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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Seed Ordering

Heirloom Red Ruffled peppers, one of the kinds of seeds we save

It's seed ordering time at the farm. This annual ritual (okay we do this more than once a year because we always either forget something or run out of something but...) marks the beginning of brand new shiny season where everything is perfect and nothing has gone wrong yet. of course things like weather, animals, diseases, etc will rear their ugly heads in the future but for now all is perfect and good.

The seed order is where a great deal of our money goes. Even though we save a lot of our own seeds we will still spend several hundred dollars on our order. The reason we do not save all of our seeds are numerous. Some are just too difficult to do. I have tried saving broccoli seeds but they always come out sterile for me. Some we do not have a good way to isolate the parents so we do not get a mixing of genetics (this includes melons and squash, though we do save some zucchini seeds that we grow out in early spring). Some varieties we buy are hybrids and while hybrids do make viable seed it will not be pure and therefore we do not know what will come up the following season.

This year I am facing a problem of losing several favorite hybrids such as fat n' sassy peppers and superstar white sweet onions. This is due to Monsanto buying out Semenis Seeds and the aforementioned varieties (along with something like 15 others we used to grow) are now owned by Monsanto, a company I will not knowingly support. So I am dropping these varieties and have to find replacements. the onions will be pretty easy as there are some great open pollinated sweet onions out there such as Siskyou Sweet and Ailsa Craig, though neither is a white sweet onion.

The good thing for me is the fact Fedco Seeds has been a leader in this "do not buy Monsanto seeds" deal and in their 2007 catalogue have clearly marked the questionable seeds (by discontinuing them) and, for many, have found good substitutes. the other catalogue we use, Johnny's Selected Seeds, still carries all the Monsanto/Semenis varieties even though they, like Fedco are anti-GMO. But I assume their reasoning is that despite the current ownership of certain varieties, these are wonderful cultivars and should still be offered to growers who want them. This makes it hard for me not to buy certain varieties such as Fat n Sassy, which, so far I have not found a replacement for. Last year I trialed Ace pepper but did not like the size, shape or taste and it was a poor seller too boot. I have found a variety called Orion which looks like it might be comparable to Fat n' Sassy. there is also a variety called x3r Red Knight that looks good and because it is in both catalogues is not a Monsanto owned seed (Orion might be as it is in Johnny's only).

Yesterday I did an inventory of the seeds we have and with Eugene we wrote down about 3/4 of the seeds we will be ordering from Fedco. Still have to get the Johnny's order started and that is the plan for today-to get to the point of filling out order forms. We have to have the Fedco order in by Jan 4th as we order with a group of folks and that is the deadline for the group. We have no deadline for Johnny's but i have found if we are ordering onion seed the earlier we get the order in the less likely we will have those seeds put on back order (a very bad thing because onions need to be planted as early as possible and we like to get them started inside by mid January. If they go on back order we may not get the seeds until mid April when they are no longer any good to us) or find them sold out.

I mentioned we do save a lot of our own seed. Most of the seeds are either tomatoes, lettuce, beans or peas with a few peppers and leafy greens in the mix too. We also have a lot of butternut squash seed which we can successfully save because we rarely grow any other squash that will cross with butternut (some day I will write an entry on the sex life of winter and summer squash but not today). Oh yeah and some eggplant seed that likely did cross with the other eggplants and will give us some interesting fruits. Actually we have a lot of squash and melon seeds because Eugene loves saving seeds from such fruits despite the fact he refuses to isolate these crops properly for seed saving. So Eugene's seeds are generally a genetic cocktail of really interesting but not sellable results. This past season he planted zucchinis from seed he had saved and I think all 5 varieties of zukes were represented in new and wonderful shapes and colors. but while the squash were really beautiful they were not great eating and not what we expected. And when you garden for a living you really need expected results for most things.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

Happy Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year to you, Lucy! I appreciate you sharing your life with us, and this kind of information is particularly helpful to me. I hope that your new year is wonderful!
(no way to comment without using Blogger!)