Sunday, January 8, 2012

Try Something New In Your Garden This Year

Nasturtium 'Cup of sun' is a new variety from Renee's Garden for 2012.

A sure sign of the New Year is the arrival of the seed catalogs in the mail each day. How do they know where I live?! I have my list of what I need to order but somehow I’m always enticed by the larger than life glossy images of ripe, juicy tomatoes and sweet peas so perfect I can almost smell them. Nurseries, box stores and many hardware stores also carry seeds at this time of year which for many is more convenient than mail order but I find that catalogs give you the opportunity to easily compare varieties and prices.

One thing I found out the hard way is that all seeds are not equal. Thinking to save a few dollars last year I bought the cheapest packet of Cosmos seeds I could find rather than my usual brand. After all they are ridiculously easy to grow, what could go wrong? Certainly they germinated without any problem but the plants branched at almost 90’ meaning that as each one grew they simply broke away from the main stem. I ended up with the most straggly looking plants I have ever grown.

I grow marigolds as companion plants to my
tomatoes as they are said to prevent nematodes.
I'm not sure if they do or not but these 'Signet
starfire' are worth growing just for their color.
To avoid this, choose seeds from reputable companies that have years of experience and take the time to select only the best cultivars and varieties. Renee Shepherd does just that with her outstanding Renee’s Garden seeds. With 25 years of seed sourcing experience Renee only sells those with proven performance while edibles have been tested for flavor (tough life!) and she has even developed recipes, provided on the packets to help you make the most of your bounty. In fact the packets are quite unique in that they include the most detailed information on growing, harvesting and cooking information in the business. You can also view these online – useful for those of us who threw away the packet by mistake!

Back all this up with Renee’s blog, website and online community forum and you’re getting far more than just a packet of seeds.

New to gardening? Renee has you covered with her special ’Easy to Grow’ vegetable and herb collections. Each contains five individual packets of seeds such as Italian parsley, ‘Romeo round’ baby carrots (seriously cute!!) and ‘Farmers market mix’ lettuce leaves. Just sprinkle the seeds, water and stand back!

New for 2012 - 'Stardom' landscape lettuce could
easily be incorporated into the garden border.
Only have a patio? I enjoyed the most delicious lunch last summer with friends who had prepared a salad using Renee’s Garden mixed salad leaves. Two minutes from patio to plate. Try getting that from the store! This year Renee has expended her patio collection to include a new compact zucchini called ‘Astia’, a French bush variety which won’t swallow the garden yet still provide those gorgeous yellow flowers and glossy green fruit.

One of the hottest trends in recent years is ‘Vertical Gardening’ and Renee has a great assortment of carefree climbing vines for both edible and ornamental use. I love the look of their exclusive "Queen of Hearts" sweet pea; a striking combination of heat-tolerant antique varieties that blossom in scented bouquets of crimson-red, burgundy, magenta-rose and cream. Mmmm.

Look at that color! 'Mandarin Cross' tomato.
Few gardens are without at least one tomato plant. I’m actually not that fond of tomatoes – or so I thought after years of shop bought, flavorless or somewhat bitter offerings. However, we have grown the cherry variety ‘Sungold’ for the past two years where each mouthful offered an explosion of sweetness from the tiny orange fruit. We also grew the yellow slicing tomato ‘Lemon boy’ last year which I   found as a 4” plant at a local nursery and loved the bright color as well as sweet flavor. For 2012 I’m thinking about ordering the new Japanese slicing tomato ‘Mandarin Cross’ from Renee’s Garden  which promises a creamy texture and a sweet, even finish. Can you imagine a summer salad of gourmet greens studded with these golden-orange jewels? I can feel the sunshine already.

Remember that you don’t need a greenhouse or propagator for most of these seeds. A sunny windowsill is fine, and many are sown directly outside.

So much pleasure for just a couple of dollars. What seeds will you grow this year?

All photos courtesy of Renee's Garden


  1. I practically live for the arrival of the seed catalogs. And I'm glad that you said to try something new. I try that each year -- what is there to lose but the cost of packet of seeds. Thank you for the winter inspiration.

  2. I'm going to avoid the seed catalogues this year, as I have so many left from last year. There are too many seedsin a packet! I also made an effort to collect my own especially fromthe veg heritage varieties. So we shall see if any of the older seed and the collected seed is viable. The kitchen garden may look a bit patchyhis year...

  3. My Baker's Creek seed catalog hasn't come yet, and I'm starting to suspect the mail carrier of absconding with it. This year I'm planning to start some things indoors instead of direct sowing them. Hopefully the early start will let them start fruiting before the summer heat hits. Those marigolds are stunning! I was thinking of trying the 'Tangerine Gem' but may have to change my mind!

  4. It's funny to hear such conflicting reactions to those seed catalogs!! Thank you all for your comments.

    Nittygrittyman - I agree, I'll risk failure for the $2!

    Janet - I save my left over veggie seeds as they are viable for years in the fridge(except parsnips which I purchase each year. I always get sweet pea seeds though and this year I'm doing a lot of 'gap filling' with quick annuals as my shrubs need time to grow in.

    Stacy - you should have received that catalog weeks ago! I've grown 'Tangerine gem' and like it but this color mix is so pretty. I'll start a few things in my unheated greenhouse but I'll have to use propagators and floating row cover (horticultural fleece) for extra protection - I've been caught out before!

  5. My cosmos is the most straggly , unkempt plant in my garden. The seeds were not cheap. They were free!


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