Thursday, January 22, 2015

Choosing seeds for the garden – a few thoughts by Tina Ligon

So many seeds for such a tiny garden
It is currently January, snowing here in the CO foothills and cold. What better time than now to give some thought to this year’s garden plans? The seed catalogs are coming in the mail and it is so tempting to get a bit crazy with the dreams. However, living at 8000’ does put some limiting factors on what is reasonable to try growing. I did trial several new things last year and I will share what worked well for me.

 But first let’s list a few things to keep in mind when thinking about what to grow.
·         What are your goals? Is it food for you and/or wildlife, flowers, erosion control, re-vegetation, etc? If you are growing for pollinators, birds, etc. then watch out for varieties that are “pollenless”, flowers that have so many petals that insects can’t get to the goods (like a teddy bear sunflower). These may be nice for us to look at but don’t provide a good food source for our friends.
·         Take a look at the days to maturity/harvest/bloom. The frost free growing season can be pretty short up here. Will you be starting seeds indoors to transplant or direct seeding?
·         How much garden space do you have? I grew broccoli last year and decided it was just not worth the space for one head of broccoli and a few small shoots. A lot of lettuce can be grown in the area of one broccoli plant.
·         Succession planting – radishes are a great example, seed at two week intervals for a constant flow versus one large crop.
·         Mixing crops of different maturity dates - You can squeeze radishes in between more slow growing larger crops. The radishes are ready to be harvested by the time the “main” crop is getting larger. I had great luck with getting a crop of radishes grown between kale plants last year.
·         Don’t forget container gardening. There are some great varieties available that do well in containers. Look for smaller, compact varieties, such as determinate instead of the larger indeterminate tomatoes. I have even had luck with certain beans and cucumbers in containers up against a south facing wall that is protected from the wind. You can really pamper a container more than a whole garden.
·         Don’t forget to try something new.

Here are a few of the varieties that I had luck with last year and will be trying again.

Tricolor Salvia growing with mustard and collards, a new favorite.
Lettuce Romaine Little Gem Organic 68 days. Also called Sucrine or Sugar Cos, Little Gem is an English heirloom that is a very small variety of romaine, but has the succulent sweetness of a butterhead
Maruba Santoh (35 days) 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
Organic H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber –(58 days) Parthenocarpic plants produce fruit under stress and without pollinators, guaranteeing high yields in the field or under cover. Compact vines are multi-branching and will climb easily. Medium-sized fruits are smooth and tapered with white spines. Works well in containers
Yaya Carrot OG (58 days) F-1 hybrid. Slightly shorter-rooted than Nantes Fancy but more flavorful. Crisp clean sweet carrot flavor. Can be used for baby or full-sized carrots.
Radishes – Pink Beauty, Shunkyo Long Pink, French Breakfast, Cherry Belle, Easter Egg
Gilfeather Turnip (Rutabaga) – I really liked the flavor of this and also harvested some of the leaves like collards.
Lacinato Rainbow Kale
Cylindra beets (56 days) HEIRLOOM A uniquely-shaped 6” cylindrical beet with especially sweet flavor and a fine grain
Tomatoes – Fakel, Aurora, Moscow, Sahsa’s Altai, Stupice (all of these had some season extension protection)

Happy gardening!

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