Tag Archives: Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Starting Made Easy

My palms are itching. My toes are tapping. My heart is beating faster! It’s time to start the seedlings.  Not all of them, you understand but it’s  enough for me to start the cool weather babies — lettuce, kale, tatsoi and spinach.

Starting seeds indoors is easyIt’s still very cold outside but I am heading to the basement and pulling out my trays, my seed starting soil and my seeds.

Seed starting is really easy as long as you pay attention to a few basics including the right seed, the right starter and the right planters.

Buy the right seed. Now what in the world does that mean? Seed is seed, right? Not in today’s world. Unless it’s certified organic, you could be buying seeds infused with herbicides and pesticides. And guess what? The herbicide and pesticide actually grow right into your plants and right into your produce.

So, only buy 100% certified organic seeds. Where? My favorite outlets for healthy and happy seeds are:

  1. Seeds of Change
  2. Seed Savers Exchange
  3. High Mowing Seeds
  4. Hudson Valley Seeds
  5. Territorial Seeds

These folks have healthy seeds that ensure you grow healthy plants and healthy produce. And they have ideas, tips and equipment for getting started. NOTE: you do NOT have to buy a whole lot of “stuff” to start gardening.

Start your seeds in the right dirt. I know, dirt is dirt. But is it?

Seedlings get a good start in healthy dirt.

Healthy dirt means healthy seedlings.

And what difference does dirt make to growing healthy, happy plants and healthful food? Dirt is everything.

This is one thing I buy every year. Why? Because dirt for starting seeds has to be organic. I get mine from Gardener’s Supply – employee owned and US-based, their seed starting mix has stood the test of time for more than 25 years!

Have the right equipment and tools. Most of my gardening stuff was used when I started. It still is. My favorite seed starting tool are my seed starting kits.

Grow trays are best seed starting tools.

Grow trays are perfect for starting seeds.

I bought these 25 years ago and they are still working great!  The small cell of dirt heats up fast. The base and mat ensure the seedlings never dry out but they also never get too wet or damp off.

If you’re just starting out, don’t invest too much before you start growing. Look around. Use stuff you already have . Check Craigslist to pick up gardening equipment for a song!

I found most of my tools and you can too so don’t let the cost of tools scare you off. (The post on finding tools was written 5 years ago but it still stands as does its companion post on garden tools that are nice to have.)

Getting started is so easy. I hope you take a chance. Grow your favorite vegetable on your patio, in a pot on the back porch or in a plot in the back yard.

Green and organic garden in summer.

My garden in July, 2016.

Give it a shot and just 5 months from now, you could be looking at gorgeous, healthy veggies growing on your very own plants!

Looking for more tips on seed starting? Margaret Roach, one of my most favorite gardening gurus, offers her own seed starting wisdom, too.

Join in. Get your hands dirty. And start growing your own food. It’s fun and it really is easy!!

Happy Spring (almost) everyone!


Grow So Easy Organic – How To Grow Dried Beans

Most people think of dried beans and come up with the familiar four – kidney, navy, pinto and black.

Diversity in dry common beans

There’s a lot of diversity in dry common beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But there are a whole lot more varieties of dried beans and some of them have spectacular flavors and very high nutritional value.

For my money, Rancho Gordo sells some of the best dried beans available on the market.

I don’t normally recommend buying something if I can grow it in my backyard but…there are a couple of reasons I strongly endorse Rancho Gordo.

First of all, organically raised, heirlooms like Mayacoba and Good Mother Stollard beans are just a click away from arriving at your front door.  Secondly, Rancho Gordo is a small company in California started and run by Steve Sando, a man who knows a whole lot about organic and beans.

Another reason I LOVE Rancho Gordo is that Sando’s bean seeds are organically sourced and he works with Seed Savers Exchange.  Then there’s the fact that the beans he bags and ships are fresh and so flavorful they actually stand on their own as a main course.

Those are all really great reasons to like and recommend a product but here’s one of the strongest reasons of all.  The first time I had a problem (the disaster referenced below), I emailed Steve and he actually, personally emailed me back with advice and ideas.

The “disaster” started because of one of my growing philosophies.  In this age of saving money and eating locally, I decided to try sprouting some of Steve’s lovely beans and growing my own.


Starting Dried Beans Indoors
I made a decision to start my bean plants indoors, from beans I bought from Rancho Gordo.  My last frost date is May 15th so I put the seeds in the pots the last week of April – first mistake.

The seeds were incredibly quick to break open and start growing.  Within 5 days of sprouting, they were a foot tall.  It literally took less than a week for the beans to outreach my highest grow light.  Here comes the second mistake.

I thought about what I should do for a couple of days but when I went back into the basement to check the little dears, I realized I had no choice. I was raising two trays of Seymours from Little Shop of Horrors!

I had to transplant them!  The third and final mistake.

A bit too early and a bit too cool, but I put the small trellis in the soil and put the bean plants in the ground.  The next morning, I walked out to the garden to see how they were doing.  All but 3 of my 48 bean plants were flat on the ground.  Within 24 hours, most of them promptly fell over and died.

It was a full-blown,  growing disaster so I moved to Plan B.

Direct Seeding Dried Beans
Okay, so starting seeds indoors and transplanting them was an unmitigated disaster.  But I don’t give up easily.  And since the seeds were so ready to sprout and grow, I thought, why not direct seed?

So, I put beans in the ground, watered them and watched them sprout quickly and reach for the netting.  They were beautiful plants, sleek, green, growing straight up the supports.  Then they were dying.

I think they literally drowned.  It rained for 5 weeks straight here in Eastern Pennsylvania – way too much water for this crop.

When the bean plants that survived the flood (no I did not put them on the Ark and drive them around until the waters receded) finally did dry out, they really tried to finish their jobs and produce beans.

The plants set flowers. I got bean pods.  But with all the moisture in the air and the soil, the pods promptly got moldy!

In desperation, I emailed Steve Sando and asked him if I could still harvest the bean pods if the outsides were speckled and turning black.  This wonderful master of all things bean actually emailed me back.

Yes, I could but…isn’t there always a but?  If the beans themselves were discolored or speckled (unless that’s the way they were born), I had to toss them.

Bottom line, I grew more than 100 bean plants; I harvested 1 quart jar of dried beans.  And now I just buy my beans at Rancho Gordo because it is a heck of a lot cheaper than trying to raise them!

Despite my bean disasters, I did learn a lot about how to plant and grow beans.  That’s up, next week.