Enter your frost dates, and watch planting dates appear for 70+ vegetables and herbs! A good portion of my winter was spent on the laptop, creating an excel spreadsheet that will do all the hard work of calculating when to plant your seeds. It tells you what to plant indoors ahead of time, and what to plant directly in the garden. It will give dates for planting out in cold frames, too. AND tell you when to expect a harvest and if you can plant multiple times for extended harvest. There’s LOTS going on in this 4-page excel file.
The days are getting longer and the promise of spring is ever so slowly becoming more believable, and now is the time to start thinking about seeding indoors. Some people I know have already started onions!
If you don’t know your frost dates, no worries. You can look them up on the Farmer’s Almanac website:
And if you’re in the States:
If you’d like to try before you buy, please download my free ‘LITE’ version of the Planting Time Calculator – it has 10 types of veggies and provides a good ‘test run’ that will introduce you to this tool.
Seeds are awesome. I love seeds. I feel rich when I look in my seed box and see how many different varieties of plants I can grow. Here are some of the reasons you might like to try growing from seed too:
1. You get what you want. There are so many more options when growing from seed. If you grow from seed you will NOT be at the mercy of garden centres or greenhouses where choices are limited. Often these places will grow what grows well, and provide a narrow range of choices. Flipping through seed catalogues, you can read descriptions, look at photos, and decide what sounds good to you, and give it a try in the garden.
2. Controlling the process allows you to be organic (or not). You will know what the plants were treated with from the very beginning, and you can stay away from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that are often used in greenhouses.
<quick commercial break: at the bottom is a tool that will tell you when to start from seed. Try it for FREE>
3. Seeds are cheaper than transplants. The bigger your garden, the more you save by starting from seed.
4. It’s so fun to watch the tiny plants poke through the soil. It fills me with the wonder of life. Every. Time. It’s amazing how something soooo tiny can grow to such enormous sizes and eventually take over the garden (in the case of oregano or mint, at least).
5. If you grow from seed, you can save seed from the plants in your garden. This adds up to even more savings over time.
6. Storing seeds is kind of like banking food. It’s an investment in the future. If for some reason your finances fail you, you still have the option of eating good food if you’ve got a storehouse of seeds from a variety of plants.
7. The act of growing from seed, when shared with children, ensures that the basic knowledge of keeping the human race alive gets passed on to the next generation. If you have children in your life, in whatever capacity, grow a few things from seed and share the experience with them. It’s important for kids to know where their food comes from (and adults too!).
If the timing of growing from seed seems overwhelming, you might want to try out The Planting Time Calculator. Basically, you just enter your spring and fall frost dates and the spreadsheet will automatically calculate planting times for 70+ veggies and herbs.
It will tell you when to start from seed, when to transplant into the garden if seeds are started indoors, when you can expect harvest, and if you can sow multiple crops in one season. If you want to grow using cold frames, there are also dates provided for that.
The Veggie Planting Time Calculator LITE is a FREE DEMO version with only 10 types of plants. You can download it for free to see how the spreadsheet works before purchasing the FULL Veggies and Herbs Planting Time Calculator.
Thank you for reading! Please contact me if you have any questions.
In my sunny windows, right now, are 15 or so cactus seedlings, all started from seed. And it was super easy to start them! There’s a trick to growing Dragon fruit from seed, a trick that I didn’t know when I tried growing them the first time. The difference between the two batches is incredible! I’ve given away or bartered for many of the 50 seedlings I ended up with the second time around. The first time, I grew none.
I did some searching, and finally found out what I needed to do. I can’t even remember where I found the secret, but find it I did. Thank you, if it was you in that YouTube video!
It’s actually very simple. If you want to actually get plants from Dragon fruit, you need to plant the seeds as soon as you take them out of the fruit. If you let them dry out and sit for awhile, like I did the first time, you won’t get plants.
Well, yes, there’s the usual ‘keep it moist and warm’ recommendation, but fresh seeds made all the difference in my germination success.
2. Slice it open.
3. Scrape seeds off pulp with a knife. (super easy!)
4. Plant seeds in moist potting soil, 1/8 inch deep.
5. Cover in order to keep moisture in.
6. Place in a warm spot.
7. Check it every day, looking for dryness or a sprout.
8. When the seeds sprout, take the cover off and make sure they’re in a sunny/bright place, like a bright windowsill or under grow lights.
9. Keep an eye on them, watering as needed.
10. Post brag pics on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest.**
A couple of weeks ago I had a blast making my own homemade paper. Not only did I make paper, though, I also added some viable seeds to the water. This made paper that will sprout when planted (or just watered). After a few rough starts trying to figure out the best way to do things, I finally found the groove and was able to make 5 different kinds of seed paper. My kids were slightly disappointed that the first water-pressing method was abandoned, since it involved them standing on a board to help press out the water, but rolling with a rolling pin is a much more effective way of getting the excess water out of the paper! Since making the paper, I’ve just started sprouting some of it too.
It’s fairly straightforward: wet the seed paper, put it in some sort of container, keep it moist, give it sunlight.
My hubby saves me his sub containers (he buys these quite often) so I use them for spouts. They’re super handy!
The photo below shows sprouts that were first watered on Nov 13. Today is the 15th, so I think they’re doing really well. This is a mix of broccoli, radish, red clover, and alfalfa.
In the very top photo you can see the 5 different kinds of seed paper that I made. I might have gotten a little carried away, because I was super excited about my talented friend Sarah Moerman (LINK) using her creative talents to make beautiful cards out of this eco-friendly homemade paper. She’s posted one sneak peek of her work so far (LINK), and I can’t wait to see the rest!
Here’s a list of what seeds are in the different papers:
Brown: Old Fashioned Annual Flower Mix
The brown paper mix is best grown outdoors, but it can be started indoors in April or May. You can keep it moist as is, or you can plant the paper in soil after wetting it so the roots can establish themselves in soil before being transplanted outside.
White: Basil and Curly Parsley
The white paper mix can be grown indoors for winter herb production, but you’ll need lots of light if you choose to grow indoors. You can also start this one indoors in April or May, using the methods mentioned above.
Pink: White, Pink, and Burgundy Cosmos
This is an outdoor plant – Cosmos are big and bushy annual flowers! Again, see above for instructions.
Calendula is an edible flower that looks like an orange daisy. It grows best outdoors as well, but can also be started indoors for a head start on the season.
Grey: Broccoli, Radish, Red Clover, and Alfalfa
‘Spring Salad Mix’ was the description on the seed packet for this blend of sprouts. Definitely intended to be grown indoors, and no need for soil! You’ll be eating them about a week after planting them, so they’ll use the nutrition stored in their seed flesh to grow into a nutritious snack.
I’ve got extra paper, so I will likely be selling it at the local Seedy Saturday events in the new year. I’m hoping to attend Niagara, Hamilton, Kitchener, Burlington, and Guelph. These events are tons of fun, with workshops and seed swaps and vendors and community groups and, of course, seed sellers.
I’m also planning a hands-on workshop for anyone interested in learning how to make their own seed paper. It really is an enjoyable, peaceful activity, so if you’d like to hear more about it, let me know!
Heirloom tomatoes are one of my favourite things to grow. I like the weird and unusual varieties the best, because you generally don’t find them in the grocery store. And if you’re looking for unique heirloom seedlings, you often won’t find them in major garden centres. I’ve put together a list of unique varieties here in this post that I’ve grown and enjoyed over the years.
They will also be found at the FREE Seed Love Seed Swap on November 9 in Hamilton, Ontario, 1 pm – 3 pm.
1. Yellow Pear. These are the cutest little cherry tomatoes! They have a mellow flavour, not too strong. The plants grow very large and will sprawl all over your garden if you don’t contain them or prune them.
2. White Zebra. This tomato is white and green striped. It has a slightly sour taste, so if you like your tomatoes to have a little bite, this is the variety to try. The tomatoes are on the small side, and often have a slightly yellow hue.
3. Black Prince. Hands down my favourite sweet tomato. Not a speck of sour or tang. They ripen fairly quickly in season, and they keep producing all summer.
4. Isis Candy. A favourite with my kids and nephews, these plants produce prolifically all summer long, and the tomato fruits are super sweet. They’re red and yellow striped, so slightly unusual looking too.
5. Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge. The name describes it well in terms of appearance. It has a great old-fashioned tomato taste, and it’s fun to grow because of its rugged good looks. It’s mostly pale orange, with purple bits on the shoulders.
6. Mennonite Orange. Another orange tomato! This one is a low-acid beefsteak type tomato, great for slicing. The tomatoes will often get large enough that one slice will fill your sandwich.
7. Reisetomate. I saved the weirdest for last. This tomato looks like a bunch of grapes all jammed together, or a pile of cherry tomatoes. But it’s really one tomato with multiple deep lobes. Conversation starter for sure!
Please join us at the Seed Love Seed Swap! (LINK). In addition to all these fun tomato varieties – and I’m sure there will be more from other people – we will also have peppers, flowers, greens, and herbs.
I hope to see you there! If you can’t make it, would you please consider sharing this post with friends who might like to attend? Many thanks!
The Seed Love Seed Swap is coming up at the end of this week: November 9, from 1 pm to 3 pm at Platform 302 in Hamilton. I’m so looking forward to meeting people I’ve only had online conversations with, chatting with old friends that I haven’t seen in awhile, and visiting with people who are becoming the people I see most often. My seeds are packaged and ready to go, I’ve started gathering other things I’ll need, and now I’m waiting for Saturday and making plans to promote this on social media. (Please share!!)
The easiest method for packaging seeds, in my opinion, is to buy the small plastic sealable bags from the dollar store. 80 bags for $1, and they do a good job of keeping the seeds dry (better than paper). Of course, you can make the fancy (or not fancy) origami envelopes, buy coin envelopes, and use other small containers. I prefer the small plastic baggies because they’re simple and cheap. I like that they’re re-sealable, because I have a large wooden box full of seeds and they tend to get jostled around when I’m looking for certain seeds. I already have bags that have a jumble of seeds in them because of opened paper envelopes leaking, and I’d like to prevent that wherever possible.
Once you’ve figured out your preferred packaging option, the next important thing about packaging seeds for the swap is labeling. It’s a good idea to put as much information about the type of seeds as you can, so whoever takes your seeds can search the internet or books for more details about whatever seeds you’re offering. It’s also a good idea to use permanent ink of some sort. You never know how long the seeds will sit in a stash.
I hope you can make it out to the swap this Saturday. Can you share this with friends and family? The more the merrier!
Happy March! Today is the day I will start many different kinds of tomatoes and peppers and perennial herbs. You still have time to get organized and start your own. Need some pointers? An older post on the SKG resources page has a printable info page.
Most of the people I’ve talked to over the years have run into trouble with lack of heat, not enough light, or some combo of the two that proved to be deadly for their seedlings.
It’s important to keep seedlings warm, even if you’re keeping the rest of your house at lower temperatures to save on heating costs. Plants can’t put on another sweater like you can, and if you want healthy plants they really need to stay warm.*
…Unless you want to grow kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other members of the brassica family. They can survive a light frost outdoors, so they should be able to handle an eco-friendly refrigerator home.**
As for light: I’m finding that even with my super amazing south-facing windows here in our new house in Hamilton, I need to supplement with artificial light. It makes for stronger seedlings. They’ll be less likely to grow spindly and tall if they’re getting extra lighting indoors.
Another thing that will help make your seedlings stronger and more sturdy (and prevent damping off!) is to turn on a fan at the lowest setting and aim it right at them. It’s kind of like lifting weights for them. Their stems will grow more of the tough fibres that help keep them from falling over or breaking.***
Check out this printable sheet for more information. If you have any questions please contact me, I’m happy to help. And if you can think of anyone who could use this information please share the garden love.
*I create a little ‘germination chamber’ for starting my seeds. To see pics please join the Kitchen Garden Club – by SKG on Facebook. All are welcome! I just posted photos about this, PLUS you get to meet lots of other people who are growing their own food. In this group we ask questions, help each other out, and have show-n-tell regularly.
**I had a refrigerator house when we lived in Kitchener. I was never warm in winter, even with layers. Our new house is half-n-half. The basement requires long underwear and the upstairs requires stripping to shorts and t-shirt. Not sure if that’s an improvement or not.
***Please note: They should be twitching slightly, not bent over as if in a hurricane. Think gentle breeze, not gale-force wind. Move the fan farther away from your plant babies if the lowest setting is overkill.
The info sheet included with this post will tell you how and when to start your own seeds indoors. Starting your own seeds gives you access to many different weird and wonderful varieties of plants. You may have to experiment a bit to find out exactly how things work best in your home, but this will get you started in the right direction. And as always, please ask if you have any questions!
‘Kitchen Garden Club – by SKG‘ is a Facebook group designed to bring together people who are growing food. Ask questions, share your success stories and photos, or just watch. It’s a good group of people and it would be great to have you join. All are welcome. Just click ‘join’ and you’re in.
Here’s the PDF info sheet about starting seeds indoors:
If you grow your tomatoes from seed, it’s economical and very rewarding to save seeds from your favourites for future growing seasons. There are different schools of thought about the best way to go about doing this, and I thought I’d try one of the methods that I hadn’t yet attempted. In previous years, I popped out the seeds, allowed them to dry out, then saved them. Many people do this, and have no problems. Mine germinated alright, but they might have been a bit slower than usual. Hard to say, since my memory ain’t what it used to be.
Regardless, I figured I should at least try the fermentation method, since those who promote it say that the seed coats of tomatoes are covered with germination inhibitors and you’re doing the seeds a favour by removing them before drying. This should give a higher germination rate as well as a speedier germination.
So, I squeezed the seeds into a container.
Then allowed them to sit outside, covered with a hanky, for a few days. There’s a thin layer of mold on the surface here. That’s a good sign.
This mixture was dumped into a fine-mesh strainer.
Tomato seeds were washed, and the chunky fleshy bits were taken out or forced through the strainer.
Then the seeds were placed on a plate to dry.
And now they’re dry and fuzzy, ready for next year. These are seeds from the Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes. I’m happy with this variety. They are great container tomatoes with pretty feathery foliage, and are ready before any other slicing tomato. The cherry tomatoes beat them, of course, but that’s to be expected. I’m looking forward to growing them again next year.
The next step is to do a quick germination test – put them on wet paper towels until they germinate, see how many out of 10 actually sprout. I think I’ll wait until I have a few varieties saved up, and test them all at once.
My younger daughter and I are both seized by the compulsion to save seeds whenever we can. She’s a huge fan of collecting cherry, peach, and apricot pits and has amassed quite the collection so far this year. She might have to start saving up her pennies for some land, if she wants to plant them all! In the photo above she’s helping me gather garlic bulbils from the scapes that I allowed to grow on a few of my garlic plants. Bulbils take a few years, once you plant them in the ground, to form the garlic bulbs that we are accustomed to seeing. I’d like to try it, though, so I’m saving them.
Among my friends and neighbours I might be slightly eccentric and obsessive about seeds, but among seed savers I’m barely a beginner. Many people go to great lengths to squirrel away extra seeds, or unique varieties of seeds. I remember a long time ago, hearing about a woman who had saved so many seeds. Her family, when they were cleaning out her house, found them in every conceivable nook and cranny. She was saving them up, just in case.
Today there are organizations dedicated to the preservation of seeds, like Seeds of Diversity in Canada, and Seed Savers Exchange in the United States. If you become a member, you are then entitled to buy seeds from other members. All these different varieties are listed in the main catalogue that gets printed once per year. Thousands upon thousands of different seed varieties. Heaven!
It was good to see an article in the National Geographic this past month that brought the importance of seed saving and genetic diversity to light. I’d like to touch on and expand a few points they brought up.
The availability of our food may be in danger, by our own doing. Today we have so little variety, compared to variety 100 years ago, among the different types of vegetables and fruits we grow. Obviously we didn’t intend to threaten our food supply. Originally, certain varieties and hybrids were created and bred in order to help increase food yields and thus support a growing population. Intentions were noble; however, lack of genetic variability is now the problem. Most of the wheat in the world is defenceless against a stem rust fungus called Ug99, due to lack of genetic variability among the wheat.
This is how diversity protects us: it allows most of the crop to survive while a smaller portion fails due to disease or pest. Many of us have heard about the great Irish potato famine in 1845. The reason most of the potatoes in the country were destroyed by blight is lack of variability, or diversity. Everyone was growing the ‘Lumper’ potato. Lumper couldn’t handle the fungus, and so everyone in the country suffered. Millions died or were displaced by famine. That’s why it’s a good idea to mix things up, and grow many different varieties of the same type of vegetable. The more diversity we have, the better. In my opinion, if Lumper was only one of, say, ten varieties grown, there’s a good chance that most of the crop would have been saved.
The article discusses a food bank in Norway, in the permafrost of a mountain 400 feet above sea level and 700 miles from the North Pole. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is one of 1,400 seed banks in the world, and it serves as a backup vault to preserve the varieties that could potentially contain any number of genes resistant to future diseases and pests. I think this is a great idea, but I also think it’s important to grow the seeds as well, to keep them viable. That’s what organizations like Seeds of Diversity and Seed Savers Exchange are promoting with their member catalogues. The more people grow the unique and heirloom varieties, the deeper the gene pool. Increased diversity means a greater chance that we won’t all starve.
So what can you do? Well, you already know that I think everyone should be growing something edible if they can. Trying some heirloom varieties is one way to help out. If you have the space to grow a few varieties, that’s good too. Then, if you’re really into it, save the seeds for next year.
If you can’t do these things, then support farmers who are growing heirloom varieties and buy their produce. The food ark is funny that way – if we want to save varieties, we need to eat them. Seeds can only be stored for so long until they are no longer viable. If people want to eat the heirlooms, they will be grown by farmers. Your vote is counted when you buy the food. Or the seeds/seedlings to grow it.