Seeds, Seeds, Seeds! The Sow Generous Garden.

Welcome to the first in the Sow Generous challenge series.  Starting your first vegetable garden.  Or it could be your twenty first.  Either way … let’s pick out some seeds!

If you haven’t yet, read about the Sow Generous Challenge here!

February is the month we gardeners do our best deluded imagining.  The memories of our gardening embarrassments from last season have safely faded into a cobwebby haze somewhere in the back of our brains (right behind the memory of that time we gave a big wave back to that person who was waving at the person behind us.)

This bad memory stashing allows room in the front of our brain for all sorts of positive thoughts.  Like how we’re going to grow the perfect garden that will have no weeds or pests, where the sun shines every day and yet the soil never gets dry.  Butterflies will flutter, bees will buzz and the bunnies will eat vegetables out of our hands but never out of the ground.  Yes.  Every February, we gardeners start planning our Disney cartoon garden.

And it all begins with the seeds.


If you plan to grow anything from seed in your garden this year (and you don’t have to, you can absolutely just buy seedlings if you want) then now is the time to start buying your seeds.

Good seeds and especially rare varieties often sell out so if your heart is set on that pink celery you’d better order it now.

Where Should You Buy Your Seeds From?

  1. Seed exchange programs.
  2. Seedy Saturdays (community organized days in late winter or spring that have seeds for sale and exchange)  It’s more of a Canadian thing where across the country there are hundreds of Seedy Saturday events.  Click here for a list of Seedy Saturday events in Canada.
  3. Online catalogues.
  4. Local nurseries and garden centres.

O.K. here’s where things get serious.  Monsanto.  I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do regarding bringing Monsanto into your garden.  That’s a choice for you to investigate.

But I can tell you there are two ways to keep Monsanto out of your garden if that’s a goal of yours. 

  1. By not planting GMO (genetically modified) seeds. This will be totally easy since they aren’t available to buy.  They’re only available to commercial farmers/growers and you can’t just walk into a garden centre and accidentally buy GMO seeds.  True story.
  2. By staying away from vegetable varieties that Monsanto owns. This is harder.  Monsanto now owns so many seed companies and so many seed varieties that if you really want to make sure your garden is perfectly Monsanto clean … it’ll take a bit of  research.  Just because Monsanto owns the variety of seed, that doesn’t mean they’re bad for you.  The Better Boy tomatoes (for instance) won’t give you cancer, there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re just seeds owned by Monsanto.  But buying them benefits Monsanto.

Popular Monsanto varieties

Royal Chantenay carrots, Cheddar cauliflower, Black Beauty eggplants, Celebrity, Early Girl and Sweet Baby Girl tomatoes.

Those are just a few you might recognize.  You can look here for a fuller list of Monsanto varieties. The list is older, and will constantly change but it’s still a good guide.

Where do I buy my seeds?  These are my favourite online seed sellers.

Baker Creek Seeds

The Seed Savers Exchange

Michigan Heirlooms

Richters

William Dam Seeds

Veseys Seeds

What vegetable seeds should you buy?  K, let’s make this easy.  Grow things you like to eat.  Do not grow things you don’t like to eat.

You’d be surprised at how many people ignore that little rule. ( Like me.  Who grows Brussels sprouts regardless of the fact that I consider them to be little dirt faces. Bleh.)

What are my favourite vegetables and varieties to grow?

For the beginner (I’m kind of scared of anything weird) vegetable gardener.

Carrots – Bolero, Ibiza

Kale – Black Magic, Lacinato kale

Potatoes – Kennebec

Squash – Delicata, Sweet Mama Kabocha

Radish – French Breakfast, Raxe

Beets – Boldar (yellow), Kestrel (red)

Green Beans – Emerite

Broccoli – Burney, Everest

Tomatoes – Celebrity – a basic, easy to grow determinate (doesn’t get HUGE) tomato.

Varieties for the more adventurous

Carrots – Purple Sun (dark purple inside and out)

Kale – Redbor (dark red kale)

Potatoes – Russian Blue or Peruvian Purple (purple skin and flesh)

Squash –  Jarrahdale pumpkin

Radish – Ping Pong (pure white variety that grows well and tastes great)

Beets – Chioggia beets (also called candy cane beets, they’re swirled with white and red insides)

Green Beans – Chinese Long beans (They grow over 2′ long)

Broccoli – Rapini broccoli (an Italian bitter green broccoli that has no heads)

Tomatoes – The possibilities for weird tomatoes are ENDLESS.  My favourites are …

Aunt Ruby’s German Green (a green when ripe tomato)

Pineapple (an orange and yellow tie dyed looking tomato)

Green Zebra – A new heirloom variety that’s green bordering on turning yellowish when ripe. Delicious. Naturally salty tasting.

Black Krim – A newly popular dark, dark burgundy tomato with good flavour.

Costoluto Genovese – A red pleated (scalloped) tomato

Indigo Rose – A near black, small tomato

Now for some of my favourite things to grow just because they’re so much fun. Every year I grow something different, weird or rare.

Seeds to grow JUST FOR FUN.


Mouse Melons (cucamelon)

Tiny little cucumbers that look like watermelons fit for a mouse. Slightly sour like a pickle.  Really good!

I grew these for the first time about 6 years ago and have been growing them ever since.  Mainly because they reseed themselves.

Mouse Melon 3

 

Toothache Plant

This is the plant I had SO much fun with this year offering it to unsuspecting friends and fellow gardeners.

It numbs your mouth.  And makes you salivate like crazy.  You chew on a flower head and within seconds your mouth feels like it’s filled with salt, numb and you’re drooling.

NOW THAT’S A FUN PLANT.

Luffa

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time you know I loveeeee growing Luffa and teaching people that they too can grow Luffas.  Yes. As in the sponge.

 

Haven’t joined yet? Sign up for the Sow Generous Challenge here and start a Grow & Give garden!

At the end of the season we’ll total everything up to see how many pounds of food we gave to food banks etc.

HOMEWORK for February

  • Find out what gardening zone you are in.
  • Decide on what you’d really be excited to grow. Don’t forget, if you don’t have a lot of room, almost anything can be grown in pots – more on that next month.
  • Browse the sites I provided you with and see what interests you and then order some seeds or drop by a local garden centre and pick some up! Make sure to check that they will grow in your gardening zone.
  • Dream, dream, dream.

p.s. My goal was to keep these Sow Generous posts to 500 words. I was POSITIVE I could do it.  This one ended up being twice that long.

That is exactly the kind of deluded expectations required of a vegetable gardener.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

 

Sow Generous is a vegetable gardening challenge for new and experienced gardeners culminating with donating a portion of our harvest at the end of the season. It\'s a grow and give garden. :) February\'s gardening task is ... picking out seeds! Is there anything more exciting for a vegetable gardener?? I\'ll answer that. NO.

46 Comments

  1. wrybread says:

    I have SUCH a black thumb but hope springs eternal! So I’m going to follow your every instruction and maybe this year I’ll harvest more than one tomato and a bean. Especially since you’re gonna be next to me every step of the way! And later you’ll let me sob on your shoulder when I’m standing there with my one and only cucumber. Right?! 😂 (I know I sound defeatist but this is seven years of gardening speaking. Seriously, I could kill an air plant.)

  2. Sandi Remedios says:

    I tried to share the ” Sow Generous ” on my Facebook page and I got a message from Facebook support saying “This post goes against our Community Guidelines”. WTF!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      If you tried to share the badge, you won’t be able to do that. You should be able to just share the post. The badge is just for sharing on websites. ~ karen!

  3. Toni (in Niagara) says:

    I am going to try some of the varieties you mentioned! William Dam Seeds in Dundas, ON is a family operated company that is wonderful to work with AND does something very cool: All of the seeds that are left over from the current season are shipped to 3rd world countries at no charge!
    An added bonus with this company, is you can say stuff like “Where is my Dam seed catalogue?” and “I’m picking out my Dam seeds!”

  4. Holy crap is that how you really store your seeds? That’s so beautiful I think my heart just stopped. Mine are just shoved in the crisper drawer.
    Putting in my baker creek order this week. New here this year is a grove of paw paw seedlings which my husband really doesn’t know about yet.

    • Karen says:

      It is, lol. But I got a huge cabinet with small drawers this year and I’m halfway considering moving my seeds BACK to envelopes and keeping them in that. Ack, lol. ~ karen!

  5. Nicole says:

    We went further than usual in our deluded state this year and created a database for all of our seeds and gardening fun. We have over 200 seed varieties (so many tomatoes and peppers!) and we can now keep track of what we planted, how they did and whether or not to keep the seeds.

    We buy seeds almost exclusively from Baker Creek (www.rareseeds.com) – I have had great success with them.

    At this point, lettuce and spinach seeds have just sprouted and I’ve also started aji amarillo pepper seeds from Peru as well as some cilantro and Trinidad pepper seeds. Both pepper varieties take 8-9 months to mature in our climate so I always have to start them early.

    Thanks for doing this challenge – I think it’s going to be fun and helpful. 🙂

  6. Kole says:

    Went to the seed swap on Saturday (Bristol, UK) I have got some salad seeds on rockwool to be grown hydroponically already.

    Can I recommend Cosse de Violette, fab purple French beans that are really easy and great climbers and prolific fruiters, with beautiful purple flowers
    also Trade Winds Fruit (http://www.tradewindsfruit.com) for all sorts of really unusual edibles and heirloom varieties.

  7. Linda in Illinois says:

    I have ordered my flowers seeds, all yellow this year. I have no yellow in my garden for some reason.

  8. Stephanie says:

    My Baker Creek catalog has about every other page dogeared with stuff I want (and have not enough room for). The hard part is narrowing it down. I also have paper lists from Mountain Valley and Floret’s websites. I only have .11 of an acre, and my house takes up part of that, the driveway another, and the chicken yard a third. My life is hard.

  9. Debbie says:

    Excited about growing Loofahs! I just picked up some lettuce seeds that I’m going to grow in hanging pots. Now I’m really yearning for Spring!

  10. Judy says:

    Hi Karen,
    Another Canadian source is West Coast Seeds from Vancouver – I love their new website and my order is on its way! And Caseys Heirloom Tomatoes from Airdrie, AB. Both links below. I already have a dozen of his seeds planted under lights, but only have a small apartment patio garden so I’m sure I’ll be gifting what doesn’t fit in my little dream patch. I can’t wait for all this snow to melt!
    https://www.westcoastseeds.com
    http://caseysheirloomtomatoes.ca

  11. Andrea says:

    For those in the south, a supplier that caters to our climate needs is helpful. I highly recommend https://www.southernexposure.com/ for a comprehensive offering with lots of information to help gardeners succeed. They publish an annual catalog that I save each year because it is so beautiful and helpful.

    • Ann Marie says:

      Thank you for sharing! Zone 10a here in SW FL. There’s $157 worth of seeds in my cart. I best pare down a bit.
      Our gardens will go to bed when Karen and company plant there seedlings but it will be a pleasure to watch the progress over the summer

  12. Eileen says:

    Karen, this was another awesome post and great info about recommended seed companies and also the Monsanto link. We have been talking about making a reference section for seed companies on our garden club’s website. I have posted a link to this article on our club’s email list.
    https://takomahort.groups.io/g/main/topics
    Our club is takomahort.org

  13. Idaho Girl says:

    I love the optimism of Spring and sharing it with like minded gardeners. My fav. local nursery has it’s seed exchange this weekend, so after that I’ll be ready to fill in my list with online sources. Last year I did a colorful garden with purple tomatillos and tomatoes, etc. This year I’m doing white eggplant from seeds I brought home from Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s estate). My suggestion for a fun and colorful edible is Joseph’s Coat Amaranthus – a pretty tri-color annual. Colorful enough for your flower beds, it will impress your guests when you serve the leaves in a salad (dressed with walnut oil). Thanks for sharing your list, I can’t wait to try several things from it.

  14. Shelagh says:

    So I followed the link on Monsanto….super scary reading for my morning coffee.
    I live near Ottawa, Canada and woke up to a world with three times as much snow as yesterday….easy to dream about a garden….much harder to think it will ever happen.
    I feel sorry for the folks who have to get out and drive today.
    I will go online and order seeds, responsibly.

    Karen, do those hoops and screen covers work well to keep out cabbage moths?
    I grew cauliflower and broccoli one year and didn’t want to use sprays to kill bugs but honestly the bugs just moved in and destroyed everything! 😩

    • Karen says:

      They work PERFECTLY. You just have to remember to keep them closed at all times, lol. If you do that you won’t have a single bit of cabbage moth worry. I still had a few holes in my kale leaves but those were from flea beetles not cabbage moths. It’s not the holes that bother me so much as the green caterpillars hiding all in my produce. bleh. ~ karen!

  15. Mindy says:

    My unorganized seed box is sitting on the dining room floor, waiting for me to go through it. Once I do that, I can see what I need. I saved a bunch from the garden last year, so it won’t be much, but I DO need to find that damn cucumelon. So far, only online, so I may need to bite the bullet. I did already order flower seeds from Floret. Their packaging and website is so beautiful, I couldn’t resist. Plus, she’s in my neck of the woods, so there’s that. Off to that box…..

  16. Kim Kelley says:

    I’m zone 8…my tomato seed should already have been sowed! GAH–the pressure! (just like the Christmas Pledge but without the gifts)

  17. ErinG says:

    Excellent post, Karen. You made even this old jaded gardener perk up. Thanks.

  18. Julie Pearce says:

    We’ve been getting our seeds from Hawthorm Farms. Organic & the best results. Especially their french breakfast radishes. Live in town now, hard to downsize!

  19. K says:

    I’m on it! I especially like this Cdn source because of the wide variety and unusual offerings. Seeds always germinate well too: https://www.heritageharvestseed.com

  20. Cheverly says:

    This commentary made me LOL: “I grew these for the first time about 6 years ago and have been growing them ever since. Mainly because they reseed themselves.” You’re hilarious.

    I just got my first ever orders from Baker and SSE this week, and am glad to see the Black Krim tomato made your recommended list. I randomly bought it in addition to milkweed and bee/butterfly feed and poppies and lots of other things I’ve never grown before–let alone from seed! I’m sure it’ll be FINE.

    All this seed buying in spite of the fact that exactly NONE of the beds I’m imagining overflowing so beautifully with said seed have been dug or even have materials waiting for their building/completion, which is why I’m certain I fit the mold of the delusional, yet expectant, gardener. Go me!

  21. Karen A says:

    This picture shows the two raised beds started nice and close to the house and inside a fenced in yard.

  22. Robyn says:

    I have already received my mouse melon and pink celery seeds along with many others. I have a garden every year but have never started from seed so I am totally counting on you! No pressure!

  23. Karen A says:

    Hello 🙂
    Posted your challenge on my Facebook page and I’m so excited to start. Someone mentioned a purple potato that is beneficial for breast cancer??? Looking for the name, please.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen A. Any vegetable, carrot or potato that’s deep purple skinned and flesh has those anti-cancer properties. A good choice for the purple potato is Peruvian Purple or Russian Blue. ~ karen!

  24. Thera says:

    I can’t possibly be third but I am very excited to start buying my seeds, all the fixings for a pasta salad is my delusion!

  25. Betsy says:

    I grow hydroponically and developed really bad algae since we moved to a new house. Now my towers are algae free and I’m looking forward to the new plants. I must ask, those jars, where did you get them?

    • Karen says:

      They’re from my local dollar store, Dollarama. In the craft aisle. They’re around $2 for a bag of 7 of them? Something like that. ~ karen!

  26. whitequeen96 says:

    My God, the symptoms the toothache plant bring on would make me sure I’d been poisoned! You’d better step back from your victim, because someone just might grab you by the throat, screaming, “Why?!!!”

  27. Heather Pepper says:

    Already have my pink celery! Trying to plant a colourful garden!

  28. Ramona says:

    Started already! Sent out my soil to Logan Labs to be tested, mapped my garden, ordered my seeds. I love this delusional time of year!! 🙂

  29. Suzette says:

    One note, if people are purchasing plants for the garden, pretty please take one additional step and make sure that your plants are from a source that guarantees that the plant was not treated with insecticide already. Our pollinators are already faced with enough dangers. Shout out to local beekeepers!

  30. Sabina says:

    Costoluto Genovese – I am named for my maternal grandmother Sabina Genovese, now I will have to add that variety to my tomato list this year! Here’s what I struggle with, do I or don’t I grow things I love to eat but can’t because they don’t love me? Night shades like eggplant and peppers just ruin me, tomatoes not so much, but I love them all and they’re the basis of most of the food I grew up with. If I know I’m going to indulge then I have to take pepto before and one after just in case. But as these things go, it’s unpredictable 😑

    • Karen says:

      Hmm. i think it depends on how much space you have. If you have lots of space – grow them. If not, save the space for things that don’t rot your guts. ~ karen!

  31. Toothache plant and mouse melons? Where have these been all my live…this is the first I have EVER heard of them! Way cool! I gotta have them for my garden this year! Thanks for this post, your a wild and crazy gal, I love it!

  32. Jeanette says:

    my local library has a seed bank. Any member can get up to 5 varieties of whatever is in stock, free. It’s a cool service the seeds are donated by other members.

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