Ugh. March. Definitely not my favorite time of year. In Central PA, March means that there’s not enough snow for skiing (actually there wasn’t all winter), but it’s still too cold for most other outdoor activities. Plus, it’s still a bit too early to start working in the garden.
Fortunately, it’s the time of year when my seed orders start coming in the mail! This year I spent probably a bit more than I should have on seeds (okay, that actually happens every year). I ordered seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and from Seed Savers Exchange, in addition ordering seeds offered by SSE members in the yearbook. This was my first year ordering from Baker Creek. The owner Jere Gettle is a huge proponent of the open-pollinated and heirloom seed movement, and their catalog offers over 1450 rare varieties. I’m trying to move toward saving more seeds from my garden. While I won’t try to save seed from everything I plant, since biennials like carrots, beets, and brassicas are tricky, I’m going to try to do as much as possible in 150 square feet! This also will be the first year I will have grown strictly open-pollinated varieties. Here are some of the highlights for this year’s garden:
I’ve grown Chioggia beets for about the last 3 years. They’re awesome – very sweet, and they’re great on the grill. This year I’m also growing Crapaudine beets. They’re a rare French heirloom (besides Baker Creek, I couldn’t find many other sources for seeds). They’re a highly sought-after gourmet variety, and supposedly one of the oldest beets in existence.
I thought I’d have some fun this year with trying to cross-breed some peas. I read Carol Deppe’s excellent book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in seed saving and/or plant breeding), and thought I’d give it a shot. I’m growing Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokkers – a purple-podded shelling pea from Holland, and sugar snap peas. The goal will be to develop an edible-podded purple pea. Wish me luck!
Black cherry tomatoes. Don’t they look delicious?
Mmmm…squash! One of my favorite things to grow and to eat. For winter squash, I’m going to try growing Seminole pumpkins (C. moschata). These are the wild squash that grow down in the Florida Everglades. Since they’re wild, they’re supposed to have pretty great disease resistance, which is something I need badly. I have yearly battles with the cucumber beetles and squash bugs, and I am losing badly. I’ve read that C. moschata varieties (i.e. butternut squash and its relatives) have better disease resistance in general than C. maxima (e.g. most pumpkins and Hubbard squashes). I’ll also be growing Kikuza, a Japanese heirloom squash (also C. moschata). The Lemon squash will be my summer squash. Again, I’ve read that they’re supposed to have good disease resistance. Time will tell…
Chinese Five Color Peppers. Aren’t they cool? I’ll probably grow a few in pots on my patio besides whatever goes into my community garden plot.
Poona Kheera cucumber – I’ve read that this variety has pretty good pest and disease resistance. I actually haven’t grown cucumbers for several years because I got so frustrated – they would start out great, then they’d be struck by a plague of cucumber beetles, get wilt, and die. This year I’ll be trialing the Poona Kheera cukes, along with the ‘Mideast Peace’ variety that I’m requesting from a Seedsavers Exchange member, to see for myself how good the claims of disease resistance are.
I’m still waiting on the orders from the Seedsavers catalog, as well as orders that I’ve placed from individual SSE members. More on that in a future post…