Fedco seed order, conclusion

All hail the Fedco seed order, finally. It took forever to work this out for 2011. Sometimes (actually every year since 1986  when we got married, bought a house, and I started gardening for real) I’ve had seeds started in the cellar before the end of February. Working smarter now, not harder? Time will tell, like it always does with gardening.

I held off long enough that Fedco was already out of Hopi Dye Sunflowers, which sound fascinating and will perhaps inspire me to get this done earlier in 2012. Here is the complete list with sporadic descriptions lifted from the Fedco online catalog:

204 – Provider Bush Green Bean ( A=2 oz)
247 – Masai Bush Haricots Verts ( A=1/2oz)
297 – Multicolored Pole Bean Mix ( A=1/2oz)
337 – Maine Sunset Bean ( A=2oz)
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( A=2oz)
818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( A=2oz)
916 – Oka Muskmelon ( A=1/16oz)
1059 – Arava Cantaloupe OG ( A=1g)
1388 – Painted Serpent Cucumber ( A=1/16oz)
Cucumis melo var. flexuosus Bite into the snake that doesn’t bite back. Also known as Armenian Cucumber or Snake Melon, native to Armenia and brought to Italy in the fifteenth century. William Woys Weaver says “this is one of the oldest of our heirlooms, yet one of the most neglected by our gardeners,” often relegated to exhibition rather than esculentus. Yet its flavor surpasses that of cucumbers, excelling in salads and stir fries without bitterness or burps. Slender slightly fuzzy flexuous fruits delicately coil like a serpent with alternate light and dark green stripes. Culture like the melon it is, starting indoors in individual pots and transplanting into a low tunnel. Will grow up to 30″ but best eaten at 8–18″. Straighter if trellised. I could never get it to grow well on my Central Maine clay, but it loved my sandy Colrain, MA, soil and was a prolific producer in the hot dry summer. First ripe fruit was July 26.

1457 – Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG ( A=1/8oz)
1605 – Carnival Acorn Winter Squash ( A=1/8oz)
1719 – New England Pie Pumpkin ( A=1/4oz)
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( A=1/8oz)
2092 – Nelson Carrot ( A=1g)
2093 – Yaya Carrot OG ( A=1g)
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( A=1/8oz)
2257 – Zlata Radish ( A=1g) A new color in summer radishes! These shimmery yellow medium-sized beauties from Poland starred in our MA trial. Crunchy and crispy white interiors, spicy but not overwhelming, good fresh and even better braised. Did not bolt or split and held quality even in all the June 2009 rains. Perfect for bunching.
2376 – Gold Ball Turnip ( A=1/8oz)
2411 – King Sieg Leek OG ( A=1/16oz)
2512 – Olympia Spinach ( A=1/4oz)
2803 – Tom Thumb Lettuce ( A=2g)
2805 – Bronze Mignonette Lettuce ( A=2g)
2859 – Majestic Red Lettuce ( A=1g)
2919 – Pablo Lettuce ( A=1g) Open-pollinated. Pablo bears a superficial resemblance to a red iceberg with much the same allure, but is a batavian, not a crisphead. Its larger plants form loose heads of beautiful upright rosettes surrounded by wide wavy-edged flat leaves. Bronze coloration on the outside leaves contrasts strongly with the green interiors lending a striking metallic sheen. Very sweet and mild with some bitterness in the ribs, slow-growing and extremely heat resistant.
2983 – DeLuxe Lettuce Mix ( A=1g)
2992 – Mesclun ( A=1g)
2993 – Greens Mix OG ( A=1g)
3192 – Broad-Leaved Sorrel ( A=1/16 oz)
3209 – Maruba Santoh ( A=1/16oz) Open-pollinated. Brassica rapa (pekinensis group) With Maruba you get four vegetables in one. The loose round vibrant chartreuse leaves provide a mild piquant mustardy flavor while the flat white stems impart a juicy crisp pac choy taste. High-end chefs like to use the blossoms. Market grower Scott Howell finds the flavor more subtle and complex than that of other greens and cuts Maruba small for his mesclun. Fairly bolt tolerant, so plant after the early spring flea beetle invasion subsides.
3221 – Tatsoi ( A=1/16oz)
3326 – Broccoli Blend ( A=0.5g)
3327 – Piracicaba ( A=2g)
3380 – Frigga Savoy Cabbage
3466 – Rainbow Lacinato Kale OG
4060 – Paul Robeson Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) Open-pollinated. Ind. This Russian heirloom was named in honor of Paul Robeson (1898-1976) who befriended the Soviet Union. Athlete (15 varsity letters at Rutgers!), actor (played Othello in the longest-running Shakespearian production in Broadway history!), singer (world famous for his vibrant baritone renditions of Negro spirituals), orator, cultural scholar and linguist (fluent in at least 15 languages!), Robeson was an outspoken crusader for racial equality and social justice. Revered by the left, reviled by the right, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era and beyond, harassed by the FBI, his passport revoked for eight years, his career stifled. He died broken and almost forgotten, his life a testament to lost opportunities in twentieth-century American history. His namesake tomato has developed almost a cult following among seed savers, 12 of whom are listed in the Yearbook. The maroon-brick 6–12 oz. oblate often bi-lobed fruits with dark green shoulders come closest in flavor to Black Krim, but can claim their own distinctive sweet smoky taste. A sandwich tomato with a tang, an extraordinary tomato for an extraordinary man.
4119 – Peacevine Cherry Tomato OG ( A=0.2g)
4149 – Heirloom Tomato Mix OG ( A=0.2g) You’d love to be adventurous and try them all but you haven’t space for that many tomato plants? Or can’t make up your mind which ones to select? Here’s the solution: Skip the fuss and leave the choosing to us! We’ll mix together a bunch of varieties (all organically grown seed) in one packet. You’ll get different colors, sizes, shapes and flavors. All you’ll need is an open mind, a good sense of observation, unjaded taste buds and acute deductive faculties. Then you can figure out which ones you like and order them by name next year.
4207 – Juliet Tomato ( A=0.2g)
4418 – Genovese Basil ( A=2g)
4470 – Thai Basil ( A=0.5g)
5005 – Carpet of Snow Alyssum ( A=0.5g)
5141 – Sensation Mix Cosmos ( A=1.4g)
5460 – Torch Mexican Sunflower ( A=0.2g)
5467 – Benarys Giants Scarlet Coated Zinnia ( A=0.2g)
5470 – Cactus Bright Jewel Mix Zinnia ( A=1g)
5491 – State Fair Mix Zinnia ( A=0.5g)
5502 – Dyers Broom ( A=0.2g)
5504 – Dyers Coreopsis Mix ( A=0.3g)
6137 – Summer Sun Heliopsis ( A=1g)
6333 – Beneficials Mix ( B=7g)

It is snowing, sleeting and occasionally pouring rain with thunder and lightening out there right now, but soon, this –

Fedco seed order

Soon!

Most years I’ve started seeds by early February. This year I’m only half-way through my order to Fedco and I don’t know whether to lay the blame on laziness or acquired knowledge. Mid February is actually too early to start anything but artichokes this far north – you’re not going to be planting anything but greens outdoors until the middle of May – but that never stopped me. I’ll look through the scrapbooks later for some photos of the tomato hedges growing under shop lights in the basement of our house in South Portland.

Every year there’s one item in the catalog that combines a wonderful variety name and a stunning description. For 2011 it’s this one:

337MS Maine Sunset Bean (85 days) Open-pollinated. Heirloom dating back to at least the 1930s, Sunset returns to our catalog after a 4-year hiatus. Maintained for many years by the late Pearl Smith, farmer and longtime Unity Coop member. An ever-bearing variation of the Soldier type featuring beautiful plump round-oval ivory-white beans irregularly splotched with brownish-maroon and blood-orange splashes around the hilum. A wonderful baking bean, with a creamy texture and rich flavor when cooked, comparable to Maine Yellow Eye. Good yielder.

I can’t wait to bake those beans. Here’s the rest of the order so far:

Masai Bush Haricots Verts

Multicolored Pole Bean Mix

Maine Sunset Bean

Silver Queen White Sweet Corn

Oregon Giant Snow Pea

Oka Muskmelon

Arava Cantaloupe OG

Painted Serpent Cucumber

Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG

Carnival Acorn Winter Squash

New England Pie Pumpkin

Shin Kuroda 5″ Carrot

Nelson Carrot

Yaya Carrot OG

Bull’s Blood Beet

Zlata Radish

Gold Ball Turnip

King Sieg Leek OG

Olympia Spinach

Tom Thumb Lettuce

Bronze Mignonette Lettuce

Majestic Red Lettuce

Pablo Lettuce

DeLuxe Lettuce Mix

Mesclun

Greens Mix OG

Broad-Leaved Sorrel

Maruba Santoh

Tatsoi

Broccoli Blend

Piracicaba

Frigga Savoy Cabbage

Rainbow Lacinato Kale OG

Provider Bush Green Bean
$1.30
$1.30
2
247
A=1/2oz
Masai Bush Haricots Verts
$1.40
$1.40
3
297
A=1/2oz
Multicolored Pole Bean Mix
$1.30
$1.30
4
337
A=2oz
Maine Sunset Bean
$1.50
$1.50
5
658
A=2oz
Silver Queen White Sweet Corn
$2.10
$2.10
6
818
A=2oz
Oregon Giant Snow Pea
$1.40
$2.80
7
916
A=1/16oz
Oka Muskmelon
$1.60
$1.60
8
1059
A=1g
Arava Cantaloupe OG
$1.50
$1.50
9
1388
A=1/16oz
Painted Serpent Cucumber
$1.00
$1.00
10
1457
A=1/8oz
Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG
$1.30
$1.30
11
1605
A=1/8oz
Carnival Acorn Winter Squash
$1.80
$1.80
12
1719
A=1/4oz
New England Pie Pumpkin
$0.80
$0.80
13
2073
A=1/8oz
Shin Kuroda 5″ Carrot
$0.80
$0.80
14
2092
A=1g
Nelson Carrot
$1.60
$1.60
15
2093
A=1g
Yaya Carrot OG
$1.90
$1.90
16
2186
A=1/8oz
Bull’s Blood Beet
$1.00
$1.00
17
2257
A=1g
Zlata Radish
$1.00
$1.00
18
2376
A=1/8oz
Gold Ball Turnip
$0.70
$0.70
19
2411
A=1/16oz
King Sieg Leek OG
$1.60
$1.60
20
2512
A=1/4oz
Olympia Spinach
$1.00
$1.00
21
2803
A=2g
Tom Thumb Lettuce
$0.70
$0.70
22
2805
A=2g
Bronze Mignonette Lettuce
$0.70
$0.70
23
2859
A=1g
Majestic Red Lettuce
$1.00
$1.00
24
2919
A=1g
Pablo Lettuce
$1.10
$1.10
25
2983
A=1g
DeLuxe Lettuce Mix
$1.60
$1.60
26
2992
A=1g
Mesclun
$1.00
$1.00
27
2993
A=1g
Greens Mix OG
$1.10
$1.10
28
3192
A=1/16oz
Broad-Leaved Sorrel
$0.90
$0.90
29
3209
A=1/16oz
Maruba Santoh
$1.10
$1.10
30
3221
A=1/16oz
Tatsoi
$1.10
$1.10
31
3326
A=0.5g
Broccoli Blend
$1.50
$1.50
32
3327
A=2g
Piracicaba
$1.00
$1.00
33
3380
A=2g
Frigga Savoy Cabbage
$1.30
$1.30
34
3466
A=2g
Rainbow Lacinato Kale OG
$1.50
$1.50

The Bounty

2010 is officially a wonderful garden year and a bountiful harvest. Everyone on the road agrees: tomatoes are early (sometimes I have only green ones in September), the Brussels sprouts are forming up nicely, the corn has tasseled out – even our Silver Queen.  And the peaches, oh my.

This year I bought a pole bean selection from Fedco. The packet contained yellow, speckled, purple and brown beans and they’re all delicious. They are over-growing their 12′ stakes, but I can’t complain, really.

Perhaps the best part of this season is the longevity of many of our more fragile crops. We’ve had very hot days, but also cool nights and more rainfall than I’ve seen in July. The lettuce is still coming in and the second crop of turnips is off to a rousing start. My April planting of “Bull’s Blood” beet greens  is still viable, and the mesclun that started in late March is just this week too far gone to make another salad. Now we’ll just have to wait and see about the first frost.

Jumping the gun.

“Jumping the gun” refers to a contestant in a race surging ahead of the starter’s pistol. If there was a “ready, set, go” for spring, I’d be penalized for getting seriously ahead the game.

Last Tuesday I stayed home from work to bring my mother to her doctor for a complicated consultation. After the bad news and instructions we had soup at the Morninglory Bakery to strategize and get a little closure. Then I brought her to her house for a much-needed nap and took myself home for an unscheduled afternoon.

The weather was lovely Tuesday afternoon. A side effect of the long February stretch of rain is that the temperature has held steady at around 38 degrees, night and day, for a week. On my way in to the house I noticed that the garden beds by the front door had thawed, and that a few parsley and lettuce plants from last fall were green and sprouting. It wasn’t much of a stretch to consider planting out some of those seedlings from down cellar, so I raced upstairs, changed into garden-ready-wear and had at it.

I roughed the soil with a hand fork, removed dead foliage, protected a few surviving lettuce seedlings (they look pretty good!) with straw and planted:

3252TZ Toraziroh (45 days) Open-pollinated. Brassica alboglabra A robust performer with just the right kind of mustardy zest. Rapidly develops prolific yields of very dark green large leaves distinctively but not overwhelmingly pungent. In two years of trials won many favorable reviews from brassica lovers. Stems, also edible, have a flavor somewhat like pac choy. Relatively slow to bolt.
3221TS Tatsoi (45 days) Open-pollinated. Brassica rapa (narinosa group) What grows quickly, can be seeded as late as August and withstands frost? Yes, Tatsoi, also known as Tah Tsai. Anne Elder picked it all fall into December even after a snow melt-off. In winter it was still not burnt by cold and remained sweet. “A dream come true for snow-dwelling beings craving greens.” Survived Roberta’s overwintering trial. Spoon-shaped thick dark green leaves make beautiful compact rosettes with mild brassica flavor. Good stir-fried and in soups. Will come back when cut. Since our purchaser Nikos Kavanya first brought it to our attention, it has become an essential ingredient in our salads and mesclun.
3218SP Senposai (40 days) F-1 hybrid. This exciting green, developed in Japan, is a cross between Japanese Mustard Spinach (Komatsuna Brassica rapa) and regular cabbage. Round medium-green leaves are wonderful in okonamiyaki or for braising. A spring sowing will stand the entire summer (even through drought) and well into fall before bolting. Can be overwintered in warmer climes or used for spring greenhouse salad production because it grows so rapidly. Open plant habit requires 12–18″ spacing.
3223YN Yokatta-Na (21 days baby; 45 days mature) Brassica rapa (narinosa group) F-1 hybrid. Quick-growing and versatile, this is the same cultivar we formerly sold as Yukosai Bitamin-Na. Tolerating both heat and cold, it can extend your season at either end, while simultaneously broadening your culinary range. Use it either raw in salad mixes or cooked in stir fries. The deep green tender leaves, though flavorful, lack the mustard “bite” found in so many Asian greens and can be harvested as a cut-and-come-again crop or at maturity.
Then I watered everything in and covered the bed with Agribon. Salad in 21 days! Maybe.
All seeds and descriptions courtesy of Fedco.  And the next tool in the garden is going to be a sickle from Maine Scythe Supply.

Seed Order 2010

pine cone bits seeds 007My Fedco seeds order arrived today, and I spent the morning clearing off the work table down cellar. Tomorrow I’ll fill some seedling trays with ProMix and check the bulbs in the bank of shop lights. Not that I’ll actually start seeds tomorrow – although I used to plant flats just after Christmas and have hedges of tomato plants by the time they could safely go out (around these parts) in late May. That way lies madness and I’ve reformed. I can stop any time I want. Really.

Here’s a list of the packages in the box. I have new acreage to plant this year, but not a lot of soil to be distributed. I went heavy on greens and other categories that won’t mind dirt on the poor and skimpy side, not a lot of things with taproots or a need for deep humus.

Every year I plant out at least 50 seedlings of a particular perennial (or generously self-seeding annual). My original thought was that, at a projected 50 more years of gardening (that was 10 years ago), I would have an abundance of a few beautiful plants that I otherwise would not be able to purchase in such quantity. Some years the experiment is a success and the Elecampne is a striking and vigorous presence in the garden every year. Sometimes not so much, and the boneset – a lovely plant much favored by the bees – disappears completely after a few years. The “100 specimen” plant for 2010 is Blue Vervain:

Blue Vervain OG Verbena hastata This 5–6′ perennial grows naturally in the moist soils of thickets and meadows and will do well in similar garden conditions, sending up many terminal spikes of bristly blue-violet flower clusters the entire season. Although scraggly, it blends very well with many kinds of flowers by stretching its spikes amongst them. Herbalist Gail Edwards finds it “a powerful spiritual presence” and nervous system tonic. Similar to V. officinalis, but more alterative, vervain acts mainly on the liver and lungs. Also used for menstrual disorders. Its roots are more active than its leaves. Likes light well-drained moist soil. Zone 3. OT-certified. ~2,500 seeds/g.

Wish me luck!

238BB-Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Bean (A=2oz) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
297MP-Multicolored Pole Bean Mix (A=1/2oz) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
658SQ-Silver Queen White Sweet Corn (A=2oz) 2 x $2.00= $4.00
798LG-Legume Inoculant (A=treats 8lb) 1 x $4.00= $4.00
818GT-Oregon Giant Snow Pea (A=2oz) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
974DO-Sweet Dakota Rose Watermelon OG (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.80= $1.80
1311BO-Boothbys Blonde Slicing Cucumber OG (A=0.5g) 1 x $0.80= $0.80
1409RV-Raven Zucchini (A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.70= $1.70
1504SF-Saffron Summer Squash (A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
1655BH-Blue Hubbard New England strain Winter Squash (A=1/4oz) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
1719NE-New England Pie Pumpkin (A=1/4oz) 1 x $0.80= $0.80
2018TP-Tonda di Parigi Carrot (A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
2073SK-Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot (A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80= $0.80
2079KO-Scarlet Keeper Carrot OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
2186BB-Bulls Blood Beet (A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
2376GB-Gold Ball Turnip (A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.70= $0.70
2411SO-King Sieg Leek OG (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.60= $1.60
2510SP-Space Spinach (A=1/4oz) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
2775FO-New Red Fire Lettuce OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
2784FO-Flashy Green Butter Oak Lettuce OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
2859MR-Majestic Red Lettuce (A=1g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
2992ME-Mesclun (A=1g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
3158GI-Gigante dItalia Parsley (A=1/16oz) 1 x $0.70= $0.70
3218SP-Senposai (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
3221TS-Tatsoi (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
3223YN-Yokatta-Na (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
3252TZ-Toraziroh (A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
3326BB-Broccoli Blend (A=0.5g) 1 x $1.50= $1.50
3339GU-Gustus Brussels Sprouts (A=0.5g) 1 x $2.50= $2.50
3469KM-Kale Mix (A=2g) 1 x $1.50= $1.50
3885KS-Krimson Spice Hot Pepper (A=0.1g) 1 x $1.90= $1.90
4117PO-Principe Borghese Cherry Tomato OG (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
4207JT-Juliet Tomato (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.80= $1.80
4233JS-Jet Star Tomato (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.90= $1.90
4418GB-Genovese Basil (A=2g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
4517RO-Caribe Cilantro OG (A=1g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
4542MM-Mammoth Dill (A=4g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
4692BO-Blue Vervain OG (A=0.1g) 1 x $1.30= $1.30
4698SW-Sweet Woodruff (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
5094CC-Canary Creeper (A=1g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
5141SM-Sensation Mix Cosmos (A=1.4g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5224HM-Mauritanean Malva (A=0.15g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5275KO-Kniolas Purple Morning Glory OG (A=0.25g) 1 x $2.30= $2.30
5282EI-Empress of India Nasturtium (A=3g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
5296TC-Tall Climbing Mix Nasturtium (A=4g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5357GD-Gloriosa Daisy (A=2g) 1 x $1.00= $1.00
5442CU-Cupani Sweet Pea (A=2g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
5500WD-Weld (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
5774JO-Jobs Tears OG (A=2g) 1 x $1.10= $1.10
5963SO-Northern Sea Oats OG (A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
6120BF-Blue Flax (A=1g) 1 x $0.90= $0.90
6266QO-Queen of the Meadow OG (A=0.02g) 1 x $1.20= $1.20
6322VH-Southern Charm Verbascum (A=0.02g) 1 x $2.50= $2.50
6333BM-Beneficials Mix (B=7g) 1 x $7.50= $7.50

Primavera

Seeds out. Planted the first seeds out today. The thermometer registered 50 F but you’ll notice there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground (that little drift is right below the thermometer).

Today’s seeds are: Cracoviensis Lettuce (47 days), Space Hybrid Spinach (37 days) and Bull’s Blood beet, grown for its lustrous red leaves (60 days).

The soil should warm up quickly under the row cover. Below, heath, heather, ground sand cherry and sedum as the alpine garden emerges  from the snow.

alpine garden, March