Got a text last week from a wonderful lady, who inspired this post. I suspect the heavy bug pressure she in her garden this summer, is what has had she and her husband decide not to garden this fall and winter. I see this allot, people are going into the fall, having had some difficulty gardening, whether it be bug pressure, drought, or life circumstances, get garden burn-out and stop, right when it becomes the easiest time of year to garden.
Here are 3 reasons for you to reconsider and get that fall and winter garden going:
Lack of bugs – As cooler weather approaches, there are not only less bugs eating your food, but less bugs wanting to eat you. Once there is a freeze, you don’t have to worry about bug pressure until it gets warm again next spring. A major relief.
Pleasant Weather – The cooler weather is also much more pleasant to be out in your garden than the brutal heat of summer. Your garden can be a welcome haven of outdoor time when it is enjoyable to be outside. Taking an afternoon day-trip to your garden is less expensive and time consuming and still allow you to get away from work and other concerns.
You get food all year! Most everyone loves their homegrown summer tomatoes. Think about how much better your homegrown tomatoes are than the ones you buy in the supermarket. Ok, translate that into your salads, green smoothies, and winter root veggie soups. Yes, homegrown produce of any variety is going to be fresher, more satisfying and better tasting then store bought.
You still have time, the end of September is the time in US Zone 7 to get those fall and winter transplants in the ground.
I hope all of you out there who are bailing on your garden this fall, reconsider.
For years I have considered Territorial to perhaps be my favorite seed company although I really cannot pick one favorite as you can see from this series of posts. The reason Territorial Seeds has gotten consistently high marks is because they have such a wonderful large diverse selection of varieties, with most being open pollinated. I must say, for 2017, they seem to be moving into more hybrids to a disappointing degree. I prefer a large selection of open pollinated varieties with a few highly tested hybrids for certain situations.
That said, they have made one major improvement in their already outstanding catalog. Territorial has always provided outstanding growing information in their catalogs, making it a great resources, but for 2017, they have improved the layout of the information, which now looks similar to Sow True Seed and is much easier to read than previous years.
Territorial is very conscious of offering quality non-GMO seed. Although not all their selections are organic, they do have organic options. One of the first seed companies we started using in the 1980s and the only one who has had the sustaining power to keep us coming back all these decades later.
Some interesting new varieties they are offering for 2017 are Sugar Magnolia, a violet-podded snap pea, Nurti-Red carrot, high in lycopene, Dazzling Blue lacinato kale with shocking pink midribs.
Wanting an orange cauliflower the variety of which is NOT owned by Monsanto (Cheddar is owned by them), try Orange Burst Cauliflower, a hybrid worth trying.
They carry many of our must have favorites including Blue Lake pole bean, Purple peacock broccoli, Alderman shelling pea, and Gourmet orange bell pepper. For red slicing tomatoes we like Stupice, Siletz and Carmelo. For smaller tomatoes try Gold Nugget, Chocolate cherry and Principe Borchese.
I’ve always loved their outstanding selection of lettuces. Some favorites include: Matina sweet and Victoria butterheads, Loma French crisp, Merlot and Two Star leaf and Flashy Trout’s Back (Forellenschluss) and Marshall romaine.
If you need or want a hybrid summer squash, Territorial has our two favorites, Raven zucchini and Bush baby, which is good for small space and container gardens. Considering great container varieties, Betterbush hybrid butternut squash lets you harvest butternut squashes from containers. Unheard of until recently, but we tried it last year and its true!
For those wanting to garden in all four seasons, Territorial has a Fall & Winter catalog dedicated to varieties for the cold seasons, including overwintering varieties. This catalog has the same type of great growing information you find in their Spring & Summer catalog.
For you local Virginians who want to support Virginia businesses, Southern Exposure is for you.
They are a great source of varieties that grow well in the mid-Atlantic and Southern states, including some local heirloom varieties. Popular examples include Old Virginia tomato, an heirloom of the famous VA Ginter family, Anne Arundel melon, grown in Maryland since 1731, Mountain Princess tomato from the Monongahela National Forest area of West Virginia, and Seminole pumpkin, cultivated in Florida by Native American Indians since the 1500s and now grown by Living Energy Farm in Virginia.
Even if you are in another area of the country, they are a wonderful resource. They have a larger than usual selection of collards, okra, southern (or cow, or blackeye) peas, and tomatillos. If you want to try your hand at growing natural colored cotton or peanuts, Southern Exposure is your seed company.
Interesting new selections for 2017 include Withner White Cornfield bean, an Indiana heirloom for growing up corn stalks, and Geranium Kiss, a red dwarf determinate tomato for containers.
Early White Bush Scallop patty pan squash has been a family favorite of ours since the 1960s and these folks have it along with our other family favorite, yellow crookneck. We also like Sweet Valentine romaine lettuce which we have not found elsewhere in recent years.
I like their selection of watermelons which include red, yellow and orange fleshed varieties.
Southern Exposure has a good selection of seed saving equipment. We always enjoy their selections for hot humid climates like ours, hope you do too.
We love these folks more and more each year. Every time I open their catalog, it makes me happy. Their mission statement sort of covers why: “.. to preserve our shared botanical heritage and grow a new era of sustainable culture and ecological wisdom. We support independent, regional agricultural initiatives that foster vibrant, sustainable economy, and true food sovereignty.”
They carry only open pollinated varieties that ‘grow true from seed”, meaning when you save seed and plant it, you’ll get the same variety. Although they are not 100% organic, they support small farms who cannot afford organic or biodynamic certification. They provide seed from their network of skilled regional growers and independently-owned North American seed producers. That often means you are supporting small family farmers when you buy seed from Sow True Seed.
Want custom printed seed packets for your special event, business or fundraiser? You can get them from Sow True.
Sow True Seed has an impressive, very well rounded section of seeds, which can be hard to find from companies who don’t carry loads of varieties for each plant. It is obvious they really take care in varietal selection. This is a standout aspect of Sow True. They could easily be your only seed company and you’ll have a great garden.
Some of our favorite selections include: Jericho lettuce, Ashe County, Red Ruffled and Tangerine pimento sweet peppers, Hearts of Gold melon, Red Acre cabbage, Snowball self-blanching cauliflower, Ronde de Nice summer squash, Blue Hubbard winter squash, and Bush Pickle cucumber which is great for containers. They also carry Tam Jalapeno, a variety we grew years ago to make salsa for those who can’t take much heat.
Sow True Seed also has a fun selection of Seed Collections for those just starting out or wanting some inspiration. Their catalog provides useful information on throughout, including companion planting information, making the catalog a valuable resource.
Please support these folks, as they are a wow of doing the future right. Plus how awesome is there name?
If you are one of those people who want organic seed, not matter what and no matter the price, High Mowing if your seed company. They carry 100% certified organic, non-GMO verified seeds. That folks, is a big deal.
Having this type of standard does come with a cost though, their seeds are often high priced compared to other companies.
They also carry a large selection of hybrid; non-GMO, varieties. Although seed savers are not fond of hybrids, those who are looking for new varieties bred for our changing climate are grateful for them. High Mowing is very picky about who they partner with and offer such a large selection of hybrids, from modern hybridizer’s intent on expanding organic seed varieties. They carry seeds from breeders at Cornel University, Vitalis, Kultursaat, Genesis Seeds and other University and quality seed breeding programs.
High Mowing serves organic growers and is dedicated to providing very high quality seed. A new standout for us this year is their Halblange Parsnip, an open pollinated variety from Bingenheinmer Saatgut, a biodynamic company in Germany. Shorter and stockier roots are easier to grow in our clay soils, or in gardens where the soil has not been built up so much yet.
They also carry our hands-down favorite green leaf lettuce, Waldman’s Dark Green. We also particularly like their selections of radishes and spinach.
Whenever we have a bug or other problem that prompts us to look for a hybrid, we always go to High Mowing first. We’ve liked Caraflex F1 cabbage and Yaya F1 carrot, all first offered from High Mowing, so much they have become staples in our garden.
As you can see, the folks at High Mowing carry a unique collection of quality varieties from around the world, Great folks, great seed. Our only con, is some varieties are above our home gardener recommended price point of being below $4 a packet. You get what you pay for.
Each year we review seed catalogs and pick our favorites who meet our criteria for supporting biodiversity, organic gardening, local communities and provide safe, non-gmo seed.
What’s not to love here? Seed Saver’s Exchange is an easy place to start every year because they not only house the largest privately held seed back of open pollinated seed in the US, but also manage the largest seed exchange. They carry heirloom, untreated, non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds. They also have hundreds of certified organic varieties.
Reading their catalog is a walk through history. Each varietal description is the short story of its history..
Chioggia Beet: “Pre-1840 Italian historic variety, introduced to the U.S. before 1865. Uniquely beautiful flesh has alternating red and white concentric rings …”
Grandpa Admire’s butterhead lettuce: “From the family of George Admire (1822-1911) a Civil War veteran who migrated west to Putnam County, Missouri during the 1850s. Bronze-tinged leaves form loose heads….”
Not hooked yet, check out Trophy tomato: “Introduced in 1870 by Colonel George E Waring, Jr, of Rhode Island. Sold for five dollars a packet (equivalent to eighty dollars today). Gardeners paid the exorbitant price hoping to win the $00 grand prize at the local fair.” …
In addition to these great stories come an amazing diversity of high quality seed. Become a member and you have access to literally thousands of variety, all open pollinated, so if you save seed from the plants you grow, you know you will be the same variety from the seeds you saved.
Some of our favorite must have varieties are: True Lemon cucumber, Emerald Gem melon, Listada de Gandia eggplant, Christmas Limas, CiCicco Broccoli, St Valery carrot, Cherokee Purple, Moonglow, and Tommy Toe tomatoes to name a few.
Supporting Seed Savers’ Exchange is one way to vote with your dollar in favor of preserving our seed heritage and biodiversity. As we said, what’s not to love.
“Oh, you’re a gardener, so what do you do in the winter? You don’t grow food right?”
I love this question because there are so many cool things gardeners do in the cold months.
November means cooking up yummy dishes from soups to pies from autumn’s harvest. The more you store in your root cellar, garage, basement and fridge from the year’s bounty, the more bang for the buck you get from your garden. If you get into fermenting and canning, your benefits go up even more.
If you planted a mid-summer crop of potatoes, December is a great time to harvest them. How cool is it to have friends over for dinner for the holidays and servethem fresh potatoes you harvest last week! So cool.
December also brings opportunity to share your bounty. You can gift those you love with home grown and dried herbs or fruits. One year we gave everyone popcorn we grew. Another year, it was kimchee we made from fall grown cabbage.
December also brings the first of the seed catalogs and these are one of the best things to read while sipping a cup of hot tea/coffee/coco on a cold wintry day in January and February. This is the time to dream about what you will grow next year .. oh, but wait .. we also do our seed inventory and reflect on what worked and what didn’t during the year with things like:
Did we use up seed of our favorite tomato variety?
Did anything new we tried do great or horrid, or just so-so?
Was there a whole crop fail? This is the time we chat with each other to see if everyone in our community had a bad year with that, or if we need advice on what might have happened in our garden.
Reading seed catalogs lets us dream of warmer days in spring and plan what we want to do next year in the garden. They also provide useful information and are great resources.
A creative winter garden project is designing the next phase of our garden. Whether it be the next phase of our long range garden plan (this is the year I put in blueberries and asparagus!) or so a new garden follow-on layout from spring and summer. Maybe you expand it into fall and winter if you have not yet ventured into four season gardening.
Likely the most rewarding is the continued harvest. My favorite winter harvest story is from a few years ago during a winter storm dubbed ‘snowmageddon’. It was the biggest snowfall I’d ever been in. We dug a path to the collards, buried deep in the snow to harvest some for dinner, and honestly they were the sweetest collards I’ve ever eaten.
Harvesting in winter can be less dramatic, simply have a few things in a simple hoop house or cold frame that could be harvestable in winter and certainly when they get a warm day or two to grow a bit and provide more food offerings.
Winter is also the time to start early spring and some summer crops. Your brassicas can be started indoors to be hardened off and planted our as soon as the ground softens up. Some summer crops like basil and peppers that take a long time to germinate and get growing also benefit from being started in late winter.
I’m also in mid-swing with teaching The Foundations of Organic Gardening Course, which empowers people to be successful gardeners.
Winter is a great time study, dream, muse, plan, order seeds, start seedlings and chat with other gardeners.