Hello Spring! (I think)


One of my many harvests last year. Wishful thinking!

it’s been very cold here or maybe I am just getting older. Lots of sunshine and the birds are starting to make melodies so I expect it to be considerably warmer than it feels. I go through this every year right around February.

I have transplanted 0ver 900 pepper plants already and they are snug as a bug in a rug in our “pepper greenhouse”. I planted 62 varieties this year and will be showcasing some of the newer and favorites on this blog in the future.

As for tomatoes? This year I have over 200 varieties, by far the most that I have ever done. Last year I had 178 and wanted less. Yup, you can blame it on the catalogs. With their pretty pictures and fantastical descriptions such as “the best tasting”, “brilliant color palette”, “earliest for northern regions”, “most prolific”, “an heirloom older than dirt” etc. (the last one, not really, but it sounds like something someone would say.)

I got rid of some I didn’t like or that were hard to sell and of course, kept my favorites and the favorites of my customers. In all, what with taking away and adding, I have 203 varieties. Uh huh, that is a lot! I order mostly from seed catalogs like Seeds n Such, Totally Tomatoes, Tomatofest, Harris Seeds, Johnny’s Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, and others. I also peruse our local Northwest Seed and Pet for their offerings. This year I found some seed by Snake River Cooperative, Shoshone, Moscow, Latah and Sandpoint, seeds developed in our area by Idaho State University. I am anxious to try those and see how they do.

As with the peppers, I will showcase some of the tomato varieties also.

This is my busy season, buying and researching seeds, ordering supplies, figuring out a planting schedule, making big and little tags, ordering preprinted tags, planting and transplanting babies, updating the website, organizing marketing materials and email lists, creating blog posts, watering, fertilizing, arranging heaters and keeping an eye on the temps, taking cuttings and rooting them, to name just a few of my responsibilities

Good thing I love what I do!.

How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – Courtesy of You Grow Girl

This is an excellent article on testing the germination rate of seeds. If you are like me, I am always saving seeds I buy, seeds I collect from my garden, seeds I save from other folk’s plants… Sometimes I feel the need to test the germination rate of seeds I buy from commercial seed houses! Occasionally I get no or little germination on a seed packet.

How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds

I love to buy, collect, save, and trade seed, but I have to admit that I do not go about it in a particularly organized fashion. While I am careful about where and how I store my seeds and I do have my own “it’s all in my head” system, it doesn’t exactly compare to some of the personal seed banks I have seen. I do not have Excel charts or lists of any kind that track what I have and when I got it. If I’m being honest, I often don’t realize I am out of a particular something or other unless I bother to check ahead of time. However, most years that moment doesn’t come until I am in the act of sowing. Whoops, guess I won’t be growing that this year.  For this reason, it’s not uncommon for me to find packets in my stash that are older than I can remember. Most store-bought seeds have a “packed for” date on them, but I receive a lot of seed in trade, and some of those traders are even less organized than me. The seed of some plants last no more than a year or so. If I find an unmarked, rogue packet of onions or leeks I can be nearly certain that they are junk. Tomatoes seem to last forever, so if I find a packet of unknown origin that I’d like to grow, it’s worth spending the time to test its germination rate.A germination test determines the viability of the seed — how many in a packet will reliably germinate. This is important because the window of opportunity to get some crops sown and growing can be short. I’ve lost the chance to grow a specific variety some years because I sowed and then waited on seed that wouldn’t grow.Germination rate can also provide a gauge of a seed’s vigor. I explain what this is below.

How to Test for Germination Rate
There are lots of ways to go about this. Some people use paper towels. I use coffee filters because I find it easier to see the germinated seeds and their roots should I opt to plant those that have germinated. Fragile roots and leaves tend to disappear in the pile of paper towels.

What You Need:
Coffee filters
Plastic baggies
10 Seeds (per test)
Permanent marker

Cut or tear the coffee filter along the bottom and one side seam. Lightly moisten with water so that it is moist, but not sopping wet. I sometimes use a spray bottle but you can also just dip it into a bowl of water and squeeze it out.

Open the filter up flat and lay out 10 seeds on one half. You do not have to do 10 seeds at a time, but it makes figuring out the germination rate a heck of a lot easier. Spread the seeds out so that they aren’t touching. I do this so that there is less chance that their roots will become entangled should I decide to plant them up.

Fold the half of the coffee filter that does not have seeds over onto the side that does.

Fold the bottom half up.

Place the moist and folded coffee filter inside a baggie and seal. Write the variety name and the date you started the test on the outside of the baggie. I write this onto sticker labels so I can reuse the baggies in further testing.

Place the sealed and labelled baggies in a warm place and check on them every few days to see whether germination has occurred. Some seeds may require more time. Some may also require light in order to germinate, or more heat.

Tip: The majority of the seeds I test do well in a kitchen or utility drawer that is used often. Otherwise I have a tendency to forget about them! I also put a sticky note on the front of the drawer as an added reminder to keep checking the seeds! Hot peppers tend to need more heat, so I keep them on top of a reliably warm (but not hot) appliance.

The rate is determined by the number of seeds out of 10 that have germinated. For example, 6 out of 10 seeds = 60% 3 out of 10 = 30% and so on.

You can go ahead and plant any seedling that have germinated into soil just as you would a seed. Don’t bother trying to remove the seedling from the paper — you risk damaging delicate roots. Instead, tear the paper around the plant. (Note: If your seedlings have browned roots like mine do in the above photo then I would not suggest planting them up. I left those too long and the roots were starting to rot.)

Loss of Vigor: Seeds that fall below 70% germination tend to suffer from a loss of vigor that will increase with each passing year. What this means is that even though many of them will still germinate, the seedlings that develop may not be healthy or develop into strong, vital plants. If the percentage isn’t too low you may decide to take a chance and see how the seedlings develop. It should be easy enough to determine which are suffering. However, if you’re planning to save seed from this plant for future crops then you may want to replace the seed now. Unhealthy plants beget unhealthy plants and since you’re going to the effort, it is worth it to start out with the best of the best.

Please note that some varieties suffer from a poor germination rate even when new and healthy, so it’s important to know your plant/variety.

Tip: I keep all of my seed testing equipment (including the used baggies) together with my seed saving equipment in one of the dollar store containers that I use for organizing seed. That way I have it on hand whenever I need it.

Source: How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – You Grow Girl

Shishito Peppers – The Gourmet Pepper From Japan

shishito-hot-pepperPepper Profiles: Shishito

This gourmet pepper is an exotic delicacy iconic to Izakaya (Japanese tapas/appetizers).The Shishito Pepper is delicious and couldn’t be easier to prepare.

Native to Japan, the slender, green peppers grow 3”- 4” long, have delicate skin and a slightly pleated surface. Most of them have a hist of grassy and peppery flavor, with a faint note of citrus. However, some (approximately one in ten) have a real bite! It’s almost like playing roulette. They mature to a fiery red.


The plants have a  spreading habit and produce prolifically.

To highlight their bright flavors, simply heat oil  in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the peppers, turning occasionally, until they begin to blister on all sides. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt—they are ready to enjoy! They are also wonderful grilled, deep fried or tossed on top of pizzas and salads.


Recipe: Shishito Peppers

 Courtesy of Author: Julie du Pont
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time:  2 mins
Cook time:  5 mins
Total time:  7 mins
Serves: 6
Sauteed Shishito Peppers guaranteed to get your party started!
  • 4 cups Shishito Peppers
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 2 tbsp good soy sauce
  • Large Sea Salt Flakes
  1. Slit the side of each pepper. I like to leave the little stem on the pepper because it allows guests to grab easily, but you can also remove the stems if that is your preference.
  2. Heat a large wok or frying pan on high heat until it is very hot. Add butter. Once butter is sizzling and almost to the point where it browns, add the peppers and toss with a wooden spoon for about 4 minutes until they begin to blister. Add soy sauce and stir with wooden spoon for about a minute until the butter and soy sauce create a glaze over the peppers. Remove from pan and dust with large flaked sea salt. Serve immediately and take your chances that you don’t get one of the spicy ones!

Chinese Five Color Hot Peppers


These are screaming hot little peppers. And beautiful too! The two pictures above are taken from my friend’s garden in Rathdrum, Idaho. He absolutely loves them. Since I don’t eat hot peppers, I have to take his word for it. Ted says he puts one into a pot and it flavors the chili quite nicely.

These peppers turn a rainbow of vibrant colors; from purple, cream, yellow, orange to red as they ripen. They would work as an interesting ornamental if you don’t eat hot peppers. The plants are great for containers. Just pick a few any time to liven up your salsa.

I transplanted 67 of them yesterday. Funny thing is, I only had 7 come up last year and Ted took 5 of them. This year, I should have at least a hundred for sale this year.

pepper chinese five color

How To Plant Tomatoes In Spokane Valley, Complete With Pictures!

It is planting time for Spokane Valley here in Eastern Washington. We planted our tomato and pepper plants about two weeks ago. Some locals wait until June but I think they need to go in at some point, so I watch the weather like a hawk and am prepared to cover.

The process is the same for tomatoes or peppers.  The holes are just smaller for the peppers (I also add some sulfur to the hole). We garden in raised beds, apply shredded leaves, compost and composted manure (if it smells like manure, it’s not ready to be put into the garden)  in the fall, and then till it under in the spring. Feed your soil, it will feed your plants.

Step 1

My husband uses a post hole digger to make holes about 8 – 12 inches deep. Looking good!!




Step 2

Here I have laid out the plant next to their holes (new homes). Because we cage them and train them up, I squeeze them closer together than conventional wisdom dictates. I put a red next to a yellow next to an orange, next to a cherry etc…..you get the idea. When they are grown so closely together, it can be confusing as to what tomato is what.


Step 3

Here I am, adding some amendments. That is generally the only time I fertilize unless I see a problem. A handful of crushed eggshells, a couple of tablespoons of epsom salts, A handful of kelp and alfalfa meal, and granulated fish fertilizer in the hole and I am ready to plant. Cover the bottom with a little bit of dirt to avoid direct contact with the roots and you are good to go.Image


Step 4

The hole with the amendments.Image

Step 5

We drop it quite unceremoniously into the hole and backfill with dirt. leaving a clutch of leaves at the top. some folks rip off the lower branches, I don’t, I just cover them up. If the plant is short, I may have to put some more dirt in the bottom to keep it’s hed above the soil line. Both tomatoes and peppers will develop roots all along the stem, making a healthier plant. My husband makes a freeform “moat” around the plant to corral water. Water to settle the roots, install the cages and you are good to go!Image

One more thing, I make a map of all my veggies so that when the squirrels steal the tags, I still know what it is.


The Letter of the Day T: “T” is for the Tomato, Tumbler and the Pepper, Tabasco


Specially bred for hanging baskets. Bushy plants look fantastic mixed with lobelia and alyssum. Sweet, bright red fruits. We sell them in the small pots and as baskets. Perfect for someone who wants to hang it on their balcony or patio. Determinate, early

This is a picture of one I had hanging on my patio. It is planted with flowers. Who says veggies can’t be pretty?

tumbler-for web

Tabasco- HOT

Originally from Mexico—and taking its name from a Mexican state—this small, very hot pepper’s a favorite in the South and East, where the plants can grow tall and are covered with the petite light yellow-green to red fruits. Best known as the pepper that lends the kick to the namesake hot sauce from Avery Island, Louisiana.TOBASCO

The Letter of the Day is Q: “Q” is for Quiz

Q is a tough one. I have had tomatoes named Golden Queen and White Queen. But I am not offering them this year, so I put my thinking cap and decided to have a short quiz to see if you are learning anything.

!. What is the url for my website?

2. What is the tomato I showcased for the letter “C”?

3. What pepper did I showcase for the letter “J”?

No prizes or anything, just wanted to know if this blog has been useful to you. I am hoping you learned that there are more tomatoes out than the early girl and roma!

The picture below is a plate of different colored tomatoes that I made for a dinner of friends. The color is not the best, I took it along time ago. it gives you an idea of what you can do with all those tomatoes. I usually adorn with feta cheese, fresh chopped basil, a basic vinagrette, chopped kalamata olives and thinly sliced red onions.


The Letter of the Day is H: “H” is for the Tomato, Hundreds and Thousands and the Pepper, Hungarian Yellow Wax

Hundreds and Thousands

This tomato is really cool. The tomatoes are a currant size and there lots and lots of them. Hundreds? Yes. Thousands? Not really, but you won’t go short of tomatoes with this variety. 

The sweet, mini-cherry fruit are very flavorful and early and perfect for putting into a salad or popping into your mouth.

Plant with petunias, alyssum and lobelia for pretty hanging baskets. 


Hungarian Yellow Wax

Spicy, fairly hot, banana shaped fruits, 6″ long and 1-1/2″ across – perfect for pickling. Matures from light yellow to bright red. Best hot pepper for cooler climates. Ever-bearing plants are 16 to 24″ tall, strong, uprightImage

The Letter of the Day is G; “G” is for the Tomato, Green Grape and the Pepper, Giant Szegedi

Green Tomatoes and White Peppers

Green Grap


My description on my website: These are the first, fully ripened green cherry tomato. I adore these. Fruits are delicious, juicy and sweet and burst in your mouth. They turn a lovely golden green when ripe and are wonderful straight from the vine. Mix with Sweet Million and Sungold cherry tomatoes for a rainbow infused salad. Use for a large container planting on your deck.

Determinate, 70 days

My Notes: So many people have no idea what they are missing when they bypass these little ping pong sized beauties in favor of a more traditionally colored cherry tomato. Pop them in in your mouth and they will surprise you with a flood of sweetness. Wait until they are a golden green. The plant is well behaved and will do well in a large pot. Aunt Ruby’s German Green is another tomato that wows with it’s sweet, winey taste and it can get pretty big.

Giant Szegedi


My description on my website: Originally from Hungary, this variety is very hard to find in the United States.

Short, fairly compact plants produce good yields of very crisp, thick walled, very sweet peppers that average 4 inches long.

Fruits start out white and slowly turn yellow, then orange, and finally red at maturity. Fruits hold well on the vine and it is very easy to pick white, yellow, orange and red peppers at each picking without any stage sacrificing taste or crispness.

They are wonderful on vegetable trays, in salads, or in cooking. This variety does very well in cooler regions of the country where other pepper varieties struggle.

My Notes: I love the white peppers and em excited to try this one. I’ve grown Albino Bullnose before and it is apleasure watching it turn from white to red on the same plant. White Lakes is also a white/cream pepper.