Saturday, 5 February 2011

Adventures in Seeds

It’s nice to finally have a winter where the garden has a decent blanket of snow to insulate it. My plants looked so exposed and cold without it.

My first attempt at serious indoor seed-starting is moving along. I have now assembled the light stand and have started to give some thought as to what I might plant. Growing my own flats of impatiens or other easily and cheaply available plants doesn’t seem like it would be worth the trouble so I’ve been on the hunt for unusual things I might have difficulty finding elsewhere.

Last fall I read an article on ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa), which one source describes as a “small orange fruit similar in size and shape to a cherry tomato. The fruit is covered in papery husk. Flavor is a pleasant, unique tomato /pineapple like blend. The ground cherry is very similar to the cape gooseberry, both having similar, but unique flavors.” The article said they grew very much like tomatoes but, unfortunately, were extremely hard to find—only one or two nurseries in North America carried them. Hmph. So when I stumbled on a package of ‘Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry’ seeds in the rack at Canadian Tire a few weeks ago I immediately grabbed them. They may end up being inedible but the birds and squirrels can have at them if we don’t like them. These plants need a really early start so I’ll probably get them going next month.

During gardener Ken Brown’s talk at our society last year he showed us slides of a climbing zucchini, tantalizing us with tales of massive zucchinis that were still tasty, and all on a climbing plant. Eureka! I listened carefully and took notes as he said the only place he’d found seeds was through and they didn’t seem to be in the store displays of that brand of seeds, but only by mail order. I bookmarked the website and figured I’d place an order later. Well, again, I lucked out and found these seeds on a rack at the shop in the Toronto Botanical Garden. The package recommends Climbing Italian Summer Squash (Trombetta di Albenga) be planted directly in the ground, but I may start them a week or two early, inside, to give them a fighting chance against my ravenous slugs.

I may pick up a package of yellow zucchini seeds. Firstly, because the “yellow zucchini” plants I purchased at Canadian Tire last year turned out to be green. And secondly, because I seem to have a problem growing enough zucchini. Yeah, I know everyone else plants one zucchini and ends up with carloads, but my garden is “blessed” with striped cucumber beetles, and they spread a virus that zaps my zucchinis before I get enough. I sprayed beneficial nematodes last fall, so maybe there’ll be less of the beetles, but I won’t know until later in the summer.

Also on my “to grow” list (which is way more fun that a “to do” list!) are Rattlesnake pole beans (they have patterned pods), Purple pole beans (they’re purple, as the name suggests), and “Amazon Jewel” Climbing Nasturtiums. The seed packet description made me buy the nasturtiums: “This spellbinding nasturtium offers unusual variegated vining foliage and brilliant spurred blossoms in exotic and unusual shades of pumpkin, painted peachy-rose, ruby, gold and pale lemon.” Spellbinding—how could I resist a description like that?

So that’s my little seed packet collection to date. Are you planning on growing anything from seed this year?

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