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Seeds Rock! From Catalog to Seed Swap or Seedy Sunday!

December, January is one of the happiest times of year for veggie gardeners! The holidays are when you give yourself your seeds for your whole garden for the year to come! Catalogs are out, you supplement with what you seed saved yourself. If you have some old iffy seeds that may not germinate, you might want to order some fresh ones to make sure you get good germination!

Seed swaps, or the like, are usually at the end of January in southern locations like SoCal. In northern areas it may be later. Seed swaps are exciting and wonderful, and are a random event! There may be seeds there you want, there may not be. They may be old non-viable seeds or fresh as they need to be! Guaranteed you will come home with some you want to try! Use Seed Swaps as fun backups to your catalog orders. Reliable seed companies have a reputation to uphold. You know what the seed is, how old it is. If you wait until after the Seed Swap, seed companies may be sold out of rare seeds or seeds that they only were able to get a few of due to weather last year and such. However, Seed Swaps ARE LOCAL – seeds of plants that grew well in your climate area!

Catalogs!

From reputable seed houses you are sure of what you are getting, organic, non-GMO. If a packet is on sale, pay attention to the year it was packed for. Make sure it is current or still viable.

Catalogs have endless marvelous varieties including from far away places! Southern states, warmer countries may have seeds that will do well in warmer weather times or areas.

Consider if drought or heat tolerant, cold tolerant when selecting seasonal veggies

Take a careful look at disease and pest resistance/tolerance.

Though much of companion planting is untested, look specially for plants that enhance each other’s growth, not just pest prevention.

Compare days to maturity. Do you have the land to wait for large fruits or would you like a steady table supply of smaller varieties, favorites.  Or will just a few be fine for a taste once a year? Smaller fruits may be perfect if you are a one person family or are not a big eater, enjoy quality versus quantity.

If space available is no consideration, order as you wish, experiment to your heart’s content! If space is tight or you are container planting, note spacing requirements. Think about dwarf varieties

Over planting lets you thin for tender trims for your salads. Harvest to leave enough space between your seedlings or young plants to allow the remaining ones room for their mature size. With some plants, like Chard, thinning can occur in stages. Thin leaving enough room for them to get bigger, thin again, even again. If you have few seeds, you might want to presprout, or plant at the mature distance. That can be a wee challenge if the seeds, like radish or carrots, are tiny. Do your best.

Seed Swap Tips, Considerations and Etiquette!

Planting from seeds, especially free seeds, is frugal and enjoyable! Meet other gardeners! Continue the race of super plants adapted to your area!

Some tips for swapping your saved seeds

Take your best clean seed – no chaff that might decompose and rot the seed. Remember, we want to inspire and be an example! We want new gardeners to succeed, to plant and save their seeds too!

Either take your seeds in a bag or container and let swappers select the number of seeds they need, or pack them in paper coin envelopes or plastic baggies so everyone gets some. Label seed packs with botanical and common name, and DATE – including the year – they were gathered! Note the location they were grown and, if large seeds, the number of seeds in the packet helps. Five seeds per pack for larger and common seeds is good. Thirty seeds or so is good for smaller seeds. If you don’t have small coin envelopes or want to buy little plastic baggies, you can cut up junk mail envelopes into smaller envelopes to hold your seeds. Whatever packaging you choose, make sure it will stay securely closed. No fun losing your little pups on the way home.

If your seed is unusual, you might include growing information as well. Many swappers are new gardeners or never planted that plant before. They will be most grateful since you already have had the real experience with that plant in our locality!

Tips, considerations, etiquette for choosing swap seeds

It’s not always certain exactly what you are getting or how old the seed is, but the price is right! However, old seed may not germinate at all, you lose time waiting for it to grow.

You get only what’s at the Swap, but the beauty of it is it’s local, adapted to your area! If it goes well for you too, please save some of your seed to share at the next Seed Swap!

Crazy surprises are terrific! You might try something you never would have thought of, and because it’s free you think there is nothing to lose! Hey, I’ll give it a try!

  • Take your garden plans, both summer and winter, with you. Find out how big that plant will grow, decide if it will really fit in your available space.
  • Take small baggies or envelopes and a pencil with you.
  • Label what you get when you get it. Name, date harvested.
  • Take only what you need and a few more in case those fail or you love them and want to plant another round or two! Leave the rest for others. Try not to get seed greed fever! 🙂
  • Look for the date on packages or containers. Are the seeds still viable?
  • Is it a summer or winter, or year ’round plant?
  • Ask tons of questions!

The last word! Remember, a Seed Swap is a random affair. Get your standby favorites from those reliable catalogs. Use Seed Swaps as a fun backup source and especially for local seeds.

Enjoy the suspense, the surprises, the tasty goodness of growing fresh wholesome food!

If you are from out-of-town but near enough, and enjoy adventurous journeys, come make a day of it at our Sunday Jan 27, 2019 SEED SWAP in our fair city, Santa Barbara CA!

If you don’t live in our area, please check to see when Seed Swaps will be in your area! If there are none, if you are willing, please, please, please, contact local permaculturists, garden groups/clubs, to see about starting one! Preserving our heritage, not GMO but heirloom seeds, is vital to our continued nutritious future, and for our children’s healthy futures!

ONLINE SEED SWAPS! As the National Gardening Assn says: One gardener’s extras are another’s treasures! Here’s how they do it!

See Seeds Rock! Choosing the Perfect Ones for You!
See also Smart Design for Your Spring & Summer Garden, Seed Selection!

With great gratitude to you and all our ancestors!
Happy seed hunting!

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Updated 12.5.18


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Seeds sprouting, magical, sources of life!

Are you stepping into the magical world of veggie seeds for the first time?! After great soil, choosing perfect seeds, vibrant with life, great producers, is an exciting step!  They are all so differently shaped, many sizes, colors! Many are so beautiful; others are strange and marvelous, humbly do their job.  

Seed catalog season starts in December! Would you believe nearly 70 percent of gardeners have said they buy most of their seeds from mail-order vegetable seed companies? Oh, Lord, do you have budget and the space to plant all the ones you would like to try?! Happiness torture.

Your locality is one of the most important things to know first. Updated USDA Zones Map as of 2012

  • Cold/hot temps ranges, temperate/extremes, sunny/semi shady, wet/dry – rainy or desert, clay/sand soils. Is your area mixed, varies per year?
  • Do you have the right soil, amount of water and sunlight required.
  • Will you be gardening in the ground or in containers?

When to Plant  Select seeds with the proper day length!  Onions are sensitive to day length. Get the varieties that suit your purpose.  Strawberries are June bearers, or ever bearers that produce whenever conditions are right for them, most of the year!

Depending on where you live, you may have one small planting window, and you better pounce on it or build a greenhouse or cold frames. If you are in desert land, winter planting is your time.  In southern areas you might be able to plant all year and have two distinct ‘seasons’ with summer plants, and winter plants. That’s true in coastal Santa Barbara CA. We can plant 3 rounds of both summer and winter type plants!  Our winter plantings start in August! With planetary weather pattern changes those dates may be becoming different now. We do have to factor in day length. So know that some plants can be planted early, but still won’t produce until all conditions are right.

Plant Footprints!  Do you have space? How many of those plants will fit there? Will you plant dense then thin, put in smaller but fast growing plants in the spaces between for until the others get their mature size? If so, you will need seeds for those filler plants too. What is the return per square foot of your planting choices?

  • If you are on a balcony, patio, doing containers, get the lovely smaller varieties – dwarf, patio. Rather than tall pole varieties that may topple in the wind, get bush varieties, determinate tomatoes.
  • Tomatoes – Determinate grows to a certain height and quits. Indeterminate vines forever and ever! You can plant 3 rounds of determinate tomatoes depending on your temperature zone.
  • Varietal differences – ie Broccolis can get 5′ tall or 2′.  Some are known for sideshoot production while others make a huge head and that’s about it.  Some brocs make large sideshoots; others make minis.
  • Colors – You may be astounded at your options!  Some are more nutritious for different purposes. Yellows and oranges, more Vitamin A. Red, blue, purple for antioxidants.
How many do you need?  That depends on who likes what in your family and how many can you eat?! Zucchini is a famed reliable monster producer all summer long. For most families, 2, max 3, are all that are needed. So if you were at a seed exchange event, you would need only maybe 6 seeds, maybe 9, for those ‘in cases’ they don’t come up or survive the first planting(s). Depending on what you are planting, a bulk Tablespoonful from your local farm nursery might be a perfect amount. Think in terms of successive rounds of planting, possible failures due to nature or gardener error, and get enough for several rounds.

Dates to Maturity  One of the biggest planning choices is based on how long a plant takes to mature in your climate and time of year. In the north and colder areas, there may be but one choice, hope for a huge crop, and preserve like crazy! You need to choose varieties that mature sooner than later. In SoCal, you are deciding how many rounds you can plant of your favorites to keep that fresh food on the table all year!

Special Features!  AAS, All America Selections, are just about synonymous with great plants! If you see an AAS designation, that tips the scales in its favor as a choice you can trust!

  • Heat/cold tolerance are critical to your location. Some plants thrive in cold, like Brassicas that don’t mind a light frost at all.  Tomatoes, peppers and strawberries stop producing in heat. Lettuces head better in cool weather, and there are heat tolerant varieties for summer growing.
  • Disease Resistance/Tolerance  Wilts and fungi drive us crazy. Certain pests are locality specific. Your nursery can advise you and getting seeds of plants that have resistances is so more satisfying and productive.
  • Bolt resistant  Lettuces and cilantro bolt commonly, bless them. Temp changes and changes in day length are triggers. So, clearly, know the right times to plant your seeds, and if bolting conditions occur, be ready to plant another round.  In fact, keep rounds going anyway. What you don’t use you can give to a happy recipient. Bolting in Veggies

Seeds of Change, Certified Organic

Important Preferences

  • Heirloom or Other? This choice depends on what you want to do.  Some heirlooms are not very disease resistant/tolerant. Some hybrids are marvelous and rather than saving seed and not knowing what you will get next time, you will simply buy more true seed each year. That cost is not great.  Try them and see for yourself. See Seed Swaps
  • Organic? Of course! New Mexico-based Seeds of Change has a fine reputation.
  • Non GMO

Viability Current?!  Seeds vary in the time you can keep them and they will still germinate.  A year to 5 years is possible if you store them properly. If you are at a seed swap, be sure to check for viability. If the seeds aren’t labeled, inquire. See the storage instructions and this viability table at High Mowing in Vermont. Check the pack date on seed packets; buy from reliable seed sellers. With viability years in mind, check out end-of-year specials at various seed houses, up to 50% off!

Seed Strips?  Yes! Buy them or make your own! They save seed loss and spacing is perfect!

If you are a beginner  Choose easy-to-grow basics, like cherry tomatoes, beans, lettuce and spinach, cukes and zukes, peppers and eggplants, beets and chard, carrots and radishes! And, if you have space, try at least one radical experiment! Choose something exotic, maybe foreign, or a different color! Have fun with your gardening as well as superb nutrition! Many seed companies have learning pages. Check those out. You may enjoy some of Renee’s Seeds variety packs. Renee’s is in Felton, CA (Santa Cruz County).

For unusual plants, check out reliable seed trade sites like the Seed Savers Exchange. It is likely the most well-known of the heritage seed companies, a nonprofit organization that operates the largest nongovernmental seed bank in the United States. It sells heirloom vegetable seeds to nonmembers, but if you join you gain access to an additional 12,000 varieties. It also provides instructions on how to save your own seeds!

Seed Saving and/or Who to buy from?! If you save seeds from your best plants, you know you have the best for your micro niche. Your local nurseries that operate farms and sell bulk seed will have seeds best adapted to your area. If you buy from an out-of-your area specialty farmer that grows perfect plants of the kind you want to grow, again you have the best from their area. If you buy from a seed company, know your USDA zone and the zone of the company you will be buying from, the zone where the seeds you are buying from them come from. At first this may sound a bit overwhelming to you, but in time it will become second nature. The more you save seeds, choosing your favorite plants, adapting them to your soils and ways, your plants will be adapted not only to your area, but to your tastes as well!

The very best to you with your seed hunting and saving!  Seeds make the difference!

“I have great faith in a seed.”  THOMAS JEFFERSON


Political Statement! Sad to report that several seed companies we have trusted now carry seed owned by Monsanto. Either specifically inquire or don’t by any seed from them.

* Territorial Seeds
* Totally Tomato
* Vermont Bean Seed Co.
* Burpee
* Cook’s Garden
* Johnny’s Seeds
* Earl May Seed
* Gardens Alive
* Lindenberg Seeds
* Mountain Valley Seed
* Park Seed
* T&T Seeds
* Tomato Growers Supply
* Willhite Seed Co.
* Nichol’s
* Rupp
* Osborne
* Snow
* Stokes
* Jungs
* R.H. Shumway
* The Vermont Bean Seed Company
* Seeds for the World
* Seymour’s Selected Seeds
* HPS
* Roots and Rhizomes
* McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers
* Spring Hill Nurseries
* Breck’s Bulbs
* Audubon Workshop
* Flower of the Month Club
* Wayside Gardens
* Park Bulbs
* Park’s Countryside Garden

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