Monday, February 9, 2015

Selecting Seeds for my 2015 Kitchen Garden

Living in the Northern Hemesphere, where winter gardens wear a blanket of snow and ice, I would sink into despondency and dejection without the annual ritual of planning for the new growing season. I traditionally begin by studying the diversity of catalogs appearing in my mailbox as the first snowflakes fall. I am not alone in my love of this pursuit --sitting by the fire, hot chocolate or tea in hand, turning the pages and dreaming. Of course, I have my favorites, choosing from two of them this year: Annie's Heirloom Seeds and Burpee.

Before I list my 2015 choices, I need to take inventory of the seeds I have saved from last year, and the new seeds I won by participating in Debra Prinzing's cyber book party given to celebrate the publication of the 10th anniversary edition of Fran Sorin's book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Creative Gardening. Thank you again, Debra, for this wonderful gift, and thank you, Fran, for a book filled with all that is meaningful about gardening.

Some of the seeds I won.

As you know, those of you who follow my gardening antics, I tend to stick to the same veggies each year, planting what we love to eat and what grows well in my garden, but every year I like to try something new. This year I chose seven exciting new-to-me vegetables from my winnings: eggplant 'Ping Tung,' pepper 'Quadrato D'Asti Giallo,' cabbage 'Red Express,' beet 'Chioggia' (looks like candy cane when sliced,) and three heirloom tomatoes, 'Kellog's Breakfast,' 'Pink Accordion,' and 'Minibel.' As I have not grown them before, I welcome hints from anyone who has had success with any of them, dear gardening friends. SEVEN new ones -- way outside my comfort zone -- I have butterflies in my stomach. So.o.o exciting.

Of course, also I must grow the tried and true: Zucchini 'Black Beauty,' cucumber 'Straight Eight,' and bush bean 'Provider' to name just three. My reliable red beet for pickling is a must-have -- 'Detroit Dark Red.' All my choices are organic.

Old favorites I grow every year.
Red beets are a 'must' grow.

After going on-line and placing my order, the next step is to decide where I am going to grow this bounty. I refer back to my 2014 Kitchen Garden plan. Some years ago, I made a template more-or-less to scale and very easy to fill in. If you compare 2014 and 2015, you will see I rotate my crops to cut down on disease.

Oh, dear,  I don't have enough room for all the new veggies. I solved this problem by ordering a large trug planter to be placed on the patio. H.H. and I have discussed putting a planter nearer the kitchen door for herbs. The past few years, I have planted some herbs in cinder blocks, but the blocks don't provide enough root space for large plants. We decided to buy a trug with enough room for tomatoes and peppers, as well as herbs. The planter is waist height, so no bending required -- perfect gardening for the elderly (that's me.)

I wrote a list on a post-it note of the plants going into the new trug. Then one more step in my planning process. I like to write the planning dates on a calendar and place the seed packets in the order they will be sowed -- oops, I guess that's two steps. I dedicate a calendar to gardening (this year, it's the fun Old Farmer's Almanac, Gardening 2015 Calendar.) I write sowing times, then later add germination times as they occur, first true leaves, etc. I keep this calendar in the potting shed and use it to note when I feed my plants, plus information about pests and weather.

Dates on a calendar; list of plants for the trug on a post-it.

Finally, I file the seeds in a box, organizing them into categories, by seeds I start indoors (veggies, herbs, and flowers,) seeds I directly sow outside before the last frost date, and those I sow outdoors after the last frost date. I use index cards for dividers. I follow the instructions on the seed packet and use the calendar to figure out the sowing dates. For example, the instructions on the tomato packet are Start seed indoors 4-8 weeks prior to the last frost of spring. Here in the Pocono Mountains there is a 50% chance the last frost date will be mid-May, but from experience, I don't plant outside until Labor Day which falls on May 25 this year. Counting back, I need to start my tomato seeds indoors about April 7. I write the sowing date on each seed packet and place them in date order. When all my seeds have arrived, I may add dividers with the sowing dates.

I hope I explained this clearly -- it may sound complicated, but it's really very simple.

My seed box is easy to carry around, indoors and out, as I sow the seeds.

Now just have to wait until the mailman delivers the seeds I ordered.

I ordered annual flowers as well as vegetables. I can't wait for the seeds to arrive because it is time to start pansies indoors. I will get dirt under my nails again very soon!
“It always amazes me to look at the little, wrinkled brown seeds and think of the rainbows in 'em," said Captain Jim. "When I ponder on them seeds I don't find it nowise hard to believe that we've got souls that'll live in other worlds. You couldn't hardly believe there was life in them tiny things, some no bigger than grains of dust, let alone colour and scent, if you hadn't seen the miracle, could you?”  -- L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams.

What seeds have you ordered this year? I am linking this post to Dee's Virtual Gardening Club.  You can join, and tell us about your plans for 2015! 

Happy Gardening,
Pamela x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! 
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. This is just excellent advice from rotating crops to laying out a plan beforehand Pam. I'm so glad you posted it. We gardeners never have enough room to plant everything we want to try, do we? I love how you've filed your seeds. All of my new ones are in three piles. I need to get them out and start working on things. ~~Dee

  2. You sound like a very organized gardener. I wish I were more like that. I tend to be rather helter skelter, but I, too, am getting ready for spring planting. We'll be starting in March.

    1. I try to be organized -- just don't look inside my cupboards.

  3. Pam, you are so incredibly organized! I have a plastic shoe box that I just throw all my seed packets into. :-) Really, it's my husband who does all the veg gardening, though I'll start some seeds for him if he wants. I mostly just sow flower seeds in situ when it seems like the right time, although I've decided to start sweet peas this year by winter sowing, and it's almost time to do that. Your ideas are very good for organizing seeds and making sure numerous kinds are started on time, and your box and calendar are both inviting-looking. Thanks for the ideas! -Beth

  4. Oh Pam my dear friend we are too alike. I follow these steps almost exactly with just a bit a variation. And I also bought a portable garden bed for the patio to give me more room, but not waist high. I did not know you won those lovely seeds so congrats. I am jealous of your bounty. I already started some flowers indoors. I am excited that we will be out planting veg seeds before we know it!

  5. I'm sure, you are a great gardener. All looks so well organized. Lots of seed, and lots of variety. Great lesson for me. Happy gardening!

  6. I ordered 'Minibel' from Baker Creek this year, too! I, too, am dealing with all the wintery weather by dreaming and picking out seeds. I'm not sure if my garden will hold them all, either! Great organizer. I got a shoebox out to organize mine much like yours, but I'm still trying to figure out what to use for dividers, since it's a rather wide shoebox. I just need to get my husband to build me a pretty box like yours!

  7. You're so organised. It's so exciting at this time of year when we're getting nearer sowing time, I can't wait. I acquired some Chioggia seeds, I believe they were free with a magazine, but I never got round to sowing them so I look forward to hearing how yours do for you.

  8. You are really an organized gardener. I wish I had the room to grow as many vegetables, but each year it gets less and less. I do grow heirloom tomatoes each year, but not the ones you have selected. I get them from Cornell trials and each one I grew were really tasty. They are tested to see which make the commercial market, so I never keep up with what does. Always new ones to test.

  9. Hi Pam, as others have commented, you are wonderfully organized. I guess I would be considered a garden by the seat of your pants kinda gal. I've actually lost the first packages of seed I bought. Oh well, we do have something in common. I remember well my grandmothers garden. A combination of flowers, vegetables, fruiting trees and shrubs with flagstone paths. I adored that garden and hope to get closer to achieving it every year.

  10. What a lovely guide to planning. I always feel a bit stressed over planting dates although I do write them on our household calendar. I'm switching to a separate calendar right now! Brilliant organisation with the seed packets in the box, I'll be doing that too. Hearfelt thanks for getting me on track.

  11. I am a bit of a dreamer myself Pam,definitely admire your organisation. I guess I have put my seed growing days behind me now, still totally obsessed with the garden though.

  12. You are so organized! I love your little seed box for the new gardening year. I have ziplock bags falling out of my fridge loaded with seeds. It takes me forever to sift through them and figure out what I all have. Someone gave me seeds for Straight Eight cucumbers but I haven't grown them yet. Are they a traditional cucumber type? do you start them very early? I grew kellog's breakfast tomato last year. They suffered from early blight and blossom end rot in my garden (but I have troubles with this every year). On the positive side they ripened earlier than my other large sized tomatoes and I always like a yellow tomato. They have a less acidic taste than red ones.

  13. It is this very planning that keeps us sane here over the winter. I've already purchased and ordered all necessary seeds, and I'm ready for spring. Too bad spring isn't ready for me.....