Monthly Archives: February 2009

America is Going To Seed

Plum Tomato “Italian Pompeii” seed source:Renee’s Garden.
My container garden success story last summer. Started from seed. Grew in a five gallon bucket with parsley and basil. Because it was near by on the deck, this pot had plenty of water. The tomatoes were supposed to be for sauce, but they were so good fresh, there were none left for preserving.

Seed catalogs are more popular than ever. I read and reread them, dog ear pages, circle favorites and make notes on the page. One of my favorite seed sources is no longer a print catalog, I browse through Renee’s Seed online catalog as much as I did their beautiful paper catalogs in years past. The photos and the drawings tempt me to buy even more. I’m getting more questions about gardening from my friends and neighbors, so I asked Renee Shepherd what was going on.

“seed sales, particularly of vegetables and herbs, are up sharply this season. After years of declining veggie seed sales the whole cycle has completely reversed and we are experiencing tremendous interest from a new generation of gardeners who want to, for the first time, start a garden to grow food,” Renee said.

Many of her customers are growing food to help with the rising prices at the grocery store. People feel like this is a way to help support themselves in uncertain economic times.

The closer food grows to your table, the more control you have. Yes, it is tastier and Rodale Institute has proven it’s healthier. The simple act of growing food and buying locally produced food helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Trucking your fruits and vegetables from California or Florida means you are buying aging produce with diminishing flavor at the grocery. It takes a lot of fuel to drive a tomato from Homestead Florida to your front door.

Food scares worry everyone. Buying from the local farmer or growing your own produce means you do not have to worry about recent food safety threats. You can enjoy home grown salad greens and spinach while rest of the country is suffering from the mass market food scares and shortages of safe food.

I admit to feeling a bit smug last year when spinach was being pulled from restaurants and grocery stores while I enjoyed bountiful spinach salads grown by a local organic farmer. Growing safe food in our own backyard gardens reduces the risk of national disasters such as Salmonella-tainted tomatoes and E. coli-contaminated spinach and lettuce.

I’m ordering most of my seed from two sources that I know I can trust.

Oriental Giant Spinach from Renee’s Garden
Renee Shepherd offers the finest seeds of heirloom and cottage garden flowers,aromatic herbs, and gourmet vegetables from around the world.

Flame or Hillbilly tomato from Baker Creek.

We only offer open-pollinated seeds: pure, natural and non-GMO! We offer heirloom seeds from 70 countries, including many that we collected ourselves.

The Juicy Traveler

Tomatoes are not a travel story you say? Well in Southeast Missouri, this old gardener plans her travels around the gardening season.

Yes, that was me getting out of the car and taking pictures of acres of tomatoes in Homestead,FL. I have been known to stop just to smell the orange blossoms near Merritt Island. Plant City Florida’s strawberry festival, is a vacation stop for me. But now I’m back to good old MO.

February is when I read seed catalogs and plan for spring in Missouri. I’m ordering heirloom tomato plants from Abundant Acres. If you like the idea of buying locally grown plants from a Missouri business, shop online at Abundant Acres. Meet the owners and growers Randel and Pam Argella when you stop by Bakersville during the April and May festivals at Baker Creek Seed Company in Mansfield Missouri. More about the 9th Annual Spring Planting Festival, later.

Randel and Pam Agrella only sell plants online. They grow hardy healthy heirlooms that are well packaged and ready to plant as soon as they harden off and acclimate to your garden.

Randel recommended I grow indeterminate Delicious tomatoes, if I wanted to win the neighborhood biggest tomato contest. Delicious is a good all purpose red tomato and it holds the world record for the largest tomato. Much to my dismay the secret to growing the biggest tomato is clearly written right there in the description of Delicious tomatoes for any body and everybody to read.

When gardening season gets here, my travels are limited to how far I can go and get back before the plants need watering. Day trips, long weekends, fairs and festivals are this gardeners version of summer vacation. Oh, and visiting local farmers markets, orchards and garden centers.

My next trip will be a beauty. I’m going to the Missouri Botanical Garden Orchid Show. The orchid show closes March 15, 2009.

Other early spring trips include:
9th Annual Spring Planting Festival Sunday and Monday, May 3 & 4, 2009 10am – 7pm (both days)

Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival April 3,4, and 5.

My best cabin fever cure in Southeast Missouri is going some place warm, like Orlando. Winter 2009 has been so cold in Southeast Missouri that I fled to Orlando for nearly three weeks. Even in these frightening economic times there are still travel bargains. I’ll share frugal ways for the budget conscious to take a vacation, including one of the best bets for accommodations. It’s not your typical hotel stay.

Lettuce think Spring

I met Renee at my first garden writers conference. I admit to being a little star struck meeting Renee of Renee’s Gardens.

“You’re Renee! Of Renee’s Gardens! I recognized you because you look just like your picture.” She was kind enough not to say anything.

It was about that time when I realized that I sounded like I had the IQ of a vegetable. OMG, I just told this woman who she was. Then I quickly left, praying that Renee had not read my name tag.

Renee’s Garden is The place to buy seed for gourmet greens. The only problem will be limiting your salad selections to the size of your garden.

I like Renee’s combo selections because the seed combination’s
are a thrifty way to get a lot of
variety into a small garden.

The new and exclusive Ruby & Emerald Duet lettuce is a colorful combination of heat tolerant plants. These buttery lettuces create gourmet salads that are hard to beat.

Last spring I tried the Paris Market Mesclun, a mix of several baby lettuces, chicory, endive, and arugula. Small successive plantings stretched the flavors, textures and colors of this “cut and come again” mix through the spring.

Be sure to order extra Renee’s Garden Seeds for a fall planting of salad greens.

Yes, there is a real Renee. And yes, she selects, grows and eats this stuff before she offers it to us in her beautiful online only catalog. Plus, the website tells how to plant, grow, harvest, prepare and cook all these amazing vegetables.
Starting Seeds Indoors will get you headed in the right direction.

Check out the Blue Boy heirloom cornflowers
This is one of my favorite old fashioned flowers. A cottage garden must have.

Renee Shepherd.
She looks just like her picture. If you ever get the chance to meet her, for your sake, don’t even tell her that you know me.
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