15 January 2008

It Begins

It might not look like we need more seeds, but we do. And today we placed our very first seed order of the year, for capucijner peas (check them out here and here) and a type of cherry tomato from this local place we blogged about earlier this month. I realize we should probably be turning our attention to lettuce and potatoes and all the stuff that needs to be put in the ground relatively soon, but it's a start.


Katie said...

Is that a shoe box or corporate storage box? Size matters!

This is a fun time of year, starting seeds and all!


Anonymous said...

I hereby swear that I will order potato onions before Jung sells out! I have missed them 2 years in a row!

I am behind on ordering, still working on layouts, rotations etc. And then there are the 2 5 gallon buckets of Fed Co seeds from the defunct CSA at the site of my market garden that I need to catalogue before ordering. Actually, I am looking forward to that!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Oh yes, it's that time of the year once again when lost of sowing needs to be done. BTW I love capucijners and have grown them with success in my kitchen garden. You can dry them but I prefer to eat them fresh, they are delicious like that. And the pods are very pretty too.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

So...this may be a silly question, but how long do packaged seeds (generally packed for a specific year, I thought) last? Can they be saved (and remain viable) for years?

Meg said...

Katie, would you believe me if I told you it's an empty refrigerator box? No? Fine, it's a shoebox. Sadly, it's un-alphabetized.

Rob, are potato onions the ones that bunch up? I'd like to give those a try. Your seed sorting project sounds kind of fun! Do you inherit all of them, or are their other gardeners you've got to share with?

Yolanda, I'm really looking forward to trying capucijners. Neither Kelly or I have had them before, but after reading rave reviews we decided to give them a shot. By the way, I have an aunt named Yolanda, which is quite an unusual name in this country. That branch of the family has Eastern European roots, so I think that's where it came from.

Farmgirl_DK, I think it depends on the seeds and how they're kept. One year is a good baseline, but after that their rate of germination will start to drop unless they're stored really, really well. (And I don't think our shoebox counts as optimum storage conditions.) Generally, very dry and dark is good.

Anonymous said...

Potato onions are essentially perennial (let the scapes fall over to replant) and I want them in my fruit tree guilds, but keep missing them. They are fairly rare, so I have never tasted them.

The seeds are basically my moral imperative with the market garden land "Let these not be wasted!" I will plant as many as possible. To FG's point they are getting on in age (2+ years) and its getting to the point of plant or lose. Some may be planted solely for seed saving. They have been in sealed 5 gallon buckets at 50 degrees so viability has a chance. The mache, spinach, claytonia, black radi sh and bok choy I planted for my winter hoop house all came up great.

I am unsure if the owner is interested in sharing, but you are certainly a good cause. I will try to post a PDF of the finalized survey -if something strikes your fancy I will try to get it your way. I have like 2 POUNDS of spinach seed...

I see your "we share" and I am the same, if you want comfrey or sunchokes let me know! (both take over... you've been warned!)

Patrick said...

Potato onions are a type of shallot that multiply with root divisions.

Yellow potato onions didn't do well for me here, probably just my soil type. I've heard lots of good things from other people, and if they don't do well for you there are lots of similar related onions to try. These are probably not quite perennial, as they do need to be dug up and moved around at least every two years or so, but you can just keep using the same piece of ground if you want.

There is another type of multiplier onion that propagates via topsets. Common varieties of these are the Egyptian Walking Onion or the Amish Onion. Over the course of years, these will 'walk' through your garden if you let them, by way of their topsets drying out, falling over and reseeding themselves. It's probably handier to pick the topsets off and plant them where you want them. These onions are truly perennial, and if you only harvest the greens (the best part) they will just keep growing and growing. Of course when you want, you can dig up and eat the whole onion, but then it's not perennial any more. The entire plant is edible.

The SSE has a great selection of multiplier onions! These are also a great kind of onion to grow.

I wrote a review of some of these I grew over the last few years:


Farmgirl_dk: said...

This is such an interesting discussion! So, could we talk about seed-sharing for a moment? Is it possible to forever-seed once you have a plant established? By this, I mean, if I plant a certain variety of, say, tomato this season, and just dry and save some seeds from the fruit each year, can I continue to plant from this process indefinitely? And if so, the stock will remain strong and flourish and not become weaker? For some crazy city-headed reason, I thought there was a reason this could not be done indefinitely. I'm not sure where this thought came from. But I've always had this unspoken, not-really-thought-out belief that, possibly, those seeds in the envelopes I purchased were a bit "magic" somehow. :-)

Meg said...

Rob, oh no, I hope I didn't come across as fishing for free seeds! I was mostly wondering if anyone else was also establishing a garden at the old CSA you seem to have inherited. Either way, though, thanks for the offer!

Patrick, that's so helpful, thanks! I've never seen these in SSE--probably because I've never looked. We have a few spots in the yard that would be just fine for letting these onions have free reign. I think we'll try them.

Farmgirl, if the seeds came from a hybrid fruit or veg, you're probably not going to get great results by planting them. That's because the second generation of hybrid seeds won't look like the parent plant the seed came from, they'll look more like one or the other of their parents' parents. In other words, they're not reliable.

However, non-hybrid seeds (which are quite easy to find if you're looking for them) can be saved and planted year after year. In a lot of cases, that will actually help to improve the plant. So, every year when our tomatoes start to come in, we save seeds from the nicest fruit from each plant--the nice big ones that don't get weird spots or cracks or anything. That way, the next year's tomato plant from those seeds will be even better and a little more adapted to our area from the year before.

That was a long and convoluted answer. If I made any egregious errors someone will hopefully come along and correct me.

Patrick said...

I meant the SSE yearbook has a great selection of multiplier onions, I don't think they sell any on the website.

And, no you didn't get anything wrong in the answer to farmgirl's question, but maybe I can add a little bit.

To simplify something that's a little complicated, some varieties of plants require you to grow a certain number of them every year in order to maintain the breadth of their genepool.

This is different for different plants, but take for example corn. If you don't grow at least 100-200 plants each year, your saved seeds will suffer from inbreeding depression and they will get weaker and weaker. You also have to worry about keeping your plants pure by avoiding cross-pollination with this kind of plant. Since not all of us have space for 200 corn plants in their garden, this is where it's really handy to have seed saving friends, who you can trade seeds with and each take responsibility for maintaining different varieties.

There are many different kinds of plants called inbreeding plants that not only don't cross very easily they don't need very much breadth in the genepool to stay healthy. Plants that fall into this category are for example tomatoes, beans, peas and several others. These plants you can continue to save seeds from every year and not worry too much about genepool breadth. Of course to keep your genepool as healthy as possible, it's a good idea to save seeds from more than one plant if you can.

And maybe most importantly like Meg said, when you save your own seeds they will acclimate themselves to your garden and actually get stronger and improve from one year to the next.

I've made some more detailed posts on this recently, if you want to read more:


Meg said...

Thanks, Patrick!