Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our senior garden - 1/7/2010

January 1, 2010 - Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Seed Catalogs

My office is now a pleasant clutter of seed catalogs. We've received fifteen different ones so far and still expect to receive a few more. We've already placed and received an order from Thompson & Morgan for their World's Top Six Mix geranium seed mix.

Over the next two weeks, I'll be looking through the various catalogs, checking my inventory of leftover and saved seed, and placing our garden seed orders. I usually get our main orders in towards the end of December, so we're already a bit behind. We purchase most of our seed from just two trusted vendors:

  • Stokes Seeds - offers an incredible variety of vegetable and flower seeds - respond promptly to customer inquiries and complaints - carries the excellent Empress variety of gloxinia seed - our favorite supplier
  • Johnny's Selected Seeds - offers hardy varieties for northern (and other) latitudes - good customer service - another favorite supplier

Most of the rest of our seed orders are spread across a variety of old and trusted suppliers:

  • Thompson & Morgan - a British company with a US outlet - their print catalog is gorgeous - carries seed for the hard to find Double Brocade F1 Hybrid Gloxinia - excellent customer service
  • R.H. Shumway's - offers many heirloom seeds in a unique, old fashioned looking catalog
  • Henry Field's Seed and Nursery - a long time supplier
  • Seed Savers Exchange - I was an early member of SSE, helping preserve the old Reid's Yellow Dent field corn, but dropped out for years after we quit farming. I joined again last year, as SSE has some varieties you won't find anywhere else. They offer a free catalog of seed along with their paid annual Yearbook of listings from members (membership is $35/year)

I also plan to place limited orders this year with:

  • Harris Seeds - I don't often go back an edit blog archives, but I received emails so arrogant and unresponsive from Harris Seeds President Dick Chamberlin today as to incense me enough to eradicate any positive statement I'd made about the company. (11/13/2011)
  • Territorial Seed Company - Good variety of seeds - flat rate shipping for seeds (great for a bunch of packets but expensive for just one or two packets)
  • Bunton's Seed - an old seed company (not a grower) based in Louisville (KY) that I want to try this year
  • The Rocky Mountain Seed Company - their first year of online ordering - another new one to try for us
  • Seeds Trust - I found my old, favorite red pepper (Earliest Red Sweet) from them last year.
  • Twilley Seed - once our main supplier of sweet corn seed - no online sales, but offers both a print and downloadable catalog) - We had seed quality and unresolved customer service issues with them last year, so we'll only be ordering one or two items from them this year.

And here's a few more that deserve a mention:

  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  • Totally Tomatoes - We ordered some tomato seed from them last year, but it was a tough year here to evaluate new varieties
  • Seeds of Change - Suppliers of organic seed - we've not used them before, but may try them this year
  • Mountain Meadow Seeds - a family owned seed company that has a nice selection and fair shipping rates
  • Pase Seeds - still carries the Double Brocade Mix variety of gloxinia, but with just so-so seed vigor
  • Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co. - a good lineup of items - we used to order seed potatoes from them
  • Burpee Seeds - Burpee was my first seed catalog. They're pretty much a shadow of the outstanding supplier they once were.
  • Park Seed - provide a beautiful catalog - lots of gorgeous flowers and some nice accessories - recently stopped listing items on Amazon and dropped all of their affiliate advertising (in financial trouble?) - extremely poor response to customer requests for previously listed seed varieties

Full disclosure: Burpee is a Senior Gardening affiliate advertiser.

If you've placed an order in the last year or so with a seed house, they'll almost certainly send you a catalog without any action on your part. But if you haven't placed an order or ordered your seed catalogs for next year's garden, now is the time to get on seed supplier's mailing lists.

Check our affiliate advertiser page for other vendors for gardening supplies (that don't supply free catalogs).

We're always trying new suppliers, so if you know of one we should consider, . I'm still looking for a good, economical supplier of pots, flats, and inserts.

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If so, why not come back to our Senior Gardening Advertisers page the next time you plan to purchase something online and click through one of our ads. We'll get a small commission from the sale, and you won't pay any more than you would have by directly going to the vendor's site.

January 23, 2010 - Getting Started

It's only January, and I feel like I'm already behind in getting started on our garden. I'd hoped to start our geranium seed last month, but found myself waiting on plant labels, seed, and a heat mat thermostat. I'm also probably a bit snakebit on starting geraniums after our dismal germination last year!

While gathering my courage and resolve to try again (without embarrassing myself), I seeded a flat of onions. January is the right time to start onion seed in our growing zone, as the plants will get a good start in the seed flat without getting too big before transplanting time.

I didn't go with any new varieties of onion seed this year, as I've been quite pleased with what we've grown over the last few years. For our hard storage onions, I used the Pulsar and Milestone varieties from Stokes Seeds. I tried a new red onion last year mainly because of its name, Red Zeppelin, and have been quite pleased with its long term storage quality. My dad remarked yesterday on the phone at how good the flavor of the variety was.

Our sweet onion variety remains Walla Walla, but just barely. One of our seed orders came back with a credit, as there apparently was a crop failure on Walla Walla seed for this year. While onion seed doesn't store very well, I still had part of two old packets of the variety in the freezer and planted them. Funny thing, they were the first of the four varieties to germinate!

Onions germinating

There's nothing quite like that first flat of seed germinating to make one feel like gardening season is really underway.

You may notice one major change/investment I made this year. I ordered a set of three Perma-Nest plant trays and domes. I gasped a bit at the price, but the trays appear to be durable and should last several years. I've become quite dissatisfied with the standard 1020 plastic flats for anything as heavy as a flat full of soil. They've become increasingly flimsy over the years.

Seed Geraniums

World's Top 6 MixI once again went with Thompson & Morgan's World's Top Six Mix for a bit of variety in our geraniums. The mix includes five seeds each of Picasso, Geronimo, Hollywood Star, White Orbit, Horizon Salmon, and Tango Orange for just $11.95 plus shipping. And of course, there was one packet that contained 15 seeds!

I also ordered a packet of 25 Maverick Red geranium seeds from Harris Seeds for $5.00. (See admonition above about Harris Seeds and their President, Dick Chamberlin.

Geraniums seed on paper towelI started some of the seed on moist paper towels and some in sterilized potting mix. Since my potting mix runs a bit heavy on peat moss, I also water the flat containing the seed inserts with very hot water (note steam rising in picture) so the peat moss will absorb the moisture.

The seed on paper towels goes into individual pint freezer bags and all of those go into a larger freezer bag. This double bagging is probably unnecessary, but we lost some of our geranium seed that dried out in the bag last year during germination.

Geranium half flat

I put the bagged seed in the open slot of the half flat I was using and covered it with a plastic dome I'd sprayed with flat black paint to make it opaque. Geranium seed needs to germinate in the dark.

Geraniums on heat mat

HydroFarm Heat Mat ThermostatAs mentioned earlier, our heat mat is now running through a heat mat thermostat set at 76o F. The inset in the photo above shows a tray temperature of 102o F, but that was from the hot water I'd added to the tray. Since our basement runs around 60o, some kind of heat mat is absolutely necessary for seed germination during the winter. When I ran downstairs a few minutes ago, the soil temperature had dropped to around 78o F.

The best place I ever had for germinating geranium (and other) seed was at an old farmhouse we rented for a time. It had an upstairs closet that a heat duct ran through. The temperature in the closet ran around 85oF during the winter (and even warmer in summer)! That's exactly the air temperature recommended by Stokes Seeds for germinating geraniums from seed. And of course, the closet was dark, fulfilling the no light requirement for geranium seed.

Main gardenSince I had the camera out today, I poked it out the upstairs window and grabbed a shot of our main garden area. I pulled the last of our kale this week and dumped it in a hole someone had dug in the neighbor's field (and left uncovered - duh!). I don't try to compost kale stalks anymore, as they take forever to break down.

I also limed a 50' square of "new" ground in field that contains our East Garden. We got our melon patch too close to the woods last year, and the raccoons had a field day eating our watermelon. Their favorite was the old, open pollinated variety, Kleckley Sweets (also called Monte Cristo). At least they had good taste!

The area I limed is considerably further from the woods and will hopefully make their nighttime dining a bit more difficult. But we'll also plant enough for them and for us too, just in case.

January 25 , 2010

Right on schedule, a few of the geranium seeds I started last week on moist paper towels were ready to go into individual pots today.

Germinating geranium seed

Snowy dayI've moved last year's feature story on growing geraniums from seed to make room for this year's effort. Growing Geraniums from Seed - 2010 will be a continuing feature here on how to start geranium seed in potting soil or on paper towels. It has the details of today's job of moving the tender geranium sprouts from paper towels to individual pots.

With light snow being blown sideways at wind speeds of 30 MPH, today was a great day to stay inside and work on geraniums. But now, I have to get my winter gear on and head to the barn to feed a few of our critters.

December, 2009

From the at Senior Gardening


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