Some of My Favorite Seed Companies – The Tomato lady

samson in gardenHere is a list of seed companies that I interact with on a regular basis. Good prices, nice selection of varieties, excellent seed quality, and good customer service! (My cat, Samson, has nothing to do with this subject but he sure is cute and is in the garden! Sam is a Maine Coon)

Seeds n Such
I love that this gentleman used to own Totally Tomatoes and decided to retire, which didn’t suit him so he opened up Seeds n Such. One of the nicest things about him is that their shipping is right in line with what it should be and they have a deal whereby if you buy 20 packets of seeds, they are all $1.99. Believe me, it’s easy to find that many things you want.

Tomatofest
Lots and lots of heirloom tomato seeds, some I have never heard of. The really nice thing is they are “local” –  California based. Most companies are midwest or eastern based companies. (I love them too, I just like buying local if I can)

Totally Tomatoes
Many, many varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Now they have other veggies. so I guess they aren’t “totally” tomatoes anymore! That’s ok, I like the variations.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds
This is for the flower growers. Veggies are good for your bodies, flowers are good for your soul. They have a nice variety, good prices, and quality seed. I love the pictures on the website, and they are fast!

Geo Seed
I recently found this company. I can’t remember how but am sure glad I did. Prices are phenomenal, customer service outstanding (Dora rocks!) varieties are numerous. Stuff you didn’t know you needed! the only drawback is that they don’t have pictures (but that is what the internet is for, right?) and at this time, you can’t order online. Mere nuisances. They have trade packets and bigger bulk sizes. I’d recommend the trade packets for home gardeners.

Fedco Seeds
I found this company in the last couple of years also. I love that they are a Cooperative and represent seed from a lot of small, independent growers. Great website too, lots of pictures. I found they have seeds with great histories; for instance, I found a winter squash called Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert Squash (a mouthful) on their site. it was passed down forever and as far as I can see, it’s not available anywhere else. it is delicious! Lots of fun stuff!

Irish Eyes Seeds – Located in Ellensburg, WA, Huge selection of potatoes and garlic and other cooler climate veggies.

High Mowing – I ordered from them last week and they have great selection and shipping was surprisingly fast. Out of Vermont.

Baker Seeds Great selection, good prices, and reasonable shipping. Unusual heirloom seeds from all over, rare and exotic seeds from around the world. Two examples: Thai Lavender Frog Egg Eggplant and Sichuan Red Beauty Radish. I have to be honest, some of them are so odd I can’t imagine growing them, like the Sakurajima Giant Radish, considered the world’s largest Radish. it’s white and bigger than my head! Definitely, an entertaining place to visit.

Snake River Seeds – They are new, at least to me, and I have yet to order from them but I will. they have bulk seeds too and they are local to me. In their own words:

“Snake River Seed Cooperative is a collective of family farmers in the Intermountain West who work together to produce a wide diversity of locally-adapted seeds. We believe that sharing seed saving knowledge with farmers in our region is vital to growing a robust, regional seedshed.”

While I can’t name everyone I like dealing with, (actually I could AND include all the links but I do have other things to do today!) here are some other companies I recommend, just search for them on the internet: Parks, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Victory Seeds, Pase Seeds, Harris Seeds to name a few.

Don’t forget Northwest Seed and Pet. It is the best and biggest gardening store that I know of here in Spokane. They have a HUGE selection of seeds, a lot of which you may not have heard of. They carry their own bulk brand, Burpees, High Mowing, Baker Seeds, Snake River Seeds, Botanical Interests, Irish Eyes and many, many more. Don’t miss their cat, give him a scratch.

 

Advertisements

Seed Starting The Tomato Lady Way

If you start your seeds long before they can be put out into the garden, there are some really important tips to live by:

Sterile Germinating Mix
ALWAYS use a sterile seed starting mix. Don’t use leftover potting soil or garden soil. Do not reuse last year’s used germinating mix. Seed starting mix is generally a finer texture with no nasty little organisms to cause problems for your babies. You can get it in big bales or a smaller bag. Northwest Seed and Pet have a nice mix in smaller sizes.

Sterile Pots
Use new pots or clean your old pots with a 10% bleach/water mixture. This will keep the little critters at bay. I use these small gray pots and put 12 of them into a black flat with NO holes in them. My husband frowns upon dripping water onto the lighting fixture on the next shelf down.

germination_1.jpg

Light
Once your little guys come up, they will need light – lots of it. Most plants are happy with 12 to 16 hours a day. You can use a timer. Another tip: I use regular fluorescent lights. Since I use so many of them, I couldn’t even begin to afford to use grow lights. We use the four footers and hang from chains on metal shelving that we got from Costco. Keep the lights about 1/2″ from the tops of the plants. As they grow, keep adjusting them up. The lights also provide a tiny bit of warmth.

tomato seeds racks.jpg

Water
Don’t overwater, if you do it can create an environment that is a habitat for funguses and molds. Damping off is particularly ugly, your plant looks fab and then it falls over! so sad. Water when the top looks slightly dry. Which brings me to another important point, Water from below. When I seed the little trays, I use hot, hot water and pour into the flat until they start to float. The hot water is more effectively drawn up when it is hot. Thereafter, I use tepid water and fill the flats about halfway. If, after 2 days or so there is still a lot of water that didn’t get sucked up, empty it out so that the plants aren’t sitting in the water. That is also a bad thing.

Warmth
Sincethey are in the house in my dining room, they are the temperatures that my house is, around 65º to 70º

elizabeth_planting_4.JPG

Seed Planting
Pay attention to the seed packet instructions. Some seeds need to be covered, they need darkness to germinate, some need light and are gently pressed into the mix.

Planting Flower Seeds in the Snow

I started 36 kinds of flowers today, impatiens, petunias, pansies, lobelia, snapdragons, canterbury bells, stock and schizanthus. Was thinking I’d only need 12 seed flats for the pansies, then got to thinking about how much I’d like the other flowers to be blooming if possible and they take a long time from seed to flowering. This year I am starting them a little over 2 weeks earlier. Hard to believe I am in the greenhouse with no coat enjoying the sunshine before the incoming snowstorm…in December no less.

I wanted to start a petunia called petunia grandiflora superbissima  and couldn’t find any seed in the states. Thompson and Morgan used to have some retail outlets here and then for some reason stopped a couple of years ago. Made me sad, they had some really cool varieties. After doing an internet search for the seed, I found them available from three different seed houses in the UK. Two have agreed to sell them to me, I just hope shipping isn’t horrendous. Here is a picture of this flower. Beautiful. 4 to 5″ blooms, frilly with gorgeous and unusual veining in the throat. They are pinks and purples. They also have white but I haven’t had any that I remember. They come as a mixed color. One of my favorites.

big-petunia3big-petunias-3big-petunias-6

Tomato Terms: What Does it Mean When I Say . . .Hybrid vs. Open Pollinated

Image

Hybrid: These tomatoes are made from crossing two varieties which have characteristics that you want to save in their offspring such as earlier maturity, better yield, improved flavor and disease resistance. Good examples are Juliet, a beautiful, little red grape shaped tomato and Sungold, probably the best  cherry tomato that will ever pass your lips. (The tomatoes in the cover picture at the top of my blog are Sungold). Early Girl, Celebrity and Carmello are other hybrids. An F-1 Hybrid means it is the first generation between two different parents.

While you can save seed from it, be advised that it will not come back as the same thing you grew the first year.

Sometimes folks ask me if hybrids are GMO. They are not and I will devote a post on it later.

Open Pollinated: These are tomatoes that have the same parents as themselves. You can save seed and they will come true. All heirlooms are OP and have been saved for generations because of superior qualities like adaptability to a local area and flavor. Heirlooms are another post also.

Truly Exhausted but Triumphant

So, yesterday, March 25, I planted around 4000 tomato seeds with the help of two friends, Heidi Eutsler, Kathy Kjelgaard and my lovely husband, Steve. It’s not back breaking (unless you count hunched over for hours) but when you are doing 168 plus varieties, it’s a lot of work. I use a sterile seed germinating mix and sterile containers. This cuts down on the problem of damping off. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I transplanted 2000 babies (tomato plants). Now that’s back breaking! Friday night it got really cold and the two heaters we had in the greenhouse didn’t cut the mustard and when I checked on them the next morning, they looked like canned spinach. Not a good thing. I lost 300 plants. The next night, we put in 4 heaters, (space heaters) and ti worked like a charm. Good thing since I had spent the day transplanting. Today, I am going to transplant pepper plants. 

Signs of Life

Image

Signs of Life

Early last week I planted some seeds that need longer grow times than others. They are geraniums, lobelia, alyssum, snaps, hollyhocks, petunias, foxglove, stock and impatiens. I also planted 42 “Sungold” tomato seeds in a small cell type of flat as an experiment. (The only drawback is that it needs constant water. These are under lights in the house. My onions (5 kinds) are out in the small greenhouse since they don’t need as much warmth to germinate. Anyways…there are finally signs of life! It’s always exciting to see green coming up in the little flats, The hollyhocks were the first to show themselves, followed by the “Paint Box” geraniums. Yeah! We look at them every morning and night to see what’s new. I divided my seed packets into early, mid and later timeframes to start them. My tomatoes won’t be started until March, the peppers a little earlier. The funny things is, by the end of the season (fall) I am ready to lay down asphalt in the garden. I get so tired of weeding and dragging hose. I swear I’m done with gardening. In january the seed catalogs start coming and I think it’s like having a baby, you forget how much it hurt and can’t wait to do it again. Thats how it is with gardening…OR… maybe it’s just being tired of gray skies and brown lawn.