Three Favorite Tools

garden-toolsImagine with me for a moment. You’re shipwrecked on a beautiful “desert” isle. There’s good soil, the rain falls for 30 minutes every afternoon, starting precisely at 3 o’clock, and the temperatures hover between 65° at night and 80° at noon. In fact, it’s so lovely, you kind of hope you won’t be rescued!

There are no grocery stores, but you’re not worried. You salvaged a few months’ worth of food from your sinking ship, the local reef fish seem to leap into your homemade net, and you “just happened” to have packed a complete assortment of vegetable seeds in your waterproof luggage. (I told you we were imagining.)

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My Favorite Seed Catalogs – Part 2

More of my favorite seed catalogs. Don’t miss Part 1!

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Another Maine company, Johnny’s is responsible for the development of over a dozen familiar varieties such as Diva cucumbers (I love these), Lipstick and Carmen peppers, and AAS winter Bright Lights chard. Maybe it’s due to their breeding program, but somehow their catalog seems more scientific than those from other companies. I like to keep it on hand just as a reference, although I’ve purchased seeds from them as well. They include a germination chart for each crop, showing the optimal soil temperatures for sowing. Since I time my spring planting by a combination of calendar and soil thermometer, this is very useful information. They also carry a big selection of organic seeds.

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My Favorite Seed Catalog

The mailbox is full of catalogs these days. Harry and David, Sierra Trading Post, Pottery Barn—I may glance at them before tossing them into the recycling bin. But there are a few catalogs I can’t wait to get. As the cold weather sets in and the landscape is dreary and dead, seed catalogs arrive with their reminder that spring will come, eventually. They are the perfect cure for the winter blahs.

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Our Favorite Peas

If the only peas you’ve tasted were from a plastic freezer bag—or worse, a can—you have no idea what you’re missing. Fresh-from-the-garden peas are so delicious, so sweet and nutty, it seems they should be bad for you! I used to send our daughter out to harvest them before dinner, and she’d eat every one before bringing the empty pods back to the house. (Parents of picky eaters, take note!) Now my husband does the same thing—I send him out to harvest our sugar snaps and he brings back an empty bowl and a grin.

Peas prefer a long, cool and damp growing season, pretty much the opposite of what we have here in Colorado. Still, I plant a crop every year. Even if we only get one meal, it’s worth it. We love peas.

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My Favorite Summer Squash

zucchini-home-2008sept23-lah-250The fun thing about growing any kind of summer squash is that no matter which variety you choose, you’re likely to be blessed with a bumper crop. Not only that, but zucchini tastes a lot like patty pan which tastes a lot like crookneck which tastes a lot like the new globular introductions. It’s hard to go wrong.

However, there are subtle differences. I’ve trialed a number of varieties. Surprisingly, some varieties succumbed to a heat wave, hail storm, or torrential downpour, while others persevered.  Others took too long to produce a crop. I find the days to harvest given in the catalogs have little in common with what actually happens in my garden, probably because our nights are so cool.

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My Favorite Lettuce Varieties: Butterhead

lettuce-butterhead-blkforestco-5junt07-lah-006Butterhead (aka bibb) lettuce, with its smooth, soft leaves and loose heads, is by far my favorite kind. It’s also rather pricey in the stores. I probably plant twice as much butterhead as I do all the other varieties combined.

I’ve been hunting for a butterhead that is big, holds for several weeks at maturity, resists tipburn (a problem with our hot, dry, windy weather), and is tender and flavorful—a pretty tall order. I finally came up with a winner, but let me first tell you about the also-rans.

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My Favorite Lettuce Varieties: Crisphead, Romaine & Batavian

lettuce-butterhead-blkforestco-5junt07-lah-003(Don’t miss my previous post on loose-leaf lettuce varieties.)

What can be crisp or soft and buttery, grows stiffly erect or low and floppy, has pointed leaves, rounded leaves, ruffled leaves or smooth leaves, comes in light red, wine red, chartreuse, grass green, or forest green, can taste delicious no matter what it looks like?

Lettuce, of course.

We’re all familiar with the lettuce varieties that show up in the produce aisle—classic iceberg, red or green leaf lettuce, romaine, and butterhead. If you are willing to grow your own, that’s just the beginning.

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