Sam’s Spade: Choosing this year’s seeds

4 mins read
Can anyone guess this type of seed?" for the photo of seeds in my hand.
Can anyone guess this type of seed?
Maine's wicked good seed companies, Johnny's and Fedco are Sam's favorites.
Maine’s wicked good seed companies, Johnny’s and Fedco, are Sam’s favorites.

Is everybody excited to choose this year’s vegetables for the garden? Big decisions lay ahead! Right now is one of my favorite times of the whole season—selecting a particular variety for each vegetable I plan to grow. A lot of times I don’t keep a certain variety that I tried the previous year, preferring to take my chances with something new that I feel has more potential. Sometimes it’s the size and quality of the final product that I find disagreeable, but more often than not, it had something to do with weak resistances to certain pests and fungi.

If you go to Walmart or the local hardware store, you may not find a very diversified selection, and choosing your seeds may be an easier and quicker process than you expect. However, if you are like me, and prefer a trusted Maine name, Fedco Seeds or Johnny’s Selected Seeds are your best bets for a broad selection of top-notch seeds. Before you order your seeds, however, there are a couple things you’ll want to keep in mind.

What problems did your vegetables face last year? If you encountered any problems with fungus or a virus, then find a variety that lists resistances specific to those problems. (ie., powdery mildew, fusarium, mosaic virus, etc.,). Insect tolerances are also listed for some crops.

Were you satisfied with the yield and quality of last year’s harvest? If not, and you feel that you grew the plants to their potential, then perhaps it’s time to try a different variety. There may be a variety out there that not only offers a more impressive harvest, but is potentially better-suited to the conditions of your garden (whether it has to do with the amount of light, temperature, watering schedule, or other important aspects pertaining to your particular gardening situation).

Looking to try something new? Flip through a seed catalog and see what they have to offer for new varieties. I’m excited to choose a fresh stock of seeds annually; already I’ve gathered “Silver Slicers” for my cukes, “Oregon Giant” snow peas, “Rebor” kale, “Golden Arrow” zuccini, and the tried-and-true “Solstis” broiccili. Last minute, a good friend suggested I try some of her Greenwave mustard seeds, which she has reported great success growing as well as implementing within home-cuisine– I’m anxious to try those out!

Before you go out on the town and purchase a new stock of seeds, remember you can order them online through Johnny’s Selected Seeds or Fedco Seeds, using their online order form. I highly recommend flipping through their online catalogs as well, this way you can study the details of certain varieties and have a good idea what you are dealing with. Packets of seeds usually run between $3 to $5, a modest investment for a home gardener who generally only requires one, maybe two, packets of seeds for any given crop.

Times running out however, pretty soon we’ll all be outside with mud on our boots, ready to put these babies in the ground!

Before you know it, the garden will be
Someday soon!
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  1. I can’t wait! However last summer my yellow summer was covered with voracious grey bugs. Any ideas please?

  2. Don’t forget Allen Sterling and Lothrop out of Falmouth Maine that can be purchased at the Farmers Union:)

  3. Those are actually spinach seeds!

    David – If you had a photo I’d be curious to check them out.

  4. Alas no photos. They are oval shaped powdery grey and about 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. They seem to only eat yellow squash plants and are prolific.

  5. Boy, those sound like squash bugs. The nymph-stage is a bit smaller than the adult, and more gray in color. In case it is, here’s my advice on that situation.

    A row cover is the first thing you’ll want to implement. Also, these little guys LOVE squash, so a popular way of getting rid of them is planting a patch of yellow squash off on one side of the property to try and distract them with. But personally, I don’t like to cater to bugs just so they will leave my real crop alone.

    Squash bugs OVERWINTER, so if they survived this year’s chills, they’ll be dormant somewhere in/around your garden. One thing you can do is to plant your squash and related vegetables a bit later than usual, and perhaps you will miss the egg laying period in June, reducing their impact on those crops.

    Soap and water sprays will work, but make sure you come in direct contact with the insect/eggs; simply spraying the leaves will not work. Pyrethrin sprays (made from the Chrysanthemum flower) also work to kill these insects.

    If your garden is small enough to make this option feasible… hand-picking always works. Try looking for them in the mornings (bring either a jar of soapy water to drown them in or a handheld vacuum).

    I read once that an effective way of hand-picking squash bugs is to hose the plants down with water and wait until all the bugs crawl on the top of the leaves to dry off. Then you can swoop in and get a good percentage of them! I have never tried this, but don’t doubt that it would work to some degree.

    Eggs are also important to monitor underneath the leaves. If you see any, make sure to get rid of them! Look at least once a week in June for new batches.

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