What to grow!?

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Cailyn Edwards Owner and Operator

I really love vegetables… I love all the different tastes, colours, shapes, textures and personalities of vegetables. So when it comes time to select this season’s varieties the struggle is real!

In a perfect world I could just plant each and every variety of each and every crop and call it a day. But that would mean losing consistency, not being able to buy in bulk, always planting things that are new to me and really just an overwhelming amount of vegetables.

As I am sure many of you know, there are hundreds of varieties of each vegetable. You can find things like green and yellow stripped tomatoes, purple broccoli, dino kale, blue potatoes and squash as long as I am tall. So how do we choose between them?

Let me tell you what I do to make my choices a little easier.

First thing – write out a list of what crops you want to plant. I find that it works best to pull up a seed website and take a peek at the headings, that way I don’t forget anything important.

2017 Annuals

Salad Greens
Cooking Greens
Carrots
Beets
Radishes
Salad Turnips
Rutabegas
Parsnips
Onions
Leeks
Garlic
Potatoes
Summer Squash
Winter Squash
Tomatoes
Peppers
Beans
Peas
Cucumbers
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Brussels Sprouts
Eggplant
Tomatillos
Ground Cherries
Melons
Herbs
Flowers

This is a very basic list and it’s already a good length. From here we want to organize and specify vegetables. I like to organize by families/field location.

2017 Crops (Detailed)

Aliums
–  Onions
–  Leeks
–  Garlic

Salad Greens
–  Arugula
–  Head Lettuce
–  Leaf Lettuce
–  Mustard
–  Asian Greens
–  Spinach

Legumes
–  Beans
–  Peas

Cool Season Roots
–  Radishes
–  Salad Turnips

Cooking Greens
–  Kale
–  Collards
–  Swiss Chard
–  Pac Choi

Brassicas
–  Cabbage
–  Kohlrabi
–  Broccoli
–  Cauliflower

All Season Roots
Carrots
Beets
Rutabegas
Parsnips

Potatoes

Summer Squash
–  Zucchini
–  Scallopini

Melons

Winter Squash
–  Butternut
–  Delicata
–  Hubbard
–  Speghetti
–  Kabocha

Greenhouse
–  Tomatoes
–  Peppers
–  Cucumbers
– Eggplants
–  Tomatillos
–  Ground Cherries

Herbs
–  Basil
–  Cilantro
–  Dill
–  Fennel
–  Marjoram
–  Oregano
–  Parsley
–  Sage
–  Savory
–  Shiso
–  Thyme

Flowers
–  Borage
–  Chamomile
–  Calendula
–  Nasturtiums
– Bergamot
– Sun Flowers

This is starting to look like a serious garden! Now the real fun begins!

We are ready to go seed shopping!

You need to decide where you are going to get your seeds. If you are planting a small garden I recommend Greta’s Organic Gardens, she is located just outside of Ottawa and I’ve only had positive experiences when using her seeds. It’s always good to purchase seeds from plants grown in the same conditions you will be growing in. This makes Greta’s seeds ideal. If you are looking to purchase a larger quantity of seed, or for different varities I use West Coast Seeds. Unfortunately not all of their seeds are organic which limits my choices. Lastly, if you are looking to buy seeds in bulk for a large garden or market garden the best choice in our area is Homestead Organics. They sell their own seeds (mostly grains and cover crops), and they source organic non-GMO vegetable seeds and seed potatoes. If you don’t mind paying US pricing High Mowing Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds are also a good options for a large garden. I purchase my seed garlic from The Cutting Veg, a farm outside of Toronto.

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Selecting Seeds

As I said above, I only purchase organic, non-GMO free seed. This limits my choices from the get go, a blessing in disguise really. I don’t even consider seeds that don’t meet those qualifications.

It’s important to keep track of how varieties perform, taste and sell. That way you can get a solid list of go to varieties and know which ones to stay away from. Feel free to send me an email if you’d like a list of my favorite varieties.

 

When selecting new seeds you should look at:

  • Growing Conditions: Will they perform well in your garden? Do you have a space that will provide enough sunlight, water and protection?
  • Disease Resistance: When growing organic you need to be prepared for diseases and pests (a post is coming with more on the specifics).  It helps to select resistant varieties from the start.
  • Average Yield: Sometimes really interesting plants just don’t produce much. If you are looking to have a productive garden make sure to look at what you are buying.
  • Flavor and Texture: Different types of tomatoes can taste completely opposite. You should read up on the descriptions to make sure you will be satisfied come harvest. A side note to this is nutritional value – some plants are higher in certain vitamins and minerals.
  • Days to Maturity: This is super important if you are doing succession planting. It varies plant to plant and should be considered when planning the garden.

I usually start my seed shopping with the crops I will be growing the most of: potatoes, onions, beets, carrots and greens. I’ll go to my bulk supplier for all of those and then check if they have anything else I may be interested in. Usually Homestead Organics offers all your basic crops in bulk. So after that I go to the West Coast Seeds website to select the fun varieties I might want a larger quantity of: purple carrots, colourful lettuces and so on. Finally I finish off my shopping with Greta’s Organic Garden. Here I select my specialty crops and new things I want to try… like all the fun varieties of tomatoes she offers. Before finalizing the purchases I look over everything I’ve selected, I make sure I have everything I need and no more than three or four varieties of most crops (squash and lettuce excluded). I also check my Garden Planning Charts to make sure I have the correct quantities of seeds for each crop. At this point I would also create my final list of this years varieties. I’ll be doing an in depth garden planning post in the near future but until then here are a couple resources to help you out.


Vegetable Crop Yeilds, Plants per Person, and Crop Spacing

Vegetable Production Chart

How to Grow More Vegetables (book)

Side note: How to Grow More Vegetables is an incredible resource for any gardener. It is the foundation for most of my garden planning. I highly recommend!


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This is one of my older planning charts. The new ones are chock full of categories.

That’s it!

Now you are ready to submit those orders and eagerly await seeding season! If you have any questions about selecting seeds, or gardening in general, don’t hesitate to send me an email or comment on the post! Happy planning!!

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