Friday, February 3, 2012

Planning and shopping....

Hubby knows me well. He knows I'd gaze at seed catalogues for weeks dreaming and never actually finish any sort of plan till it is too late. He set a deadline. Today. Seed order must be in today. So last night...

I restricted myself to three companies that we have gotten good seed from before:

- Heritage Harvest in Manitoba, because if it can grow there it's going to love it here! Tanya and her crew are amazing.

- West Coast Seeds, as our weather in the spring is behaving more and more like the coast. I do find their germination rates disappointing though, just a heads up on that.

- William Dam Seeds, good seeds, good folks.

I would have ordered from Salt Spring Seeds but for two reasons. I don't have a paper copy of their catalogue and last time I checked it cost $2 which is an inconvenience for me to mail to them. I insist on a paper copy for curling up on the couch to browse and plan with. The desktop at a desk isn't conductive to my creative thinking. Also, they are already fighting the fight to maintain open pollinated varieties, anything they grow I don't really have to as it is available readily from them. (Getting the seeds into the hands of the little growers, regionally, is one of our ideals.)

So the seed order is ready, lots of new varieties to trial and see how they do in our climate. Lots of new tastes and textures to try to describe and quantify.

In choosing what to plant I think about:

- Our plan for a three year rotation of a good balance each year. For example, tomatoes. There needs to be a balance between determinate/indeterminate, the various colours, early/mid/late season , and size/type, each and every year. It would be silly to grow a passel of canning midseason determinate tomatoes one year and none other years. A passel of yellows with no room for blacks. The easiest way for me to plan this is to use a grid chart. A column for determinate, another for indeterminate. Rows for the various colours, a row for paste/roma, a row for cherry tomatoes, and a row for 'weirds'. I plug in what I know we are growing for sure then ...

- If there are any holes that need plugging. The grid for each vegetable will quickly show me where we are missing any variations. Is there a good balance of pole/bush beans, enough green? enough yellow? dry? Are the main classes of lettuces being represented each year? Plug those holes!

- Where we are expanding our offerings. We started seed saving with tomatoes, added beans, then lettuce, last year peas.... Each year there is an expansion, slowly. Not biting off more than we can chew. Only so many hours in the day.. You know. The learning curve can be steep, baby steps keep it from being overwhelming. It easier to reassess with small changes. Last year we tried cucumbers, they need tweaking before we're ready to share. There had to be a balance between the market garden and the seed garden and it didn't; balance that is. So we try again, differently.

- Anything that didn't work the previous year that deserves a second shot. See 'cucumbers' above, for one example. The other, Early Riser Pole Beans, that didn't, rise that is (or grow at all). The Speckled lettuce that didn't germinate, the beans that didn't grow that much seed that probably needed to be watered or maybe weeded ;-) The rare varieties that are being accustomed to our climate and are improving each year, that still need more improving, showing promise just aren't quite THERE yet.

- Certain varieties that we plant every year regardless of the 3-year rotation as dh uses it in his market garden annually. Ones that he would have a snit fit if we ran out of fresh seed for. The tried and true canners that sell so well at the market. The variety of large tomatoes that he is improving each year for the largest tomato competition at work. The ones we grow seed for to keep our seed orders from braking the bank. The plan this year is for 2000 tomato plants in his garden alone, you can see why it is better to grow our own seed for this.

And now that that chore is done, and it is sunny, I'm off to clean the last of the lettuce seed.


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