Posted in Plants, Seeds

The unexpected seed order

A friend of mine gave me a gift card to Territorial Seed Company, which is closer to the other coast so we hadn’t ordered from them before even though I had previously bookmarked a few of their products in my garden planning bookmark folder.  They sell an abundance of kitchen garden crops within their products.  Given our garden budget for this year had nothing earmarked for kitchen crops save one rosemary starter, this was a very welcome gift.  Hopefully—with some careful seed saving—it will also be one that keeps on giving.

As regular readers know, I do my level best to save seeds from each year’s harvest.  I’m still learning as I go, and in some cases we, ermm, ate all the seeds before we realized that crop was pretty much at the end of its producing time.  (Marvel peas, why are you so darn tasty right off the vine?)  I want to also note that when we buy a packet of seeds, we don’t plant them all because:

  1. we’re still new to gardening (related to #5);
  2. we’ve been adding more kitchen beds each year as time allows and the grounds here do require work to make it viable;
  3. some sites are less than ideal for such;
  4. there’s only two humans in our family;
  5. and sometimes seeds simply do not grow as expected so there’s no fruit/flower from which to get more–even in cases where we’ve had success with that plant before.

It is true that seeds have estimated shelf lives depending on variant, despite successful planting of seeds saved thousands of years ago that have been found at archeological sites (If anyone wants to know about this, comment below and I’ll dig the link for the story out of my bookmarks).  Yet it’s not like we’ve been gardening on our property long enough for each type’s potential longevity to be stretched too thin.

I’m still learning best practices for saving, labeling, storing, and rotating out seeds.  Given my lack of long term experience, not every seed we saved and later planted grows.  Most have, but not all.  So backup plans to the backup plans, in a way.  (I’d be remiss in talking about seed storage methods and not mention the sunflower seed theft post, so there’s the link to that. The sum up for that post is don’t store seeds in easily gnawed boxes.)

This gift meant the world to us, honestly, because our entire garden budget for this season was $50, which really was mostly earmarked for a planned trip to a not-as-close-as-I-would-like nursery that sells native plants.  The trouble is, it looks like that trip might not be happening this year.  (More on that in a future post.)  A much smaller set aside of that was for another rosemary starter variant we’d had in the past that my partner preferred, but I neglected to try to protect over winter that year, so it died and didn’t make it another year.   We planned to rely on the seeds we have, plus the perennial food plants already here when we bought the house or added since then.  I also got an exception to the budget a wee bit already when I found a native seed company in Maine that had seeds for one of the plants I’ve desperately been trying to get but can’t around here in seed form.  We ended up buying two seed types if only so the seeds being mailed were worth more than the shipping.  *chuckle*

You may recall I’ve mentioned in the past our first year budget was $20, the bulk of which went to a blueberry bush that year.  The years since, we’ve ranged between $20-$30 as our budget, and some years we’ve spent a bit more, though not by much.  Another gift card given in the past had helped boost our budget (essentially doubling it) that particular year as well.

If not for seed saving, we could not do a lot we do.  Each seed saved means another we do not have to buy if we want to grow that (typically annual) again.  So not only does that help keep our costs low, it also allows us to seed share with friends and neighbors.  We’re not quite up to flour sacks full of a single type of seed, but each year our seed collecting grows.  (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned I have been hoping to start a seed swapping group locally, but it might be buried in my draft folder.)

We are lucky in that we are not depending on what we grow to always succeed because we’ve financially gained back where we fall into the lower middle class for our state (we used to make more when we met, then the Great Recession hit).  I sometimes wonder if we’d somehow be better at this if our lives depended on it, as we might make more time for experimenting or something.  I’m really not sure.

Territorial Seed Company seems to be a very popular, much like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  When I first made time in January to look at their site to start putting together a wish list I knew we’d have to whittle down, TSC was already running out of some things which I had noticed last year when I glanced at BCHS’s site from time to time. [Worth noting: We’ve not yet bought anything from BCHS, but it was our plan to try them for this year’s growing season before the gift card fell in our lap.]

I have read in a few articles that due to the pandemic (and likely the grocery store runs), more folks than ever are trying to grow their own food here in the U.S.A.  It’s a sad reason for folks to take up the practice, but hopefully it will have a lasting effect for those with sunny windowsills, porches, balconies and yards.  It might have even spurred more community garden plots, but I’ve not read about that practice growing as widespread overall.  I’m guessing—from how quickly I saw more choices drop off the list each time I went back to the site to try to hew down our own wish list—that some folks that tried to grow their own food last year as well had also learned a similar lesson I had last year in that one should not dally with seed ordering!  (And did we follow that Past Me advice to the letter? Noooo.  However we did order earlier this year than any year prior, so I suppose I can get away with saying we’re baby stepping into that goal.)

One very interesting thing that came out of this order, was I noticed they sold pawpaw (Asimina triloba) plants (aka American papaw, pawpaw, paw paw, or paw-paw, among many regional names).  My partner, being a Florida boy, was very excited at the prospect of getting some.  When I write “very excited”, I want to be clear in that it’s the only thing he has EVER been as enthusiastic about plant picking for our garden beyond blueberry bushes.  Later, I’ll write another post about the pawpaw rabbit hole I found myself falling into when I started researching them.

Swinging back around to our actual purchase, below is screencaps of what we bought:

I’m a bit nervous about the two tomato varieties coming as transplants.  On one hand, they were out of seeds so transplants were the only options at the time for them.  On the other hand, we’ve tried to plant both from seeds before and had nothing to show for it.  I was also a bit sleepy when I finalized the order, and did not realize at the time that some transplants do have multiple shipping times one can choose from to best suit where they are.  I thought about calling them to switch to something a bit later, but we have the one medium length cloche we bought last year, so hopefully that combined with them being planted near the concrete garage wall will be enough.  We’ve had really bad luck with peppers and tomatoes in the past which isn’t a huge stretch since we are in New England and we’re still learning a lot about gardening in general.  This year we will be planting both in a narrow bed near that western facing garage wall in the hopes that it will act as a heat sink that will radiate back out at night to help keep plantings in that bed warmer on cooler nights.  Time will tell on that.

The garlic is a variety pack, and won’t arrive until closer to fall, which I kind of like because I may have forgotten about them by then, and it will be a fun surprise coming in later this year.


This cover reminds me of my Nana.
It’s nice to see a seed catalog choose to use a different art medium for their cover over yet more photography (which is plentiful within). [Cover art: Fred Calleri:]

Care to share thoughts on this?