Sunday, January 18, 2009

The 2009 Seed & Rootstock Order

Okay, it's done. I've placed orders with seven (!) different catalogs for seeds, fruit trees, seed potatoes, asparagus roots, berry canes, and some milky spore to try to fight off the annual plague of Japanese beetles. This year we ordered from two divisions of Fedco, Seed Savers Exchange, Seeds of Change, The Maine Potato Lady, Miller Nurseries, and Arbico. I handled group orders for all of these catalogs, so that we share shipping costs and qualify for certain bulk purchasing discounts. In a few cases we are also splitting seed packets between two families. Honestly, what home gardener really needs 250 lettuce seeds of a single variety?

Wherever possible I chose organic, heirloom varieties. I also ordered several things this year with a view towards season extension using a minimum of construction. We're not going to have a greenhouse this year, nor probably next. If we're diligent we'll have a few proper coldframes built by the fall. But there are plants I can work with which can naturally provide a longer season of fresh eating straight from our garden. So here's the rundown of what I ordered, followed by a few things that I will be planting from older seeds.

=new variety this year, N!=entirely new vegetable crop this year, i.e. I've never successfully grown any plant of this type before, L=grown last year or in previous years

Trees & Rootstock
2 Dana Hovey pears N!
1 Mesabi cherry N!
1 Stella cherry N!
2 All-American Paw Paws N!
3 Allen black raspberry N
1 Adams elderberry N!
1 Johns elderberry N!

2.5# German Butterball N
2.5# La Ratte L
2.5# Kennebec L
2.5# Sangre L

25 Jersey Supreme plants N!

Dried bean, Cherokee Trail of Tears L
Dried bean, Hutterite Soup N
Beets, Cylindra N
Beets, Detroit Red L
Brussels sprouts, Roodnerf N!
Carrots, Red-Cored Chantenay N!
Swiss chard, Five Color Silverbeet N
Chili pepper, Poblano/Ancho L
Eggplant, Pingtung Long N!
Eggplant, Listada de Gandia N!
Leeks, Blue Solaize L
Lettuce, Red Velvet N
Lettuce, Bronze Arrowhead N
Lettuce, Slobolt L
Lettuce, Rouge d'Hiver L
Melon, Charantais N
Okra, Red Burgundy N!
Onion, Clear Dawn N
Parsnips, Turga N
Shallots, Prisma N
Spinach, Space N!
Stinging nettles N!
Tomato, Brandywine (beefsteak) L
Tomato, Cherokee Purple (beefsteak) L
Tomato, Peacevine (cherry) L
Tomato, Speckled Roman (paste) N
Winter squash, Hokkaido Stella Blue N

Seed from last year

Arugula Sylvetta
Basil, Purple Ruffles
Garlic, 6 different varieties
Kale Lacinato, aka Dinosaur or Tuscan
Pumpkin, Sugar
Sunflower, Evening Sun & Mammoth Grey Stripe
Watermelon, Moon & Stars

The garden also includes the perennial culinary herbs sage, thyme, oregano, and chives.

A few things of note about this year's garden plan. We are including three plants that we have never eaten on a regular basis before, and which we're not even entirely sure we're going to like. Brussels sprouts, stinging nettle, and okra are all new to our garden and relative strangers to our palates. We've enjoyed a European cheese with nettles in it before. These perennial nettles also come up very early in the spring, so I'm counting them among our earliest crops for the spring season for next year. They're incredibly nutritious and are also widely used to treat allergies in homeopathic medicine. I plan to make some pasta or gnocchi with them if we get a decent crop.

Brussels sprouts and okra fall into the category of things we're willing to try out, both in terms of how well we like to eat them, and how well they grow for us in our garden. I'm counting on the advantage of eating these foods in a state of absolute freshness. I've heard that both foods suffer significantly from sitting around too long after picking. Brussels sprouts will fall at the other end of my season extension plan. I'm going to try timing them so that I don't pick any until they've been through a good frost or two.

Well, when it was all toted up, we've spent a whopping $250 to mail order fruit trees, berry canes, asparagus starts, seed potatoes, and garden seeds. And that's with some bulk prices and discounts on shipping because of the group order! This (to me) is a lot of money. The trees, berry canes, and asparagus starts account for almost half the total cost. All of these are of course long term investments that I'm sure will repay the cost many times over in the coming years. I'm going to make an effort to save seed potatoes this fall as I did with the garlic. Seed potatoes are surprisingly expensive (~$30 for 10 lbs). It would make me feel much better if I could simply set aside some of this year's harvest as planting stock for next year. In our climate zone that may be difficult, but I'm going to try. For the rest, I'm going to be better about storing my seeds to preserve their viability, so that I will need to order very little for next year's garden.

If nature smiles and gives me good harvests, we should buy very little in the way of fruits or vegetables this year. We'll eat what we grow and be well satisfied with it, but for my husband's addiction to bananas. We're still eating produce we harvested over the summer out of our chest freezer. Let's hope it's a good gardening year for everyone in 2009!

What's in your garden lineup for this year?


Lizzie @ her homeworld said...

If you like green cabbage then you will love brissel sprouts. They also improve with the first frost or snow and keep forever on their stalks. Highly recommended.

Anonymous said...

It always seems like a lot of money when you're buying seeds and stuff - especially since they're physically quite small so it doesn't look like you have much to show for it!

But imagine how much money you'll be saving once they start producing. Not to mention the fun and exercise as well.

I was watching River Cottage Autumn this week, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made nettle beer, as well as a nettle pasta (bright green spaghetti!). Sounds interesting, but nettle is a noxious weed here in Australia so I don't think I'll be planting any.

CuriousNomad said...

A group of us just did this today also. I'll get the final tally in a few days, but by *not* going into anything rootstockish (except strawberries) this year, I think I'm around $50. I'm just not ready, physically or mentally, for the long-term commitment of perennials and woodys! I'll have my hands full with the annuals, and making space for perennials next year. Saying no was really hard... [wry grin]

Anonymous said...

Brussels sprouts are delicious fried in butter with nuts, salt, and pepper. Wow. As you are no doubt aware as a foodie, they release toxic horrorshow smells and tastes if overheated, so be gentle and quick and don't use leftover bits for stock.

We have just put in our order at a local nursery here in northern CA for our container garden -- hooray!

Kate said...

KJ, you made me laugh with your description of overcooked cabbage. I just call it "fartacious." You're right though. We are big fans of cabbage, especially savoy cabbage. I think our impression of brussels sprouts comes from those overcooked horrors though. And they probably were none too fresh to begin with.

I remember a chef asking the class in culinary school what the best way to prepare brussels sprouts was. A few students offered answers. He said the best way was to throw them out the window. Then he grudgingly taught us the "correct" methodology, while muttering about how often insects are found in the centers of the sprouts. Pretty obvious why professional cooks don't have much use for these vegetables. Too much risk, and a favorite of very few people.

But yes, we're going to be open minded about them this year.

Anonymous said...

You'll love the red okra. I live in the East TN, and here in the South okra is a staple. The red okra, as I understand related to the hibiscus plant, has the most beautiful of all of the vegetable blossoms in my opinion. It turns a deeper green when cooked, but is just as yummy and is slower to turn hard. Make note to pick okra early because it becomes crunchy and tough when it gets too long. Okra can be irritating to people with sensitive skin, so some people are careful to wear gloves when cutting. Our favorite dishes are okra and tomatoes (exactly what it sounds like)--saute chopped okra and peeled and chopped tomatoes with a little olive oil or bacon grease (I'm Southern, remember?). Season well and after it sautes for a while the okra will serve as a thickening agent. Okra is wonderful added to soups and stews and is delicious coated in a bit of cornmeal and fried. I think you'll be glad you grew it. Also, the seeds are a cinch to save by letting the pods turn hard and then dry out on the plant near the end of the season but before it gets too cold. The pods peel back easily and the seeds will pop out. Enjoy! I love your blog posts and check your site often.
Knoxville, TN

Kate said...

Gabrielle, yes I remember being struck by the picture of the okra blossoms in the seed catalog. I look forward to seeing them in real life. I don't have much doubt that I'll enjoy okra. It only remains to be seen how high it will rank among our garden edibles. I'm only planting a few plants this year. If we love it, I'll plant more in subsequent years.

LaTanya said...

We love brussel sprouts at our house. They are a little stronger than cabbage. My husband actually prefers brussel sprouts over cabbage!! My dad grows these every so often and they taste SO much better than what I can get from the store (I never buy fresh from the grocery store, they taste awful). I will usually steam them and then toss in some butter.

Also, being in the south (Louisiana), okra is a must have vegetable. There are just so many ways to cook it (and recipes to put it in). My mom makes pickled okra every year and cans them. It is so good, people have asked her to start selling it.

Kate said...

LaTanya, I think we'll learn to love brussels sprouts too, given how much we love cabbage. Just have to make sure we don't overcook them. And I hope that okra does well in our garden. Pennsylvania has hot summers. But not as hot or as long as you do down in Louisiana. Looking forward to seeing how it does for us here.



The Country Experience said...

This is going to be our first year gardening so it's going to be all new for us. We spent what seemed to me to be a lot of money at the local co-op (about $110) but it was for: 1 apple tree, 1 plum tree, 2 blueberry plants, 2 grape vines, and 2 blackberry plants. Considering the size of the plants I think we paid a fair price and it is a longer-term investment.

This past weekend I saw some broccoli, lettuce, and other small plants at the co-op and am considering whether or not to try some of those. I'm jonesing for some fresh greens and contemplating trying to get a head start on the growing season.

It's coming. Growing season will be here soon!