Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why I Ordered the Seeds that I Did

I’ve made my “big” seed order online this year, with Johnny’s Selected Seeds.    I ordered six packets of vegetable and one of flower seeds.  Let’ me tell you why I ordered what I did.

Plato zucchini, $2.95 (average 30 seeds).  What’s a veggie garden without zucchini?  I usually pick a cheap packet off a rack in a big box store, but it was so easy to stop and browse in Johnny’s catalog.  Highlighted names in this catalog are called “Easy Choice” selections that are easy to grow, widely adaptable, and good tasting.  A plus is that Plato has excellent disease resistance, which may prevent problems if this summer is extra hot and humid.

Diva seedless and thin-skinned cucumber, $2.95 (20 seeds).   Johnny’s says Diva “just might be the best-tasting cuke on the planet.”  Hmm, “just might,” but then, maybe not.  Quite frankly, I’ll settle for a good-tasting cuke in my garden and will let the planet fend for itself.  Since powdery mildew wiped out my cukes last summer, I was attracted to Diva because it’s resistant to mildews and scab.  The fruit is “bitter-free,” which also is a plus.  And for those who never read anything without their Funk & Wagnall’s Dictionary by their side, this cuke variety is gynoecious and parthenocarpic.

Ok, I surrender.  “Gynoecious” means the plants are all-female, which most likely makes that part of the cuke universe interesting indeed.  “Parthenocarpic” means it can grow fruit without pollination.  Just what is Mother Nature up to these days?   I rush on and refuse to speculate.

Coastal Star lettuce, $2.95 (600 seeds).  For several years I’ve grown Parris Island Cos/Romaine, a lovely upright, green lettuce that does well even in our mid-Atlantic heat.  Johnny’s has Parris Island, but I noted Coastal Star just above it with this note: “Similar to Parris Island but … darker green and more tolerant to heat.  Since I usually plant early and late crops of lettuce so it can flourish in the cooler spring and fall weather, I thought I’d try Coastal Star for just a little more heat tolerance.  Lettuce bolts (grows a flower stalk) and turns bitter in hot weather.  Maybe Coastal Star will extend my lettuce season.

Sun Gold, our favorite tangerine-orange cherry tomato, $2.95 (40 seeds).  I don’t think I’d plant tomatoes if I couldn’t grow some Sun Golds.  They’re vigorous, long-bearing indeterminate plants.  You may find Sun Golds available at a farmer’s stand near you, but they tend to split, especially after rain, so the best place to find them is in your backyard garden.  They have one serious downside, though.  If you pick a bowl of them, by the time you get the bowl to your kitchen, it will be half empty.

A determinate tomato variety is one that continues to grow, bloom, and fruit until frost or disease kills the plant, so there is a continuing series of fruits growing and maturing during the growing season.  An indeterminate variety tops off at a specific height and tends to bear fruit over a relatively short time period.  Determinate varieties do well in containers or in small garden spaces.

Defiant PhR tomato, $4.95 (20 seeds).  Every year I try out a new tomato or two, and this is one for this year.  Several seed companies have new varieties advertised as resistant to late blight, but Johnny’s says this one, developed in cooperation with North Carolina State University, has “high resistance to late blight and intermediate resistance to early blight combined with great taste.”  Late blight devastated tomato crops in many areas of the country in 2009.  Early blight is a minor bother endemic to my garden, so I’m going to give Defiant a try.  The “PhR” in its name refers to its Resistance to Phytophthora, the water mold that causes late blight.  Defiant is a determinate variety, so I will be eager to see if it produces well and for how long.

Helenor rutabaga, $2.95 (300 seeds).  It’s an embarrassment that at our local Giant Food store the checkout clerks generally don’t know a rutabaga from a football and the store’s veggie chart lists them under “Yellow Turnip.”  Clearly this is a veggie that gets no respect.  But I love rutabagas!  We cannot have Thanksgiving dinner without a bowl of rutabagas—simply boiled and mashed with butter or with cream.  Oh, why do I salivate as I type this?

Love-Lies-Bleeding amaranthus, $2.95 (100 seeds).  I have a soft spot for beautiful flowers.  For several years I’ve grown Cock’s Comb celosia, which in late summer has a dark, red comb like a rooster that all but invites you to cut and dry it for winter display on your desk or mantle.  I usually start a half dozen to 10 plants, put two in my garden and give the rest away.  I recently asked Linda, who enjoyed a gift Cock’s Comb last year, if I should repeat or try something new, like Love-Lies-Bleeding, which features deep red, trailing chenille-like blooms.  She said they’re both beautiful, would complement each other, and suggested I start some of each.  Since I have extra Cock’s Comb seeds from last year in the seed jar in our fridge, I quickly agreed.

Five packets, $23.65 plus $6.95 shipping—reasonable price, unlimited summer exercise and delight.  Yes, Grow It Eat It, but I’ll pass on the Love-Lies-Bleeding.

If you’d like to see what these varieties look like, you can see good photos in Johnny’s catalog.  To go there, CLICK HERE.


  1. Reading your Blog makes me hungry !! Those Sun Golds look so delicious and the descriptions of the others were sometimes funny, but also tasty sounding! You should do advertising for Johnny's, as a side job!!