Top 5 Reasons to Garden from Seed

Gardening from seedGardening from seed has big advantages

Even though I have gardened from seed since childhood, the experience of taking what looks like a tiny stone, sowing it, and watching it grow still seems magical; it is faith realized, and it nurtures me as I nurture it. While sometimes that inspiration is all I need to garden from seed, there are some other very important reasons, too.

  1. Know what you grow. Did you know that many of the conventionally-grown vegetables at the grocery store test positive for pesticide residue even after washing and peeling? Growing your own allows you to choose what goes into your family’s food. Here is a list of vegetables that are the worst offenders when it comes to pesticide residue.
  2. Save money. Growing from seed is much less expensive than buying plants or produce, especially organic choices. For example, most food gardeners I know grow green beans because the quality is so much better than the grocery store and they are a pretty easy crop (they also add nitrogen to the soil!). A seed packet of bush beans sows about 12 feet of bean plants which will yield about 5 lb. of beans. The cost of the packet is $2.39. A six pack of plants will run you $3-4 and plants 2′ (pssst green beans don’t transplant well so expect lower yields). Five pounds of (less than fresh) green beans at the grocery store will cost around $11. Did we mention the seeds in our example are certified organic?
  3. More choices. Grocery stores and garden centers offer only a fraction of available selections. Gardening from seed gives you the option to grow something unique, exotic, or rare.
  4. Reduce plant stress. In many cases sowing seeds in place versus transplanting from greenhouse-started plants leads to quick, stress-free growth, meaning faster, and often more flowers and more fruit, especially in the case of root crops of plants sensitive to root disturbance.
  5. Perfect timing. There are advantages to starting some crops early, usually vegetables that tolerate transplanting and take a long time to mature, like peppers, onions, or tomatoes. Starting these indoors gives me a head start in my shorter growing season, as I would never see a pepper if I sowed it directly outdoors.

I can’t tell you how many times I have wandered out to the garden saying, “Let’s see what’s for dinner.” I slow down from my busy day when I stroll out to the garden with a glass of wine and my favorite wooden bowl to see what peaks my culinary interest that evening. Such a personal reward for all my elbow grease in the garden!

What inspires you to grow from seed? Share your inspiration with our growing community in the comments below.

5 Gardening Resolutions for 2018

Garden planning and resolutions 2018

2018 is knocking at the door, and seed starting is right around the corner. Our holiday break gave me some time to reflect on how I can improve my gardening practices this coming year, in other words, resolutions!

  1. Get Organized

When it comes to getting organized, I always start out with a shopping list and a calendar. When I first started planning my garden years ago, these sowing guides helped me create my first planting calendar, and from there, I make tiny changes year to year based on my notes, like, “Sowed beans too soon; wait another week or use a soil thermometer to be sure.” I also record what I started and when in my garden journal, but where I need improvement is remembering to write down my gardening whims. The best part about gardening is the delight and creativity in doing the unplanned, but I typically forget to record it. The same goes for recording things like first blooms, butterflies, and harvests. Recording my garden observations will give me a fun goal for improvement in the following year and will slow me down and make me take time to observe the garden. So I don’t forget, I am putting my garden journal right by the back door next to my gloves and dirt-covered garden boots—voilá!

  1. Discover Something New

I have been gardening so long, I admittedly have a list of favorites. I love my tried-and-true varieties, but each year, I reserve some space to experiment so that I may find some brand-new loves! Keeping notes on these newbies will be especially important, too. Last year, I tried popcorn, but this year it may be our new Utrecht Blue wheat, Parisian Gherkin cucumbers, or a giant pumpkin! Just thinking about them makes me excited!

  1. Grow Natives

In the West (and everywhere), pollinator habitats and water resources are big issues. By adding natives to my garden collection, I am providing pollinators with high-quality habitat and food, while adding beautiful but tough plants that need less care and often, less water. Natives are a “win-win” for your home garden.

  1. Share More Veggies

This year, one of my resolutions is to grow more so I can share more of my vegetable and herb garden bounty with friends and the community. Fresh vegetables are sparse in the food banks, and since I have such a full, edible garden, it’s a no-brainer to give. Successive sowing of vegetables and herbs, keeps the harvest going strong all season, too. More to give! So, whether you grow extra veggies to give to food banks, practice Meatless Mondays, or just for the peace of mind of knowing where and how your food is grown, we can all benefit from making the edible portion of our gardens bigger. Check our Seed to Saucepan blog for some fresh recipe ideas, too!

  1. Container Gardening

I’m also going to add more containers to my gardening plan. I plan on mixing form and function by combining container-friendly vegetables, herbs, and flowers, celebrating the senses with scented herbs and blossoms that call in the pollinators for the veggies.  Containers also keep plants warmer in the summer, something peppers and other heat-loving vegetables will appreciate with our cool nights in Colorado, not to mention they creating cozy outdoor rooms, perfect for entertaining or just relaxing with family.

Phew! That’s a tall order of gardening resolutions, but I’m certainly up for the challenge. Our faithful customers inspire us, too! What are your gardening resolutions? Please share in the comments below.

Baked Whole Pumpkin Soup

This whole pumpkin soup recipe creates a deliciously-elegant display on the dinner table. As is, the recipe is gluten free and simple to adapt for a paleo or vegan diet. Serves 4-6.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 whole pumpkin (or other round, winter squash), approximately 4–5 pounds, washed (we used a ‘Red Warty Thing’ winter squash)
  • 1–2 teaspoons unflavored oil for greasing pumpkin and baking dish
  • 1 tablespoon butter or cooking oil
  • 2 medium-large leeks, sliced (substitute 1/4 cup onion, diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½–3/4 cup heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, optional
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (or other seasoning of choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

 Make a lid on the top of the pumpkin by cutting around the stem at an inward, 45° angle. The lid should leave a large enough hole so you can fit your hand in, and work inside the pumpkin. Remove and discard (or save for roasting) the seeds and long fibers by scraping the sides of the pumpkin with a metal spoon. Apply a bit of oil to the outside of your pumpkin and to a baking dish it can sit in, using a brush or paper towel.

Put the butter or oil, leeks, garlic, apple, broth, and salt in the hollow pumpkin. Replace the lid of the pumpkin to cover. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven. Using a hot pad, remove the lid, and wait until the pumpkin is cool enough to work in. Using a metal spoon scrape the pumpkin flesh into the soup mixture, being careful not to puncture the pumpkin shell. If you are using an immersion blender add the cream, goat cheese, and garam masala (or chosen seasoning) to the pumpkin and purée, being careful to avoid puncturing the pumpkin wall. If using a blender, put all ingredients in the blender in small batches, blend until smooth, and return soup to the pumpkin shell. Add pepper and check seasonings. If you are not serving the soup right away, store the pumpkin and soup separately in the refrigerator. Reheat soup inside the pumpkin at 375°F.

Plentiful Pleasing Poppies Next Spring

‘Black Swan’ Poppy

Fall is a great time of the year to reflect on your garden and write down some new ideas for next year. And I have poppies on the brain! What’s great about poppies is their diversity—all shapes, colors, sizes, perennial, annual— I love them all! Regardless of their annual or perennial status, they do best when sown in place, and by sowing this fall, seeds are primed for the earliest possible germination next spring. Poppies are quite cold tolerant and you may be surprised how early they come up.

Mission Bells Poppy Blend

Sowing Poppies
Choose a full-sun to part-sun area and consider the height of the poppies and any neighboring plants so none of the flowers get overshadowed. All I really need to do for soil prep is to get rid of weeds, dig out rooted perennials, and scrape away wimpy annuals. Poppies are happy with near neglect; they are drought tolerant, and do fine in poor soils but need good drainage. I scratch the surface of the soil with a hard rake to loosen the top ½”–1″, leaving the surface fluffy but level. Then I’m ready to sow! Poppy seeds need light to germinate, which means they need to be close to or on the soil surface. I usually just broadcast the seeds (adding a few extra in case birds find them), rake them in very lightly, and I’m done! Late winter and spring precipitation usually provides enough moisture to germinate seeds next year, but if I have a dry winter I will water these seeds come spring. (P.S. You can also sow in raised beds to improve the drainage of your soil.)

Oriental Blend Poppy

I am already imagining all the beautiful blooms I will be seeing next spring and summer! Poppies aren’t the only flowers that germinate best after the chill of winter. Read more about Fall Sown Flowers for ideas on what you can sow now.

Honey & Orange Glazed Rutabaga with Fresh Thyme

Rutabagas have a mild flavor and are often cooked and used like potatoes. In this dish, we use citrus and fresh thyme to lend bright, fresh flavor to these cold-hardy roots. This recipe also works wells with turnips. Sow them in early spring for summer harvest or summer fall harvest; they store for months!
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 lbs rutabaga or turnip, greens removed (we used rutabaga)
1–2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 orange, for juice and zest (about ½ cup juice, 1–2 tablespoons zest
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoon fresh thyme

1. Peel roots and cut them into ½” pieces.
2. Put roots in a heavy-bottomed skillet or pot with about 1¼ cups of water, or enough to cover the roots halfway. Add butter, salt, and honey. Heat on medium high and cover, simmering until roots are soft, 8–10 minutes.
3. Remove lid, add the orange juice and vinegar, and simmer for another 12–15 minutes until sauce has reduced.
4. Remove from heat and toss roots with fresh thyme and orange zest.

Enjoy!

Use the comments to share your root cooking tips.

Thinning: I don’t carrot for it.

Buddy eating carrotsWe gardeners love our sweet, emerging baby plants. It is so encouraging to see masses of vibrant green shoot up so willingly. As a new gardener I remember thinking, “I did it! It worked!” I waited three weeks for these carrot leaves to emerge, how can I possibly choose who lives and who doesn’t? From experience I can tell you, just do it! Get those scissors out and thin for the greater good.

Without thinning, plants get crowded. Crowding causes competition for light, moisture, and nutrients, yielding a stressed, stretched, and sometimes mangled crop—especially true for carrots. Crowding also reduces airflow, which is a real problem ‒ it encourages fungal disease. You may be tempted to just reach in and pull plants out, but when seedlings are close, it is best to pinch or cut them at the soil line, reducing disturbance to their neighbor’s roots.

Thinning doesn’t need to be an exact science; it just needs to get done. After losing my tape measure somewhere in the garden, I realized I could use two fingers to equal an inch; my fingers spread wide is eight inches thumb to pinkie tip; and my fingers held flat and tight together took the space of four inches near the knuckles… instant ruler! Some of my cleverer gardener friends mark up spare boards with common spacings on each side so they always have a ruler close by. On each packet, we suggest thinning when plants are about 1” or so, to help determine when true leaves may emerge.

I am sowing carrots this time of year (as soon as this last blast of snow melts). Carrots, like most root crops, are best sown in place outdoors. They take about three weeks to emerge. Often I will grow radishes next to carrots because radishes sprout more quickly, reminding me to keep watering an otherwise uneventful brown soil. Radishes are ready a month or more ahead of carrots, so I can safely pull the nearby row before carrots need the space. The holes that radishes leave behind help water get deep down to the sugary, orange roots of carrots. There are a few different ways to sow and thin carrots.

  • Sow 1” apart, and thin carrots to 1 every 3″, when 1” tall, in rows 6” apart.
  • Make planting holes 3″ apart on a square grid system. Sow 2 seeds per hole; thin to 1.
  • Sow every 1 1/2”, harvesting every other baby carrot in a couple weeks, allowing the remaining crop to get full size. Using this method, I am able to harvest twice (baby and full-sized carrots), using the same amount of space, weeding, and watering.

Two of my favorite things about carrots: They are sooo delicious immediately out of the garden—a flavor that is lost within an hour or so; and carrots can overwinter right in the ground! You can sow carrots two months before your average last frost and store them in the ground over winter, harvesting during warm winter days or in spring/early summer. If you’re going to sow carrots in the fall, they need enough time to half-way mature (keep in mind growing slows with cool temperatures and shorter days); mulch seedlings to help keep them warm, and then they’ll survive the winter. They’ll be waiting for you in the spring! Pulling carrots in spring is a fun way start to the season; even our dog, Buddy gets in on the fun!

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