My First Seed Swap

I went to my very first seed swap last weekend.  I ment to go to this one last year,  however,  I didn’t have any seeds to trade,  even tho they say you don’t need to bring anything,  and somehow I missed it.  I think it didn’t end up on the calendar somehow.  I almost missed it this year too… Somehow I managed to run across  it on Facebook.   I made sure I signed up for the group running it this time so I don’t miss it again next year.

It was AWESOME.

It was set up in a medium sized room,  probably 50 x 20, with tables set up around the perimeter.  There were a couple of vendors there sharing information   but they weren’t there selling as far as i could tell,  everything at the swap was free. All the tables were covered with seeds,  broken loosely into categories.  Fate and I arrived around noon (it ran 11-2) and the place was packed. I probably should have snapped some pictures but there was so many people it just didn’t occur to me,  next swap I will bring my phone instead of my tablet.  I will also leave my purse in the car,  easier to maneuver that way.   There was no real rhyme or reason to the flow of people,  you basically had to float from table to table and wait for there to be room,  then slide in.

I brought:

Black krim tomatoes
Purple Cherokee tomatoes
genovese basil
Green shisho (perilla)
Green tomitillo
Blanket flower
Tall snapdragon mix colors
Bachelors button
Cardinal creeper
Black Eyed Susan vine
Raw milk kefir grains

I just took my seeds in the coin envelopes I bought,  labeled what they were,  and as I went around getting the seeds I wanted I dropped them off at the appropriate tables. Some of the seeds were in envelopes that people had labeled and put out. Basically you pulled out a few seeds and put them in one of the envelopes you brought, then labeled it. Some people had their seeds in little packets:

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The idea being that you took one of the packets, like so. Others just put them in bulk and I put them in my own envelopes:

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I got: Pie Cherry, rice, hairy verbane, golden rod, Joe pye weed, feverfew, toothache plant, milkweed, Grey headed coneflower, orange watermelon, butternut squash-rogosa violina gloia, parsnip, Malabar spinach, redbor kale, aunt molly’s ground cherry, radish-saxa 2, Turks turban squash, box car Willie tomato, chocolate poblano, massive lumpy tomato, chervil, Fruita bianca squash, hibiscus, zebra hollyhock, red hollyhock, dill, mustard, cayenne, choke cherry, Tuscan kale, lime basil, yellow current tomato, blocky Asian cucumber, wahoo, giant blue hyssop, big long thick wall spicy pepper, winterberry, cheyanne spirit echinacea, passion vine, Mexican sour gherkin, and good winter leek.

So, just a few.

All of those are how they were called and spelled on the envelopes I got them from. A few of them I am going to have to do some research on to see how to get them started. My brother brought over some 4 bulb florescent lights for me today, I need to get something set up with them so I can get some plants started over here. Mostly my flowers and the new peppers and tomatoes I picked up this weekend for now, but soon cole crops need to be going in.

I’m really looking forward to the next seed swap in a couple weeks. I have some more seeds to take with me to that one, and I’m excited to see what other people will be bringing.

-Fin

Seeds for 2014

‘Tis the season for seeds!  I got my first seed catalog in the mail just last week:

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I am pretty sure that this is the same catalog I get first every year.  They seem to have the biggest variety of seeds from what I’ve seen and I always end up putting some kind of order in with them.  This year I ordered 4 different types of sweet potato slips for delivery this spring, some potato onions and perennial leeks for delivery this fall, and a few packets of seeds that I thought I needed. 

I really should learn to go through my seeds first before ordering new ones:

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Especially since it seems like I have a few seeds….

Today was go through your seeds day.  I tend to buy seeds that I find interesting all throughout the year, not just in the spring.  I haunt the seed sellers locally at the end of the year for their clearance sales, which is the reason I have so any different kinds of seeds.  I managed to get to Planters Seed and Feed as they put their seeds on clearance for $.50 a packet, then ended up at Habitat Restore several weeks later and found they had clearance seeds at $.25 a packet!  Of course I stocked up.  When seed packets run from $1.00 up to $5.00 a pack I just can’t see not stocking up when I get the chance.  I also ended up picking up some of the more unusual seeds from the Mother Earth News Fair this year,  mostly herbs.  There were quite a few seed companies there and they had their seeds priced under for various amounts under retail. 

I’ve been growing a garden long enough now to realize that seeds aren’t just good for the year that they’re sold in.  I have had excellent luck sprouting seeds that are many years old.  The only thing I buy fresh every year is Lettuce seeds.  I have had zero germination on lettuce that I’ve stored for more then one year. 

The order I put in for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange I ended up duplicating a few of the seeds I already had, both cucumbers.  I also put in a small order from Victory Seed Company, they give a discount to The Survival Podcast Members Support Brigade members, of which I am one.  I’ve been impressed so far with their communications and fast shipping, especially around the holiday season.  I will be ordering from them again, assuming their seeds have good germination….but I have no reason to believe they won’t.

I am sure I will be getting several more seed catalogs over the next month or so, and I’m sure I will put in at least one more order from one more company for seeds.  I just can’t help myself, I love to try new things.  It seems like every year there are a few more varieties on the market, some of which I just have to have!  I also realized as I was going through my seeds that I have only one kind of kale seed, Dinosaur Kale.  I want to pick up a few more kinds, and at least one that is super winter hardy.  I love having kale out in the garden all winter long to snack on.  I’m not exactly sure how I ended up with only one kind of kale, but you’d better belive I will be correcting that oversite!

I will be starting Tomato and Pepper seeds this week.  I have waited until the middle of February in the past and I just don’t feel like the peppers get a good enough start that late.  It seems like my peppers just aren’t quite getting ripe by the end of the season.  It could be that I am planting peppers that aren’t good for the region I’m in, however, I am going to try earlier seeding and see if that makes a difference.  I’m starting the tomatoes earlier as well because who dosn’t want earlier tomatoes??? 

We are going to be planting far more tomatoes then we ever have before because the tomatoes that we canned this year we’re So GOOD!!!  I just can’t get over the amazing flavor of the tomatoes.  I’ve used them in just about everything so far and haven’t come across anything that isn’t made better by the addition of home canned tomatoes.  My favorite so far is 1 qt tomatoes, 1/2 qt raw milk, in the crock pot.  Let it simmer on low most of the day then take a bit of fresh basil, I use about 2 fresh leaves (1/2 tsp or so dried), and mix it all until smooth with an immersion blender.  Amazing.  It looks a bit curdled before you whirl it together, but the flavor is amazing.  We’ve only canned tomatoes with salt this year, but if we have a bunch next year I want to try making some salsa and some rotel type tomatoes.  Maybe even some spaghetti sauce or ketchup.  It’s amazing what you can do with home canned tomatoes. 

I saved as many seeds as I could this year.  It was one of my garden goals, and I managed to do pretty well.  I ordered some coin packets off amazon:

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Almost all of my saved seeds were put into those packets.  They work really well, you can even seal them if you want to.  I didn’t for most of the seeds, but I did a few because the seeds kept coming out, like okra.  I tried saving seeds in glass jars, but those are hard to store.  I tried plastic baggies, but like the glass jars, the seeds had a tendency to mold, even if I got them seemingly completely dry.  With these packets the seeds can breathe and I haven’t had any problems with mold, even when I put green nasturtium seeds in the packets.  I got something like 500 packets for $17, more then enough to last several years, though they are plenty sturdy to last several years each.

This year I tried a new labeling method out in the garden, with mixed results:

    
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Those are paint stirrer sticks like you get from the hardware store.  I took my wood burner and burned the names of everything I planted.  It went alot faster then I expected, however, when it came time to dig through the 100 or so labels I made it was a real pain in the ass to find what I was looking for.  Quite a few things didn’t get labeled because of it.  The other issue with this method was the fact that the black burned places faded in the sun, completely.   The etching part was still there, but it was really hard to read without the char.  I ended up using black crayons to write on the sticks as I was doing my fall planting this year, that was really awesome.  I just kept a black crayon in my seed box along with some blank sticks and wrote the name of whatever I was planting at the time.  Easy Peasy.  So far the crayon hasn’t faded, though it’s early to tell since the fall sun is so much gentler then the high summer sun.  I will update on the longevity of the crayon next fall, that’s how I plan on marking out my whole garden this year. 

The sticks seem to last a season in the dirt of the garden.  The do rot down, however, it’s easy to just break off the rotted part and stick the slightly shorter stick in the dirt.  I’d estimate that you would probably get several years of use out of each stick.  I got mine free from the hardware store….I just asked.  You could use the crayon to mark pretty much anything you would like to use as markers for your plantings.  I’ve thought about doing some really nice markers for my perennial herb plantings using some carved stakes made out of fallen branches.  I will wood burn the name of the plant into an area I’ve carved out, then go over it with crayon so it’s legible for, in theory, several years.  Maybe this winter while I’m stuck inside.

-Fin

Seeds are Small

“Duh” you say, “Yes, I know seeds are small”

Ok, ok, but, really, have you ever stopped to think about how small seeds really are compared to what they produce? An 80-100 foot elm tree from a seed the size of a peanut. An entire 8-12 foot tomato plant from a seed the size of less then half of a grain of rice that reproduces itself over and over and over and over in the fruits that you eat. Its just amazing to me is all.

I planted some seeds for the garden yesterday (planted 5 of these trays, although the picture only shows two):

4 different kinds of tomatoes (3 heirloom)
Jalapenos
Hungarian wax peppers
5 color bell peppers
Sweet peppers
Tomatillos

Seems there was some other stuff but I don’t remember what it was right now. I planted them in 4 packs so we’ll see what comes up. I’m a bit late on the planting I think but I guess any head start is better then none!

I have some flower seeds that I bought last year that I am going to try to plant today in flats and we’ll see what happens there. I’m not sure if the seeds are even any good anymore, especially since I only paid $0.20 each for the packets.

Dad took the tiller carburetor to get overhauled and we should have that back some time next week. Hopefully we can get the garden all tilled up and start getting some things planted out there soon. For our zone it looks like the last frost date is typically April 15-30 so there are a lot of plants we can’t get into the ground until after that, but we can start planting colder weather plants now like: lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, carrots….the list goes on.

Potatoes need to be going in the ground here soon as well. I am planning on trying the container method this year. Sort of. I’m actually going to be using fencing instead of a container, but it should work out ok. It might turn out a bit more like compost potatoes. Its basically the same thing though.

I am going to be setting up a bed on the south side of the house for some rhubarb, I will be getting that in the ground this week. There used to be rhubarb over there once upon a time so I think it will grow well. There isn’t a lot of sun, but there is some, and it stays cool over there even in high summer so the rhubarb won’t get burned out. I got 3 crowns this year, and next year should be able to split them into 3-4 so I should have plenty after a couple years….or even have rhubarb coming out of my ears!

I cut down a bunch of brush growing in the fence line (you can see it in the background of the picture) as well as trimmed up a couple of trees, plus we took down a tree last year, plus we had a whole shed full or branches…..so, I’ve been burning.

A bunch.

There is so much brush to burn its absolutely ridiculous at this point. We’re lucky in where we live we can have a burn pit, but we can’t have bon fires with no pit. Believe me when I say we have enough brush to have one HELL of a bon fire. Its crazy. I’m trying to find somewhere to just rent a chipper and chip it all up and then we can use the resulting chipped wood for mulch in some of the parts of the yard that get muddier all year long. That would be nice. Not having any luck at this point, but I’m going to keep trying.

I also have been busy with the composting. We have an almost full composter going on right now and will have to get another one here soon so we can stop adding to the one we have and it can cook, then we can use it. I also set up the other composter we have for just kitty litter (and other misc “green” components to fill it out.) That one won’t be able to be used on the garden for edible stuff but I will be able to use it elsewhere on the yard. I just hated throwing away the kitty litter since it *can* be composted so that’s what we’re going to be doing.

I’m excited about having a garden this year. I can’t wait to start planting outside. Getting some seeds planted yesterday helped a bit but man, its been a hard, cold, miserable winter and I am so ready for spring and the smell of growing things in the air.

Oh, and did I mention warm weather?!

–Fin