Monday, February 25, 2013

Seed Starting Update no. 2

Today we sowed:
  • Peppers: Beaver Dams (4), Garden Sunshines (4), Mini-Bells (4)
  • Kohlrabi (6)
  • Broccoli (3)

  •  Potted out early tomato starts
    • Starting tomorrow we will keep them under the grow light during the day and put them out on the patio at night so they can be exposed to cooler night time temps. Apparently keeping them at 50-60 degrees at night will encourage early flowering.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

It looks like we found a new seed company to try. A colleague made us aware of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They are a Baker Creek-esque seed company based in Mineral, Virginia that focuses on gmo-free, untreated, open pollinated seeds suited to the inland plains of the mid-Atlantic (our zone, 7a) and the mid-Atlantic region writ large. They describe this area as "generally characterized by high summer heat, humidity, numerous plant diseases, uneven precipitation and occasional high temperatures in the early spring and late fall. Soils are predominately clay except in the sandy coastal areas." Add in the plagues of Egypt-magnitude insect problems we experience at the community garden and this precisely captures our growing conditions.
 2013 Catalog Cover
Am I in love? Very possibly. I am withholding judgement til we grow some of their seed, but all indications are positive. 

For starters, their catalog is lovely. Just the type of seed catalog a garden hopes to get in the middle of winter: one filled with planting and seed saving tips, planting calendars (again, for MY great is that?!), planting quick references, and great information about seed exchanges and preservation programs. It has a great mixture of plant photos and old-timey drawings. All the seed descriptions include indicators identifying varieties "especially well-suited to the Southeast," heirlooms, ecologically grown, and USDA certified organic. They are up front about the specific plant seeds they carry that are hybrids (only four of them). They even sell seed-saving supplies that are usually difficult to find, such as muslin bags and seed vials.

They have a "safe-seed" pledge that says they do not "knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants." I'm happy to see this. While it doesn't necessarily mean they go as far as Baker Creek does to ensure their seed is not GMO tainted (for example testing each batch of heirloom seed), it is still a far cry better than most seed companies out there. 

They are even part of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. vs Monsanto lawsuit which definitely scores them points with me. If you aren't familiar with the lawsuit, I encourage you to read about it here

Overall, I am excited to order some seed from these folks. We've been looking for some summer lettuce that can withstand our brutal June temperatures, and it looks like they have a few varieties that fit the bill. (I'm eyeing the "Jericho" which was bred for desert heat and which is "especially suited to the Southeast.") I will do a follow up post later this summer.

Tomatoes Started

We started our tomatoes on February 10th, along with some onions (see here for how we start seeds indoors). According to our garden plan we started the tomatoes a few days earlier than we planned and the onions about a month late. But whatever. We are doing this as we have a free second, which isn't often.

We started the following:
2 Cherokee Purples
1 Blondkopfchen (using the saved seed so tripled sowed it. All popped up right away)
1 Black Cherry
1 Cosoluto Genovese
1 Volunteer (also saved seed but only did one since we planned to sow more in the next go around)

Observations to date:
All of the seeds have germinated except the Cosoluto Genovese. I will give that one another day and then re-sow. The volunteer seedling is already an inch taller than the rest and is budding second leaves (the one all the way to the right in the picture). I am very excited to see how much this produces this summer since it seems to be a great example of natural (and now human) selection. I think putting the grow set up in the kitchen this year helped our germination time since the kitchen is the warmest part of our house. We put it there out of necessity, but it has worked out so far. (I cringe to think how our counter will look in 2 months though). 

We need to set up the fan to "tickle" the seedlings so that they spread strong roots. We've done that the last two years and have been widely successful. As long as I remember to mist them once a day and turn on the lights in the morning they should grow nicely. We plan to pot these out into yogurt containers when we start the next set of tomato seedlings (early March). Stay tuned.