Thursday, February 7, 2019

A Seed Diet


In my last post I mentioned that, in an effort to achieve a better balance, I was going to re-evaluating what I grow, specifically when it comes to the veg garden.  Although I would love to grow everything (and numerous varieties of everything!), I simply don’t have the time to devote to growing more than what we truly need.  Well, to be completely accurate, I do have the time but would prefer to spend it on other things such as hanging out with family and friends as well as simply enjoying the garden instead of being in a constant frenzy to get things done.

'Black Knight' Scabiosa from Botanical Interests
This was one of my favourite 'new to me' ornamentals grown from seed last year

Just because you CAN grow it doesn’t mean you SHOULD grow it.  Have I said that before?  Numerous times?  Yes??  Well, it bears repeating anyhow, so there 😏

Case in point – when I began harvesting tomatoes last year, I still had around half of the prior years crop in the freezer/pantry.  That tells me I'm growing WAY too many tomatoes for our use.  Now, if I had the time that would be ok as there are always people and/or places that will take them off my hands.  The problem was I was taking the time to grow, pick, clean, weight and process boxes of “extra” tomatoes (above and beyond what we actually needed) while neglecting other things that were higher up on my priority list.  Cutting back on the number of tomatoes I grow would still give me everything I wanted – experiencing the joy & yumminess of growing a variety of tomatoes and having plenty to last us all year – without it being a huge drain on my time.

I'll be cutting back from 3 to 2 beds which will still provide plenty of room
for lots of different tomato varieties

In addition to tomatoes, I’ll also be cutting back on a few other things that I always seem to have in excess, such as lettuce.  I harvest lettuce using the “cut and come again” method and it’s amazing how much you can get from a relatively small amount of space.  Without fail, I always overplant and then end up with much more than we can use at any one time.  And since lettuce is relatively short lived before it becomes bitter or bolts in the heat, the “feast” is usually followed by famine as what I don’t end up doing (once again because of lack of time) is succession plant.

My first year growing lettuce, I planted an entire 8'x4' bed...
we were literally drowning in lettuce!

When it comes to cutting back, however, which veg and/or varieties to grow is often a tough call to make.  I look at all the glorious packets of seed in my collection – all 300+ of them – and I just want to grow it all!  But this year, the name of the game is restraint.  I still have dozens of packets that I haven’t even cracked open yet…and that’s why I’m going on a diet.  A seed diet.  This year I am purchasing zero seed.  That’s right…ZERO.  I know…crazy, right?

Well, maybe not so crazy as when I look at my seed collection, I could probably fill all my beds with “new to me” varieties without spending a cent.

A small portion of packets that I purchased
or received last year that are as yet unopened

So it has been decided.  I’m using what I already have this year, and that’s that.

The only exception may be onions as they have a very short shelf life, but I’ve noticed that this improved dramatically when I started storing them in the freezer.  If I do end up having germination issues, I’ll grab a few packets from a local seed house…and I’ll make sure to put on some proverbial blinders in an effort not to let temptation take over as I’m faced with rack upon rack of seed.

So much temptation!

After narrowing down my grow list, I’ve ended up with 3 spare beds (out of 18), two of which will be used for ornamentals such as cutting flowers and trial plants.

The third bed will be used for dried beans which is the only crop that I’ll actually be growing more of. Why?  Because I can’t get enough of them!

'Wild Goose' is a relative newcomer to the dry bean lineup

While growing more of a crop may sound counter-productive in terms of my goal, in this case it’s really not.  Dried beans are one of the easiest, low maintenance crops in my garden, especially the bush varieties.  Sow the beans, let them grow all summer with minimal care (thanks to the drip irrigation!), then harvest them all at once.  No trellis, no pests to worry about (which means no netting, making weeding much easier) and no picking until they mature and start to dry out.  There's no hurried prep once they are picked either - I just lay them out on newspaper in the garage to dry out.  Can’t get to shelling them for a month or two?  No problem!  A bit of extra time means they'll be nice and dry for storage, which is exactly what you want.

Dried Vermont Cranberry Beans

So that’s the grow plan, in a nutshell.  Now comes the hard - figuring out which varieties to grow and (perhaps even more difficult) which to forgo.

Side Note
When we were cleaning out my in-laws house last year, it was incredibly sad to see all the things that they had accumulated over the years, many of which they never ended up using or simply had way too much of.  The amount of stuff that we had to get rid of, either to charity or the garbage dump, was incredible.  It really made me take stock of all the things we had accumulated over the years, especially those that we “might” need someday or were "saving" to use later.

Since then, a few car-loads of our excess stuff have been donated to Goodwill and I have been on a “use up what I already have instead of buying something else” binge.  My seed diet fits perfectly with this mentality.  I’m really looking forward to choosing what to grow from what I already have and I have a feeling that I’ll end up growing just as many new varieties this year as I do when I purchase seeds 😊

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

26 comments:

  1. I'm not a start-from-seed person, but I can relate to the sadness of the accumulation of "stuff" by a parent. I like to think Ive not been that bad. But my daughter might argue that point.

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    1. We still have a long way to go - baby steps, right? I guess the trick is to keep at it over the long haul.

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  2. Sounds like a very promising plan. I've been sorting through my seeds and deciding that I really need to get some of the seeds planted out in the garden instead of holding on to them in my 'seed bank'. I'm also using up what I have before I order more seeds next year. On a side note, I've been trying to sort through things at our home, donating items to a better cause than sitting in our basement storage. It feels great!

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    1. Thanks Karin - it does feel great, doesn't it? We don't realize how much all the extra "stuff" weighs on us until we start to get rid of it...and the more you do it, the easier it becomes!

      It's crazy how old some of my seeds are. What's worse is that I'm often overly frugal when I sow them because I want to "save" them. Next thing you know only a couple germinate ('cause they are 4 years old, after all) and I kick myself for only sowing 10 seeds out of the 200 left in the packet (insert eye roll here)!

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  3. Oh me, what a great plan! I'm afraid I don't know the meaning of restraint though when it comes to seeds. Every time I take something off of my garden plan it seems to get replaced by at least two new things. And after my mother died, I cleaned out her freezer and it was full of so much stuff she had squirreled away that wound up going to waste. OTOH, I didn't have to buy butter or TP for months though!

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    1. Ha! Restraint is definitely not a word people would generally use to describe me when I'm in a garden centre or seed house! I hope I can stay the course, though, and not let the voices in my head take over ("Come on, it's only a few packets of seed...."

      And you just made me laugh (which feels so nice in light of all the heaviness of this type of situation) as we are also up to our eyeballs in TP as well as Kleenex, soap and hand cream :)

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  4. I love the approach — when I was teaching a lot of vegetable gardening classes, I could justify buying more seeds (because I’d give lots of them away), but... now that I’m trying not to grow too much and process too much (and am juggling gardens, again), it’s not at all practical.....Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! And you are spot on about being practical. It's so easy to get carried away each season but then I often end up not using some of the seeds I purchased as I simply don't have the room for them. Case in point, I purchased half a dozen varieties of head cabbage last year...not sure what I was thinking other than "boy, this one looks good...and so does that one....and that one to...." LOL

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  5. A great plan! I love seeds, too, but, in my case it's annuals and perennials that I collect!

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    1. After seeing so many gorgeous gardens at the Fling and meeting some amazing bloggers (I'm looking at you, Gail!!), my collection of perennials and annuals has been growing steadily each and every year. I have quite a few packets from last year that I am looking forward to trying this season.

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  6. I know exactly how you feel. Both about getting real in the garden and about "stuff". I've been trying for a long time to figure out what I really need to grow for my own needs and quite frankly I long ago decided that I didn't want to grow so much that I need to give things away. And then the rodent problems forced me to cut back even more. I'm sad about that though because there are things that I got seeds for last year that I would really like to grow but I don't want to take the chance of growing just to feed rodents. But that hasn't stopped me from ordering up a few packets of seeds for this year, hopefully things that rodents won't eat.

    Stuff. Oh my. Just when I felt like I was starting to get a handle on the accumulation of 30 or so years worth of our stuff my husband cleaned out his parents' apartment and guess where a lot of their stuff landed... That's his problem. For now.

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    1. I so feel your rodent pain - I have taken a break from growing a few things (such as corn, napa cabbage, Mei Qing) because of slugs, rabbits, etc., all of which would be considered a minor nuisance compared to your ravenous rodents. The successes you have had in light of your challenges are an inspiration and I'm sure have spurred many gardeners with pest issues to keep at it.

      Yikes...even after getting rid of so many things in my inlaws house, there are still boxes upon boxes in our basement waiting to be sorted. I can sympathize with the sentimentality behind holding on to things in this type of situation but there comes a point when we have to make tough decisions. As you say, it's up to them to deal with it, hopefully sooner rather than later!

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  7. It's so tempting to buy seeds, even when you don't really need them. Part of gardening is trying new things so I suppose it's natural to be attracted to all the different varieties on offer. I'm sure you'll still be able to grow a wonderful selection of veggies from the seeds you already have. Your side note made me remember my sister when she was undergoing treatment for cancer. She opened her sock drawer and took out a brand new pair of socks. She said she didn't know why she was saving them, she was going to use all her nice things as she didn't know what was going to happen. There were lots of special things she'd been saving and I'm glad she did use them as she wasn't one of the lucky ones. I don't know why we save our lovely things, we should be getting the enjoyment out of them now as that special day might never come.

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    1. Oh, Jo that is so incredibly touching. I think we all tend to "save" things like that and it often takes this type of situation, either with ourselves or our loved ones, to realize that life is simply too short. We should be enjoying every minute and getting joy from those precious things now, as none of us knows what will happen tomorrow. It's tough, sometimes, as you don't want to "spoil" them but what good are they doing sitting in a drawer or box (and often forgotten)?

      From what most folks that grow from seed say, I'm definitely in the majority when it comes to buying seeds....I just can't help myself! So many times, I only need a few packets of this or that and next thing you know, MANY other packets fly off the shelves and land into my cart. Then when it's time to sow, I wonder where on earth I will plant them. They are either squeezed in or left for "next year"...and the cycle continues. I have several "new" packets that are 3 or 4 years old already. I think that this years "cold turkey" method may be the only way that I have a chance of succeeding on this "diet", much like potato chips ;)

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  8. I gave up my small vegetable garden for a small cutting garden a couple of years ago but I still overdo when it comes to bulbs (there are a LOT of great dahlias) and flower seeds (so much I want to try). I routinely buy more than I have room to plant but my space limitations as well as my insistence on seeds that can be direct sown keeps me under control to some extent. If I had your space to garden in, I suspect I'd have to give up sleeping. As it was, last night I was wondering where I could get one of those head-lamps so I could garden after dark. Best wishes on your seed diet!

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    1. It would be lovely to be able to direct sow more flowers and veg as I usually find it more difficult to take care of plants and seedlings indoors vs outdoors. Unfortunately, our growing season limits us a lot in that regard. And you know what? I have one of those head lamps! It was actually a gift (someone obviously knows me well - lol!) I have yet to garden after dark but I have used it for catching nocturnal pests & taking out the compost :)

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  9. That seed house looks to be an incredible place.

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  10. This is good. I know it's tough--as it is with too much "stuff" in general. We're in the process of parent issues and also getting rid of our own accumulated things that we'll never use again. Re: seeds. I have quite a few from previous years and some that I harvested from my own plants. My concern is that some of the harvested seeds (Zinnias, in particular) won't be true to species/hybrid. Also, some of the seeds may have expired. It's always fun to experiment, though. Wow, you have quite the collection!

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    1. I do love my seeds! I do have some very old seeds and I'll have to do germination tests to see if anything comes up. I know that vigour may also be affected with seed that is too old, but I'm ok with that. I find it so hard to throw them out without giving them a chance! I once had some 7+ year old daisy seeds that did just fine! The seed for many veg last for years - sometimes over 6 or 7 - and most of my seed is well within it's "use by" date (which is the date that I set based on the type of seed NOT the packet date which is always 1 year!).

      And I'm so sorry to hear that you are having parental issues...I hope they are not too serious XO

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  11. I just got my first packets of seeds - all annual flowers except for a couple of varieties of basil. Is this the thin edge of the wedge? Perhaps, but it sounds like you are going in a sensible direction. I'm curious, though - do your home grown dry beans taste better than the ones you get from the store?

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    1. Hurray on your first foray into growing from seed! I strongly suspect that you will be hooked once you get going!

      With regards to homegrown dried beans...they taste SO much better!! When I first cooked up a plain batch of Canadian Wonder, I literally couldn't stop eating them - zero seasoning, straight from the bowl...so good! And just in case you think it's because I have strange tastes, I would never do that with canned beans...blech!

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  12. I still haven't made my 2019 planting plan and I'm glad I waited since you have inspired me to think twice about each purchase! As I age I find I have to cut back and simplify. For example, I really should not add more beds. Let's see if I have the willpower to resist those shelves of seeds at the garden center! Wish me luck; I need it. P. x

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    1. Yes, that's exactly it - simplify! My original goal from years back was to have a total of 24 raised beds, but I've now decided that what I already have is more than enough. Best of luck with maintaining a bit of seed purchase discipline...I think many of us could do with a good helping of that! :)

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  13. Wow! That seed house looks amazing.
    Here's to happy seed growing in 2019.

    On your side note:
    I do think it a good idea to have a sort out every once in a while, it's amazing what we do accumulate over the years.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Hi Jan! It truly is amazing what we accumulate, especially when kids are involved. I freed up over 13 bins that contained toys, etc., that hadn't been used in years.

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