Friday, March 19, 2010

victory garden 2010

seed selection + starting

Since we've opted out of our CSA this year, I realized it was high time that I got our garden off the ground (er, into the ground).  The first step, seed selection, is fun and motivating because it is basically shopping.  I like these purveyors of heirloom seeds: Baker Creek Seeds, Heirloom Seeds, Turtle Tree Seeds.  I've never purchased from Seed Savers Exchange , but they also have an excellent reputation.

There is an abundance of attractive options, but I have limited time and space to do my gardening.  I set a limit of 12 varieties that I would grow from seed, and used the following guidelines to select them:
  1. those vegetables whose freshness is most discernible.  I want to direct my efforts toward growing the sweetest, crispest, most delicate vegetables, which deteriorate noticeably after harvesting and should be enjoyed immediately.  
  2. varieties that are hard to find, even at the farmer's market.  There are some vegetables whose commercial versions are bereft of the delicious characteristics of their heirloom ancestors.  For example, the stringy, watery celery available at the market has almost nothing in common with the tender, flavorful variety that came in our CSA basket.  
  3. fruits and vegetables that are most likely to retain chemical residue.  Much as I would like to, I simply cannot afford to buy organically-grown produce 100% of the time.  As a compromise, I splurge for organic produce that's on the Dirty Dozen list, and look for the best prices on the Clean Fifteen produce.  I can maximize our food budget by getting the organically-grown veggies from our garden, rather than the market.
  4. favorites that we want in large quantity, for immediate consumption or for preserving.  This category mainly applies to winter squash.  The dwindling supply of butternut squash is the only reason I regret that winter is coming to an end!

Using these criteria, here are the seeds that I ordered from Baker Creek (criterion number indicated):
  • Green calaloo amaranth, which produces grain, but which I will be using to cook Caribbean-style leafy greens. (2, 4)
  • Tendercrisp celery, for the aromatic parsley note it contributes to vegetable broths. (1, 2, 3)
  • Delikatesse cucumber, for enjoying raw and for pickling. (3, 4)
  • Di Firenze fennel, for salads and soups. (2)
  • Chinese kale, "Yod Fah," for a summer greens crop that will have a mild taste (hopefully). (1, 3, 4)
  • Georgia Southern Creole collard greens, because I am nurturing a genuine addiction. (1, 3, 4)
  • Blue curled Scotch kale, for a sweet fall crop of greens. (1, 3, 4)
  • Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas, just to see if they'll grow. (1)
  • Daikon Radish, because if one seed makes one radish, you might as well grow a large radish!  Good for salads, pickling, and macrobiotic experimentation. (2)
  • Ronde de Nice zucchini, because I was successful growing it two years ago, and its texture is divine. (2)
  • Kabocha squash, for roasting in the winter.  Maybe I'll try cooking it other ways, but roasting is a definite. (4)
  • Bibb and Salad Bowl lettuces (seeds from last year), for the freshest salad you can put on the table.  There is nothing like lettuce plucked from the ground only steps from the kitchen. (1, 3, 4)
  • Watermelon, Green Horn bell peppers, and butternut squash, seeds that I saved from last year's CSA produce.  If the seeds sprout, the plants should be well-adapted to our climate.  
So far, I've planted seeds for celery, daikon radish, lettuces, and Chinese kale in peat starter trays.  I planted the peas along some wire fencing; this is a bit of an experiment, as I didn't amend the soil or do anything special.  I did promise to water them.  The rest of the seeds, with the exception of squash and melon, will be sown into large containers because I'm not going to dig up the yard this year.  I plan to pick up a few tomato and pepper plants in April from a specialty farm in our area.

I'm a little behind schedule, but I'm confident in the hot Tennessee summers and in a seed's inherent will to grow.  The plan is to have fun and to convert solar energy into something we can eat.  If you're looking for more specific gardening information, the blogosphere is full of knowledgeable gardeners.  A couple of my favorites are Melinda, who hosts the annual Growing Challenge, and Kelly and Meg, who develop creative solutions for their own challenges in the garden.

Be bold and plant something!  


  1. Totally excited about planting things this year! My garden is very minimal since we don't get much sun, but I'm still going to try growing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chickpeas, and various herbs.

  2. I will personally come over and water your sugar peas if you'll share some with me!

  3. Love your blog! And this post has me checking out tons of websites!! Thank you! Good luck on your garden!