Our Garden Pickings
In our plans to get and start to work our own homestead, gardening has been a huge focus. This is where the difference in our background shows up the most. Ralph was raised where you plan on a summer garden, a fall garden and a spring garden. I come from an area where if you have 90 frost free days you consider yourself blessed! We both had a lot to learn but it has been almost unreal for me. In fact even as I write this I marvel at the things we can grow and harvest here.
After hours of discussion we knew we would want a big garden for the first few years to get our initial food stocks in a good position. We want a safe and solid supply of vegetables preserved and stored for our use. Once we have the stockpile we will only have to maintain it and replenish the items we use.
We looked into vegetables we like, vegetables that store well and have good nutrition and vegetables that are easy to grow and yield well. Perhaps the biggest requirement is that they not be GMO or hybrid. We want to be able to save our own seed so heirloom and open pollinated are a must.
Tasty, homegrown and no GMO.
- Good quality Open pollinated and organic seed
- Natural pest control.
- Natural weed control.
- Chemicals if absolutely needed.
- Trellis building ideas and materials
- A composting area
- At least 3 acres of good land [This is for rotation and three areas for the seasonal gardens]
- Equipment to work the land
We researched Seed sources and came up with a list of interesting ones. Then we placed small orders at each of them and rated the service, quality of the seeds, variety of vegetables and plants offered and how fast the order arrives. Cost was less of an issue, not because we are wealthy but because we wanted a wide assortment of things to plant and try.
Here are the top seed sources for us:
[in no particular order]
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
This is an amazing resource, not just a seed source. We have had phenomenal results from their seed and I love the recipes that are in the seed catalog.
Two varieties of tomatoes we must have come from them....seriously I mean must have!
Sand Hills Preservation Center
Sand Hills is less glossy but every bit as interesting and informative.
They have everything for the homesteader and small farmer from seeds to poultry. Their Sweet Potato selection is amazing and we have been able to grow and taste test a lot of Varieties we had not heard of.
There is really good growing information in this catalog and on the Website.
Terroir has an e-newsletter we receive that has interesting videos and all sorts of things about gardening and the environment around us. They have superior seed and want to keep Open Pollinated, Heirloom and Organic on our minds. One thing we use frequently from their site is the Knowledge Library section.
Annies Heirloom Seeds
We bought seed from Annie's for the first time this year, mostly herbs. I had no idea there were so many varieties of Basil. The seed we got from them had excellent germination and the service was very good.
Bolloso Neopolitano Basil
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
A marvelous source and another place we have had great service from. Plus the seed has resulted in many enjoyed meals. Their Growing Guide section is invaluable for any gardener. This year saw us plant our very first Peanuts ever...even for Ralph. We got the seed from this site. It is still to early to harvest them but they germinated really well and have been the source of much speculation!
Schronce's Black Peanuts...SESE
Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center
We "discovered" this site this spring and are delighted we did. An absolutely incredible selection of old fashioned heirloom beans. Beans are a great plant for storing, canning and drying as well as fresh eating. We both love them and knew they would be an absolute must in any garden we ever had. This site introduced us to a lot of beans we had never heard of. They also have a selection of the tastiest tomatoes we have ever eaten. The service was great and the germination of the seeds outstanding.
Jerusalem, an old variety from Sustainable Mountain. Outstanding Flavor!
There are so many good seed sources and gardening sites. Spend time browsing the net for sites that catch your eye. Remember a homestead garden is unique, it is planted to produce food for fresh eating, food for storing, food for drying, and one thing that is often overlooked in this day and age, the homestead garden should be producing seed for the following years to come. You can become your own seed source. Mixing your own seed saving with careful selection of new seed and varieties can keep your garden producing good well grown and healthy plants for years. Plants adapt to the area they grow in so if you keep seed from the best and most vigorous of your plants each year you are actually developing your 'own' variety.
Experiment with your seed selection. Every year we grow some new varieties of vegetables we like, some work, some don't. We also try things we have never thought of growing. It allows us a very wide selection of edibles and that gives us a better range of nutrition from our own food. The small garden here and our research has given us a selection of plants we know a lot about and know we like, and yes some we really do not like!
Of course all of this starts with a list of things you like to eat, things that produce well and things that handle storing well in whatever form you decide to preserve your bounty. Take time to search the seed sources and select things that you like and want to try. Be brave try new varieties, learn from the failures and the success stories and above all enjoy and be pleased with your decisions...lets face it opening a newly arrived seed order is a lot like Christmas!
The Experimental garden out back, 2014