Seed swap

Let’s get this seed swap going!

And to get things started, I am posting my four-page seed inventory. (Don’t laugh! And I am struggling to make this link work, so be patient.) Add a comment if there is something that catches your eye, and post whatever you have to spare. I will pass on email addresses privately. No guarantees, of course — I know most of my seeds are from 2008 or earlier, and I am sure the same goes for yours. Who can use up an entire seed packet in one summer anyway?

Debbie, I will happily take two of each kind of tomato seed that you haven’t yet given me, especially that Ananas Noire, and a little bit of lemon balm. I know you mentioned white cucumber and I forgot that in the packet I just mailed. Still want?

To help build the mood, here’s a New York Times article full of seed ideas, pointed out by one friend. Another send this link for free tomato seeds (as if I need more!). The Brit has been strangely silent about that one.


Somehow in the past week, I got the idea that I could grow horseradish in the garden. I can’t remember exactly how this came about — maybe I was thinking that I should try a recipe for horseradish mashed potatoes.

I’ve never seen it in the vegetable catalogs, so I started by looking in my Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. It was in there, so that seemed like a good sign. Horseradish, I learned, is a perennial, grown from a root cutting, and pretty much grows itself.

That might be the positive spin. The book’s planting advice: don’t grow with other plants. But when I looked for advice online, it was much more blunt, suggesting that this is easily invasive, like mint, and to consider growing it in its own pot. One described accidental cuttings as a horseradish cluster bomb. When you start grating the rootings, another site warned, you need to be by an open window because the fumes are so strong. The sites also pointed out how little horseradish you actually use.

I started wondering if growing horseradish was such a good idea. (Not that it stopped me from emailing a local herb farm and asking if they carried it) The Brit seems to agree too and suggests using the space for more garlic instead. Anyone care to weigh in?

My latest experiment

I’ve decided to grow lemongrass.

I know New Jersey and zone 6b isn’t exactly the tropics and January isn’t the height of a hot, sticky summer either. But I needed some lemongrass for a recipe and thought why not?

I’d read that you buy the freshest-looking lemon grass at the store and hope it still had a root or so. Mine came wrapped in plastic and looked like it had been scraped clean. But I put it in a glass of water and pretty much forgot about it, even though it was right there by the sink and barely changed the water.

Some of the outer leaves dried, and I peeled those off. The very center looked dry, too, so I was wondering if this would work. Lo and behold, a root developed. Then it fell off — drowned? I left the stalk in the jar, figuring I had nothing better to do with it. And I forgot about it for even longer (I don’t know how long). And when I looked again, there were roots!

I wasn’t sure exactly where to plant it, and so I stalled some more. Finally I looked at it again this weekend and the roots had gotten longer. I had an empty container with the the dead remains of a few petunias that never did much that either needed to go into the basement or be used. So I stuck the stalk in it. The pot also happens to be next to our wood-burning fireplace insert, so I am hoping the temperature is cozy enough for this stalk to survive until June, when it can go outside and hopefully really thrive.

I’ll report back on its health every once in a while.

Here’s a Web site that might provide you with more encouragement.

Or just call me crazy.

Here's the lemongrass

Seed inventory

We'll go crazy starting lots of these within a few months
Just a few of the many seed packets we have

Don’t be too shocked, but the list of seed packets that live in our basement runs more than four pages. And I wonder if we missed a few. There are 15 types of tomato seeds alone, and that is before a friend bring some exotic kind she’s promised. But yes, I’ll trade for something else. Anyone have any Ananas? Or something else stripey? I also have my eye on a couple on a friend’s trade list. To think that I only have room for 18 tomato plants in two raised beds this year, and that may be giving them less air circulation than I should. 😦 Note: I’m sure I will have extra seedlings, just like last spring, so put your hand up if you want some.

The vegetable list hits nearly two dozen, if you allow chard, bok choi and such. There’s a separate salad greens list, boosted incredibly from that Christmas present of Asian greens. Add 10, plus the edible Chrysanthemums (I didn’t know where to put them, so I’ve decided they rate as greens.) Herbs — nearly a dozen, and I had to restrain myself from adding to it. I was just at Home Depot and they had lime basil (delicious!) and lemon basil (want to try it) for $1.07 per packet. Gold star for me because I walked away.

Finally, there are two pages of flower seeds. I’m planning on scattering a lot of cosmos seeds come May.

So what could possibly be missing? I’d like to try pattycake squash and some eggplant. And how about potatoes? Did you see the New York Times article a while back suggesting that Keuka Gold could be the new Yukon Gold? I’d be willing to give them a try.

The Brit is ready to ramp up seedling production, which I think means yet another heat mat and more grow lights. As for me, I need to become even more diligent about square-foot gardening.

Thousands of seeds

Our seed stockpile keeps growing!

This is what borage looks like

This time it’s courtesy of my sister-in-law, who gave us 16 packs from Seeds of Change (yes, the White House’s choice) of things we wouldn’t have  bought, and I mean this in the nicest possible way. She came up with two groups: Asian greens and plants that attracts beneficial insects. So we now have seeds for Texas hummingbird sage (red!), medicinal borage (cool-looking!), butterfly weed (orange!) and tall fernleaf fiddlenecks (great name!). The greens include white icicle heirloom radishes, komatsuna (brassica rapa, in Latin, and not something I know from my local Asian store) and edible chrysanthemums (a  zesty, edible green for an unusual addition to salads, canned goods, or freshly prepared vegetable dishes, according to Seeds of Change.)

The Brit has ruled out a sixth raised bed. That mean We’re (I’m) going to have become more efficient with our space.

Coming next: our seed inventory. Want to take part in our seed exchange?

From the garden–in January

Yes, we are still eating from the garden!

We didn’t get the leeks out for Thanksgiving and then it snowed … It made us  wonder just how cold-tolerant leeks are. Just frost, or a foot of snow is OK? Now that the snow is gone, we decided it was time to dig them out and roast them before they turned to mush. Only there were so many that we still have some in the ground.

Fresh leeks from the garden, heading for the oven
We can't fit in all our leeks!

Our conclusion: Yum! We definitely will be growing more leeks this year, and maybe even succeed in harvesting them earlier. Very easy to grow (the hardest part probably was transplanting seedlings into larger pots, which the Brit did using a pencil to make the hole. We kept them under grow lights for a couple of months). We packed them in pretty close together and probably had two dozen. We could try double that.

Our other garden food is a spicy tomato sauce that I canned this summer. To be honest, the tomatoes might have been one of those bulk farmers market purchases. The recipe, called Creole Sauce, comes from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving and is wonderfully spicy. We put it on top of pasta tonight. Another one that I’ll be making again. (If you want to learn to can, this is a great reference book. Lots of ‘how to’ explanations plus 400 recipes, from jams and tomato sauces to ice cream toppings and mustard.)