Sunday, February 20, 2011

This week I Will Buy Seeds

It’s freezing this week. Even here in northern California I can see snow in the hills and there’s a wet, raw chill everywhere I go. I haven’t been warm for days. So, it feels crazy to be planning my vegetable garden and ordering seeds already. But order I must. I didn’t have tomatoes until almost August last year, because I planted too late. Last year I bought plants from the nursery and put them in the ground late in the spring. This year I’m going to start my plants from seed, so I really need to get a jump on things. This would be the case even if I had a shorter growing season or lived someplace colder – I’d have to be ready as soon as the frost danger passed. Anyway, here it is February and I already feel like I’m behind the curve.

I decided to plant from seed this year for a few reasons, mostly environmental and partly nostalgic. It also should be a lot cheaper – I’ll see how that goes. As I’ve expounded upon before, growing your own food has far, far less environmental impact than getting store-bought produce (and it tastes so much better!). Even so, commercial seedlings are still an agricultural crop that must be grown and transported, usually come in plastic throw-away pots, and the deliveries I’ve seen at nurseries come on flats secured with dozens of feet of plastic wrap. Alternatively, I can have seeds mailed to me directly from a seed company. I’ve started cleaning and saving plastic containers from milk, yogurt etc. to grow my seeds in, which I’ll still be able to recycle when I’m done. The other part is that I enjoy growing plants, or at least I did when I was a kid. My parents divvied up most of our side yard and gave each of us kids a piece. We were allowed to plant whatever we wanted. I don’t even know if seedlings were available, we just always started with seeds.

I could buy seeds at a local nursery, but since I always ordered from Burpee in the past and that was my plan now. Unfortunately, Burpee’s prices have soared and they’re charging almost a dollar per packet for shipping. In a way this was a good thing as it forced me to research other companies. I found such an interesting diversity of choices; from companies that specialize in varieties for a particular region to university seed banks to seeds just for growing sprouts. I ended up choosing a seed company that supplies small, less expensive packets of both standard and unusual varieties. This is a great way for me to try some new things like soy and spaghetti squash and heirlooms I’ve never grown before. And since I have a fairly small space for planting and have chosen over a dozen vegetables, I won’t need more than a small number of each plant. The seed company is Pinetree Garden Seeds which I’ve listed below, though as I mentioned, this is the first time I’m ordering from them.

Check for planting times in your area and buy plants or seeds accordingly.
Don’t forget marigolds. They help keep pests away, so use them as a pretty border around veggies or to mark rows.
If you don’t have much space, think about square foot gardening. Plan to use small unused spaces and pots if you don’t have a real garden area. I will probably need to extend into my front yard (in fact, this is already where I keep my herbs.)

Awesome resource for figuring out what to plant, when, for any US region:

This big book from Burpee is the most clear and complete organic gardening guide I’ve read. It has extensive information on how to pick the right seeds and plants for your garden and everything you need to know to grow them.
The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener - A Guide to Growing Your Garden Organically

“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

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