The seed catalogues seem to arrive earlier every year, but I make myself wait until after Christmas before I go through them. I like to have all the Christmas decorations put away and the house back into some semblance of normal and THEN.......it’s Garden Planning Day!
I begin by collecting all the ‘tools’ I will need: last year’s garden plan (so I can review where I planted things last year and how they should be rotated this year), the seed catalogues, (with their promise of possibilities!), last year’s garden journal, where I hope that I did actually keep track of all the important things that went on in the garden last year,(nothing more than an old binder, but decorated with garden mag photos for inspiration!), my clipboard, graph paper, ruler and a brand new, perfectly sharpened pencil, and of course a hot cup of Earl Grey!
First though, I take out my seeds from previous years, and figure out what I will be able to use this year. Then I know what seeds I will be needing. I always buy my seeds from William Dam. They aren’t organic, but are untreated. I like the ‘family’ story of the company and that was the first catalogue I ever bought seeds out of. I like the choice that I have come to depend on and have always been pleased with their service, and products. In the past few years though, I have been wanting more heirloom plants, so I have been ordering from a few other companies. Aside from the practical issue of being able to save the seeds for next year and not have to buy those same seeds again (not possible with the hybrids), when I pick out seeds of the heirlooms, I really get caught up in their "story"...okay, maybe I just get suckered in by their marketing strategies, but who wouldn’t?! The thought of growing a tomato whose seeds have been around since the 1800's when someone had the foresight to stuff a few seeds in their sock as they left the "Old Country", or a Sweet Pea that has been traced back to a reclusive monk in Quebec in the 1500's......that thrills me! Such history! These were people like me, who were passionate about gardening and wanted to make sure their plants would survive not only all the perils of everyday growing, like insects and disease, but would also survive time and distance. So after taking that tiny seed and tending to it, until it’s grown into a huge plant, that then provides us with food or flowers, I feel connected to the past and those people.
The two Heirloom seed companies that I like to buy from are:
Terra Edibles, http://www.terraedibles.ca/
and Upper Canada Seeds, http://www.uppercanadaseeds.ca/
Upper Canada offers over 250 varieties of tomatoes!! (occasionally they’ll offer a couple of peppers, but they specialize in just tomatoes) I LOVE reading the info about every tomato and what these growers think of it as well. It is a much more personal experience. Although it’s said that the heirlooms might not have the best disease resistance, ( I have never had a problem with any heirloom I have bought), their taste far surpasses ANY hybrid! This is what I remember tomatoes tasting like when I was a kid.....a REAL tomato taste! And once you’ve figured out how to save tomato seeds (not hard to do, but there is a method), it is great being able to have your own seeds for the next year. What makes these even better, is that they have now grown in your soil, in your part of the world, and will be the best suited tomatoes for you. That’s pretty incredible.
Every year, I like to try a few varieties that I’ve never grown before. This year, I am going to grow 2 new green tomatoes. (Green Velvet is a deliciously tasty one that I have grown for 3 years now, so it will be fun to compare taste with the other 2. I’m also trying to find a new orange cherry tomato, since the one I have been growing for years has to be ordered from the States,( which I usually get a friend to do for me when she orders hers) But I am determined to find an heirloom that is just as good, if not better! I’ve also ordered a new paste variety, a couple of large red ones and 2 new orange ones. So exciting!
Terra Edibles sells more than just tomatoes. In fact they sell more than just seeds. But since I get my tomatoes from Upper Canada Seeds, I look to Terra Edibles for heirloom varieties of other plants that I would like. I am buying a bean this year, that has "dark purple stems, lilac flowers and purple pods"which I plan on putting in one of my flower beds as well as the veg garden... doesn’t that sound beautiful! I am also going to try growing a bean for drying. Since we’ve been trying eat more beans lately, it seems to make sense to grow our own. It will be a new experience for me. Kale is another veg that we have started to eat a lot of, so I am ordering a Red variety from T.E. (And a green one from William Dam) And one thing that I am very excited about it, are the Sugar Snap peas that I have ordered. I have always bought Sugar Snaps from W.D, but last year they were unavailable because of some disease problem they had...? So I ordered the only other variety they offered, but was not impressed. This year, the catalogue doesn’t even have Sugar Snaps listed, so it looks like they taken that one right out of the catalogue.. They were the most prolific, sweetest snap pea, and was our family’s favourite veggie. I was so disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to buy them anymore.....but THEN, in the Terra Edibles catalogue there is a snap pea, also called Sugar Snap! So I am going to try that one this year, with fingers crossed....
Today I am going to spend some time writing in my garden journal, recording my plans and some ideas and some projects that I want to work on this year, both in the veggie garden and the flower beds. I’m also going to drag out my back issues of Organic Gardening Mag. for the months of January/February and maybe some of my favourite garden books: Eliot Coleman’s ‘The New Organic Grower’, Better Homes and Gardens ‘New Garden Book’, and a few new-to-me garden books I found at a used book sale last year and have been ‘saving’ for just such a day. With a temperature of minus 30 this morning, I am going no further than the couch, where I will be sitting in the warm sun with my books and mags (and a cup of earl Grey) and dreaming of the garden days ahead...