Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time To Order Those Seeds!

I just got the 2012 seed catalog from Johnny's. Johnny's is where I seem to order all my seeds despite my good intentions to try other companies. But I'm a creature of habit. I LOVE their catalog, it's extremely informative, and I've had great success with all their seeds. They also offer reasonable shipping, which is usually what stops me from ordering elsewhere. Some companies charge ridiculous prices to ship a little packet of seeds, and as a result, I end up halting my order on the shipping page and going over to Johnny's.

But enough of that plug. I believed their warning that the prices would go up with the 2012 catalog, so I ordered all my seeds last month while the 2011 prices were still good. Here's what I'll be planting this year:

Hands down my favorite green beans are these Fortex.  They are abundant, have a long harvest season, and best of all, they are very forgiving pole beans.  What I mean by that is the beans inside the pods aren't quick to grow, so if you miss a few and come back three days later, the beans are still edible.  I will be hard-pressed to try any other pole bean from here on out.

Broccoli is another staple in my garden.  I've experimented with three varieties and am happy with all of them so they'll be coming back this year:

This Arcadia I start in the summer for a fall crop.

Gypsy is the broccoli I start in January for spring production.

Marathon is started in the summer for fall production.

This Gonzalez cabbage was the first I ever tried, and I haven't had reason to experiment with anything different. It works well for me, and the heads it forms are relatively small. Since Al and I are the only ones eating it, I like the small compact heads. I don't end up with more than I need.

Napoli carrots are new to me this year. I get them pelleted from Johnny's, which makes them so much easier to plant. They are an early variety, which means I get carrots in 60 days if I plant them at the right time of year.

These Nelsons are the carrots I grew last year. I'd tried carrots several times, both here in Rohnert Park and back in my garden in Petaluma. I never had success until I tried these Nelsons. When it comes to carrot varieties, I've learned to stick with early. I also stick to carrots that don't get too long. I've got about 16" of good soil until you get to a gravel layer that was under the original sod. So I need to stick to shorter carrots.

I'm not a big cucumber adventurer. I know lots of people love growing the specialty varieties, but I'm kinda partial to the plain old cucumbers you get in the grocery store. This Corinto is new to me this year. Johnny's replaced the Genuines I grew last year with this one, and since some of my earlier Genuines came out bitter, I was ready for a change anyway. We'll see how this does.

There are other varieties of Pac Choi I'm looking forward to trying, but for 2012, my plan is to use up this Mei Qing Choi I bought last year. My pac choi's never come out as big as the ones in this picture, but I've been very happy with them nonetheless. It's the only greens I grow. Lettuce and chard got obliterated by aphids the first year I tried them. And since tiny green mites in my food give me the heebie geebies, I forego anything they're attracted to that I can't easily wash (such as squash and tomatoes).

Peas: I did a pea experiment last year by trying four different varieties of English peas. My plan was to find out which one grew best. In the end, they all grew pretty much the same and I was never able to figure out what I liked best. So--since I've got leftovers from last year--they're all getting planted again.





I'll also be using up the Snow Sweet peas I bought last year, so no new peas on this year's list.

People in the Bay Area say they have much better luck growing specialty peppers as opposed to standard bells. Boy, they weren't kidding. I grew these Anaheims (Sahuaro) last year and had peppers coming out of my ears. I love the mild heat from these and will grow them again.

New to me this year are these sweet specialties called Lipstick. While I was pleased with my Anaheim results, truth is, we just don't eat hot peppers too much, and I found having to roast them was kind of a pain. I'm hoping I have the same success with these sweet peppers, as we'll go through them for sure.

Like cucumbers, I don't vary my squash much. That's mostly because plain old zucchini is the only squash my family will eat. Last year, I grew both this Plato and Costa Romanesco. I found the Costa Romanesco even more productive. The problem was, the leaves are very spiny and I got tired of scratching the heck out of my arms just trying to cut off a fruit. So this year it will be these Plato and only these Plato.

Which brings me to the queen of everyone's garden: Tomatoes

I grew these Juliets last year thinking they were Roma tomatoes.  They're actually salad tomatoes, which was a disappointment to me at first.  I'm not a fan of cherries and small tomatoes.  I find them a pain in the butt to pick, they drop (which means they'll seed themselves next year if I'm not diligent about cleaning them up), and there's not a whole lot I can do with them besides eat them whole.

However, after a year of having them I couldn't bring myself to abandon them in 2012. They really were handy for salads, and I found myself snacking on them a lot, which is great for one's waistline. So they'll be back again for a repeat.

Also back are these Moskvich.  They were my earliest tomatoes in 2011 and had good flavor and production.  And since I've still got leftover seeds, I'll use them up.

Big Beef are another return from 2011.  The plants I grew last year didn't produce any useable fruit because I'd planted them in wine barrels that didn't get the sun I'd hoped.  I'm going to give this variety a try in the ground and hope for better results.

Despite a late start in 2011, these Brandywine gave me some wonderful fruit.  The plants suffered from black spot, so my plan is to take better preventative measures and hope for even better results next summer.

I'm adding two new varieties this year:  Cherokee Purple got raves from people who have shorter, foggier summers.  They are another early variety.

And Prudens Purple got good rankings from the same group of people.  It's another early variety and that is this year's theme.  I'm going heavier on the early tomatoes since I'm not expecting any long hot summers in our future.  We'll see how they do!

My 2012 Garden Planting Calendar

I'm a data analyst, so it's not surprising that I've spent the last two years experimenting with my vegetable garden and recording the results. Lots of effort went into seeing how far I can stretch my growing season, and I think in these two years, I've got a general idea of where my limits are now.

With everything I planted, I recorded it into a spreadsheet and gave each trial a final grade when all was said and done. What came out of that two year experiment was this garden planting calendar that I'll be using for 2012:

1st Start broccoli seeds (Gypsy)

Start cabbage seeds

Start bok choi for barrels

1st Transplant broccoli, cabbage and bok choi
15th Plant English peas (cover for frost)

1st Start tomato seeds

Start pepper seeds


15th Plant pole beans

Plant carrot seeds

Plant zucchini seeds

Plant cucumber seeds

Transplant tomatoes, peppers

15th Plant pole beans (optional)

1st Plant pole bans (optional)
15th Start broccoli seeds (Arcadia, Marathon)

Start cabbage seeds

Plant carrot seeds
15th Plant snow peas

Transplant broccoli, cabbage (cover for shade)

I confess, I'm looking forward to having a schedule to stick to this year. It's going to be much easier. I won't be spending a lot of time planting things that ended up as little more than bug food. And I can stop constantly pouring through my gardening books, looking for what I can try planting every couple of weeks. 2012 is going to be a much simpler year. I'm trying a few new varieties of tomato, and a new specialty variety of sweet pepper. But besides that, this will be a year I do a little more relaxing.  Now, I just hope the weather doesn't throw me a giant curve!