoveling out the paths, so we were mostly sheltered. Not so much when my daughter was clearing the paths to the compost pile, back of the garage, and the outhouse. I had to use the wheelbarrow to clear away snow closer to the house, since the surrounding piles are too high, and the snow just falls back into the paths in that area, but at least I was out of the wind!

The temperature has actually dropped in the short time since I took this screen cap, and I’m now seeing -25C/-13F with a wind chill of -37C/-34F.

Previous long range forecasts had us warming up again right now, which clearly isn’t happening… but then, they never included another blizzard, either. Now we’re seeing the cold staying for four more days, before things are supposed to start warming up, and keep slowly warming up into March.

We’ll see how accurate that turns out to be!

Having a bit of garden therapy after shoveling snow was nice, even if it was just a tiny bit. It’s not like the seedlings need much tending.

The onion trays are starting to look a bit hairy – and not just from all the cat hair all over the top of the soil (and everywhere else in the house… LOL). With this tank being a bit cooler, and not having a heat mat under it, today was the first time they needed a top up of the water in the aluminum tray underneath them.

As for the big aquarium greenhouse, I decided to switch things around.

The two rows of gourds had been next to the end of the tank. Yes, there’s insulation against the glass, but it still gets pretty cool, with that end of the tank next to an outside wall. The heat mat below was also a bit off centre, so the canteen gourds would have been getting ever so slightly less warmth from below. I decided to move the gourd end of the tray to the middle, away from the colder side of the tank, making sure they were completely over the heat mat as well.

There is still just the one luffa growing. There are more Cup of Moldova tomatoes coming up than expected! My daughter had issues with seeds sticking to each other, while she was trying to plant just 4 or 5 per pot. I’d like to simply transplant the extras, while they are still tiny, as demonstrated in this video.

The problem is, we don’t have any more cat-proof space for more pots. We could bring in the mini-greenhouse from the sun room; that would give us space for 3 trays of the size the current pots are in, but we still haven’t figured out how to keep the cats from clawing their way under the plastic cover again. At least not without making it just as impossible for us to get in, as needed. I hate the idea of “wasting” thinned seedlings, if we don’t have to! Especially since the Cup of Moldova tomatoes are the ones we want lots of, for preservation purposes.

Ah, well. We’ll figure it out! Thinking about such things is great garden therapy, when it’s so frickin’ cold outside. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: seedling progress, and I couldn’t resist

Wow! I was just checking something in my WordPress dashboard, and realized that this post is number 3,500 for this blog! What a chatterbox I am. 😉

This morning, I opened up the large aquarium greenhouse, to spray the pots and add more water to the tray on the heat mat.

There were more sprrrooots!

It is still only the Cup of Moldova tomatoes that are showing, and they are growing remarkably fast!

The aquarium greenhouse set up is working quite well. Even the little one is working out. The cats had repeatedly knocked the screen window being used as a cover off the top, by jumping on the overhang. A couple of days ago, I discovered where the cats had been getting into the space in the basement that was supposed to be a dry bar, but never got finished. We’ve got all kinds of breakable things stored in there. Somehow, a cat managed to create an opening in the blocked off rafters above. While picking things back up again, I noticed a smaller screen window. It turned out to be exactly as long as the small tank, though a bit wider, so there it still an overhang. Just not much of one. It hasn’t been knocked off since.

The larger tank has my daughter’s remaining orchids in it, and they are really liking the space!

One of them is blooming with the strongest looking flowers I’ve ever seen on it!

Since I was spritzing the seed starting trays, I sprayed the orchids, too.

The second orchid is a lot smaller, and my daughter is not quite sure how it’s doing. It was an unexpected surprise to find that hanging them in front of the living room window, while safe from the cats, turned out to be too cold for them once winter hit. If I remember correctly, she lost one while it was still at the window, and another died shortly after they were transferred into the tank. These are the only two left.

I think I might get her another orchid for her birthday this spring. 🙂

While on the subject of seedlings and growing things, I made an unplanned order last night. It was through someone on a hardy fruit and nut tree group that I’m on.

I got tree seeds.

The person I got them from is in Ontario. Most of his seeds are zone 4 and above, and he was sharing about his paw paw seeds, which are a zone 4 tree, though some places rate it as a zone 6. I talked to him for a bit about growing them in zone 3. Previously, I did find one tree nursery that advertised having zone 3 paw paws, but when I asked people on the group about the company, I got an overwhelmingly negative response. One of those negative responses is that they get their zones all wrong (and also had a habit of shipping dead trees!). So while it would be time saving to buy saplings from a nursery, we were going to wait on that. However, we might have better luck growing them from seed, ourselves.

The other seeds I got were tulip trees. They are another zone 4 tree, but that might just mean they grow more slowly in our zone 3, like with black walnut. I looked them up, and tulip trees can get quite huge.

The seeds we get will already be cold stratified, so when they arrive, we can go straight to germinating them. Both will be grown in containers for the first year or two, and we can overwinter them in the sun room or the old kitchen, until they are ready to be transplanted permanently.

Because of their large size at maturity – potentially 70-130 ft/21-40m tall (for comparison, the spruces in the grove near our house are about 65ft/20m tall), with 30-60 ft/9-18m wide canopy – if we get any surviving tulip trees, they can be planted either along the north property line, or well to the south of the outer yard, to be part of our shelter belt. These would be a tree for the pollinators and wildlife and, potentially, for a valuable wood.

The paw paws are a much smaller tree, and I can see these being planted in the old garden area, further from the house, where we are planning to plant berry bushes, fruit and nut trees already. They can reach 15-25 ft/4-7m in height, and 15ft/4m wide. Growing from seed, we’re looking at about 6 years, before we can expect any fruit.

Buying trees as saplings may shorten the time, but buying the seeds are a lot cheaper. We’ll be getting a dozen paw paw seeds and twenty tulip tree seeds, all for less than $20 – and that includes shipping. Even if we have an only 50% germination rate, that’s potentially 16 trees. The only thing I’d want to buy special is extra deep pots to start them in, to have room for their tap root. I already have the instructions for how to get them started, care for them in their containers, and transplant them.

As for growing in our zone, the person I’m buying them from can only guarantee them to zone 4. He’s never had anyone try the tulip tree in zone 3, however he’s had someone successfully grow their paw paws in zone 2b, getting hit with temperatures as low as -40C/-40F without extra protection, and surviving. Even in the group, when I’d asked in the comments about zone 3 for the paw paws, I had someone share that they’re growing them successfully in zone 3, though their seedlings are still too young to be producing fruit, yet.

I do hope this works out. If not, however, we’ll only be about a few bucks for a total of 32 tree seeds. Unlike the mulberry tree we got, which cost over $60 for the one sapling, got killed by an unusual, out of season, cold night, then even the remaining stem got eaten by deer.

I figure it’s worth taking the chance.

And if we’re going to be growing food trees, with how long they take before they mature enough to produce, we need to be starting as soon as we can.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first seeds started

Though it is very early in the year, we have our first seeds started indoors today. A lot of people in our zone have already got seedlings, while still others are saying, it’s way too early.

So which is it?

I happened on a video today, talking about planting peppers and eggplants, which we are doing for the first time this year. Both are plants we never grew when I was a kid, so I have zero familiarity with them.

This particular video mentioned something I’ve never heard before, yet had wondered about.

When reading the seed packets, they say things like “start indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost date”.

Last year, we had a lot of issues with some things not germinating. Some took forever to germinate. Others never did at all. This was particularly true of various squash, plus all the Hope Black Dye sunflowers – with did finally all germinate, when I started taking the trays outside, while hardening off other seedlings.

What got mentioned in this video, is that when they say “4-6 weeks before last frost,” it’s actually from germination, not from planting the seeds. So if you have something that needs to be started, say, 6 weeks before last frost, but the packet says the seeds take 7-10 days to terminated, then the time to start them indoors is 6 weeks, plus 7-10 days.

That actually makes so much more sense to me.

I’d already made a list of which seeds needed to be started when, and these were the ones that needed at least 8 weeks.

The gourds were started first, as they needed extra steps. Among the things recommended that I wanted to try was scarification and pre-soaking.

So that’s what I started this morning.

Of the gourds we will be trying to grow this year, I chose the Canteen gourd to start early, as the gourds are supposed to get quite large. The other gourds I want to grow are smaller at full maturity.

Which lead me to another thing. With the luffa, we’re not after “days to maturity”, which is 110 days, if I remember correctly. We’re after the sponges, so we need for those mature gourds to dry out. That puts them at 200 days. Even starting now, we might not have that long for them. It will depend on whether or not we get another really long summer again. Of course, in the end, everything depends on the weather.

I chose 6 of the plumpest, healthiest looking seeds from each, then carefully snipped their outer shells with a nail clipper, before putting them inside the folds of a paper towel.

Then they went into sandwich baggies, and the insides were sprayed with water, before being sealed and left to sit. Most places recommended leaving them overnight, but I left them “overday” instead. 😉

Then they went into planting pots filled with pre-moistened seed starting soil. My daughter used a chopstick to push them the inch into the soil they needed to go. Once covered, the tops of the soil got sprayed with water.

Then it was time to take a look at the rest of the seeds and see what we had to work with. None of the packets have a lot of seeds in them, but we are not after a lot of individual plants.

The Sophie’s Choice tomato was a conundrum for me. Everything I read about them said they needed to be started very early; a couple of weeks earlier than other tomatoes. Yet they are an early tomato, with only 55 days to maturity. At only 55 days, we could start them outdoors and they’d have plenty of time to mature. Odd.

For all but the Wonderberry, we decided to plant about 5 seeds per pot, and three pots each. With the gourds, that filled an entire tray.

The Wonderberry got planted using the double cup method. I reused some of the Red Solo cups we used last year, with the inner cups having drainage holes in the bottom, so they can be watered from below, using the outer cup.

We still had seeds left over, even with how little was in each packet, so that’s nice.

We used more boxes to bring the tray and cups closer to the lights, inside the big aquarium greenhouse. The heat mat fits under the tray. I’m hoping that just being near the mat as well as close to the light fixtures, one of which does warm up, will be good enough to adequately warm the Wonderberry in their cups.

The double cups got water in their bottoms before they were put in place, and water was added to the tray once it was settled on the heat mat. We do still have a little fan blowing into the tank, though it’s over the orchids and aloe in the other corner. We won’t be able to cover these with a plastic dome, as typically recommended, so I’ll be making sure to use a spray bottle to keep the tops moistened, since the smaller seeds are so much closer to the surface. There’s quite a bit of water in the tray so, with the heat mat, that should help increase the humidity levels, with the fan hopefully keeping things from starting to mold.

The heat mat doesn’t have a thermometer, nor do we have a soil thermometer, so we’ll have to monitor these fairly closely. Everything is plugged into a power bar, which gets shut off every night, so there will at least be that break. If it seems to be getting too warm – unlikely, for what we’ve got planted in there – we can put something under the tray to elevate it. Once the seeds germinate, we can probably take the mat out entirely.

The next things we’ll be starting are the onions, which won’t need the heat mat, but when it comes time to start the rest of the tomatoes, and all the squash, we’ll need both the heat mat and space – and space is going to be harder to come by! We do have a mini greenhouse, the frame of which we are currently using in the sun room to hold the heater bulb for Butterscotch and Nosencratnz, as they recover. We did try to use it in the living room last year, as it does have a zippered cover, but the cats still managed to get into it. If we could find some way to keep the cats out of it, it would go a long way to helping with our space issues!

We’ll figure something out.

The main thing is, we’ve got stuff started that need that extra time indoors.

Yay!!

The Re-Farmer