Category Archives: Growing Your Own

Basil 47

I wonder whether Harry Potter knew that basil might be used as an antidote for basilisk’s venom? I read the books and watched all the movies and not until today did I realize the connection between basil and basilisk. It seems so evident now!2013CDN.qxd

Today I am reviewing Richter’s Herb and Vegetable Catalog. They have 47 varieties of basil seeds. Enough said.

Besides a huge selection of herb seeds, they also have organic dried herbs, herb plants, and liquid extracts. They are what they claim, “Herb Specialists”. They are located near Toronto, Canada. They offer several free seminars beginning in February. Might be an excuse to go to Toronto.
Note: They sponsor SeedZoo, a project where you can grow endangered plant species.


Forget the Whales – Save a Seed

SeedSavers2013Catalog_cover_freeSeed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. They are headquartered in Decorah, Iowa at Heritage Farms.

You can order seeds online or check out their retail rack locations. The retail rack location nearest to Ann Arbor is Stealth Hydroponics in Depot Town, Ypsilanti.

If you have ever wondered about the difference between heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, Seedsavers has your answer. I copy it below from their web site.

Our collections contain heirloom and open-pollinated (OP) varieties. Heirlooms are OPs with a long history of being cultivated and saved within a family or group. They have evolved by natural or human selection over time. All heirlooms are open-pollinated by insects or wind, without human intervention. (The exception to this is hand-pollination, when a person simulates the effect of wind or insects for isolation purposes.) Though all heirlooms are OPs, not all OPs are heirlooms; that is, not all OPs are accompanied by a story of being maintained by one family or group.”

Seedsavers has a nice selection of cooking beans. We raised the Jacob’s Cattle beans for several years and they made great baked beans. They were originally cultivated by the Passamaquoddy Indians in Maine.

The Children’s Seed Collection is a nice way to get kids involved and interested in the garden.

Oh and by the way, don’t forget the whales completely; just for an hour or so.


IMG_0320One look outside this morning elicits the recognition that it is “totally winter”. Cold and snow abound. So how do cattle like the cold? Cattle have a 4-stomach, heat-generating digestive system. Their rumen produces temperatures of 104°F. So when you see cattle standing out in the cold, remember that that they are nice and toasty on the inside.

Totally Tomatoes (Randolph, WI) is the catalog review for today. The name suggests exclusivity but that is a bit of a lie. My name for them would be “Totally Tomatoes, Semi-Totally Peppers and Quarter-Totally Veggies”.IMG_0326

Totally Tomatoes offers grafted tomato, pepper, and eggplant plants. Grafted plants are created when the top of one plant is attached to the root system of another plant. They claim that grafting produces higher yields, bigger fruits, longer season, and more resistance to diseases and pests. I have never planted grafted plants but would love to here from anyone who has used them.

Totally Tomatoes does have an incredible selection of tomato seeds. They carry one of my favorite eating tomatoes, the heirloom “Old German”. They feature goliath, large hybrids, open-pollinated, heirloom, cherry, and a large variety of different sizes. They do not mention that they have organic seed.


Let’s Do It Together

When I was a kid, my parents were part of a local Grange, an organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture. Ours was called the Emma Grange. Member benefits included savings by buying farm items cooperatively and social events. I don’t remember much about the buying co-op but I do remember the Saturday night square dances once a month. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait for intermission when the kids were allowed to slide on the powdered wooden dance floor. As I got older, my neighbor Tony and I were allowed to join in on some of the square dances. Oh, I love those memories!

Fedco Seed Catalog

Fedco Seed Catalog

So today I am reviewing the Fedco Seeds (Wareville, Maine) catalog which happens to offer group ordering. More on that later.

The catalog comes in two colors, black and white. No glossy photos but they do offer cool black and white drawings. You can order online or by mail.

Fedco has five divisions, Seeds, Moose Tubers, Organic Growers Supply, Trees and Bulbs and an interesting company history. They conveniently offer an extensive list of all their organic seed in the first few pages. Most seeds are offered in quantities from 2 oz to 50 lbs. If you are interested in flowers or herbs, you won’t be disappointed with the large selection. The Moose Tubers division offers seed potatoes, onion sets, and sunchokes.
The Organic Growers Supply division offers grasses, grains, legumes, and clover seed. They have a nice selection of organic soil amendments, fertilizers, pest control, beneficial insects, tools, and growers supplies. At the end is a fun book section with titles like “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age”.IMG_0313

Now, about that group ordering. Mrs. Farmer Dave has a group account at Fedco Seeds and can receive nice discounts depending on the amount. If you are interested in ordering seeds together with others in the Ann Arbor area, come to the Seed Ordering event on January 30th at 7 pm.

If you don’t live in the area, think about starting your own seed ordering group.

Seed Catalogs are Here!

I always love the beginning of January when the seed catalogs start arriving. There is just something about leafing through a seed catalog on a freezing cold January day that gives the illusion that winter will not really last 3 or 4 more months.

This winter is starting out cold so I have been spending a lot of time with the catalogs. I will be reviewing some our favorites. Today’s review is of Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Winslow, Maine).

Johnny"s 2013 Catalog

Johnny”s 2013 Catalog

Johnny’s catalog is a well organized, gold mine of information. You can easily find organic seeds in the color-coded index. They offer comparison charts for plants like green beans and pumpkins where there are several varieties. I especially like the heirloom tomato comparisons, including pictures of each variety.

Besides the usual vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, Johnny’s also offers farm seed. They have a nice selection of green manures, legumes, forage crops and grains. Their fruit selection is limited to berries and rhubarb.

The tools and supplies section has choices for the family gardener to the commercial grower. They have organic selections for fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, repellents, and herbicides. Hoop house supplies and row covers are available to extend your season.

Notes: Website has an abundance of resources such as growing guides and calculators. It is an employee-owned company.

Request a Johnny’s catalog.