Homesteading – Those Seed Catalogs…

We plow the seeds and scatter the good seed on the land/But it is fed and watered by God’s Almighty hand…seed choices.

First, though, we need the seed. That means, for us, buying seed. I have none to swap, none saved. And buying seed means seed catalogs. They used to come in the mail about now, thick books, some full of photos of luscious tomatoes, bright green lettuce, glossy onions. My father would let me choose a packet or two to try. My next door neighbour and I at the age of ten would argue the merits of our choices.

The reward for the packet of Big Boy or Early Girl tomatoes and oakleaf lettuce was hours and hours of weeding and picking.

Seed catalogs are online now, and I am spending hours poring over them – lured by “29 packets of non-GMO seeds for only $1.80!!!!” And “Early and BIG!!!!” In the end, I will order from one of the companies I’ve used in the past – Vesey’s, Johnny’s or Shepherd’s.

I ordered seeds one year, right after returning to Maine, had a little garden plot the size of a bed quilt, and found it was quite weedy. I cleared and cleared before putting in my transplants. My then-husband, whom we shall call Dennis since that is not his name, mentioned the problem to a friend at work. “You need a cover crop,” the friend said, misled by descriptions that this was a field, not just a wee bit of unturfed ex-pasture. He gave Dennis a bag – about three POUNDS of buckwheat. Yes, buckwheat, the grain that grows anywhere and with great vigour. It was the poor man’s wheat in our part of Maine. One morning, unknown to me, Dennis put down the buckwheat on my garden. All three pounds of it.

Aroostook County, Maine, has fertile soil. It supports potatoes and giant spruce trees. Anything will germinate in the rich, moist earth. It may get frost killed, but it will burst forth and put down roots. You can’t leave a wooden-handled axe leaning against a tree overnight for fear it will sprout.

I had a lovely crop of buckwheat. I had some tomatoes and peppers, some beans, and lots of buckwheat, which I pulled out by the handfuls every other day.

This year we are planning a big garden. We are in agricultural zone three – sub-arctic. The land hasn’t been opened in perhaps a decade. I may be able to get it certified organic. Any advice? Good crops to plant for keeping, canning, and marketing? Where are you buying seeds?

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11 thoughts on “Homesteading – Those Seed Catalogs…

  1. Here we have had a very severe winter, and somewhat to my surprise the perpetual spinach Badger sowed bounced back time and again. The harder the frost the tougher it got was all – but it proved very hard to kill.
    The only other comment I have to make is not about seeds but about blackfly. I guess that you, like me, dislike spraying your food with chemicals, but we find that without fail, whatever the companion planting, are broad bean crops suffer badly with blackfly infestation. I know of nothing but nasty chemicals that will kill them once they come, but they can be kept away very effectively by spraying before they arrive with a bottle of what is in effect garlicky washing up water – mostly water with a clove or two of crushed garlic in it and a squirt of washing up liquid (we use Ecover which is Earth-friendly). If this spraying is done every now and then as the plants are developing, the blackfly go somewhere else.

    • Have you tried Autumn planting your broad beans, Ember? That works ok for us. We’ve got ‘Aquadulce longpod’, and they are about 8 cm high. They survived the cold snap the end of last year fine even thought I failed to put a layer of horticultural fleece over cos the ground was already rock hard!
      I think if you get them going early enough they have a chance to set seed before the blackfly get too bad.
      Please would you tell me which kind of companion planting you have tried which didn’t work?

  2. Outstanding goal to have a certified organic garden:) Shepherd’s is my alltime favorite. I still get seed catalogs; have recently received Seeds of Change certified organic, Abundant Life Seeds preserving rare and endangered seeds since 1975 (this one has my heart),The Cook’s Garden (PA), and Territorial Seed Company which is a new one to me. I’ve been dreaming organic country garden for 20 years.. Enjoy your planning and the garden tilling yet to come. What is your land’s ph?

    • It is probably acidic, most of the time it is here. It was all fir and spruce for eons. We will test in the spring. I’ve used Cook’s Garden, too.

  3. Yer Anglican Plain Blog is like relaxing, a pillow propped up, close enough to the wood stove, reading seed catalogs, days just barely inching up a few more minutes of day light each day, spring far off on the way, in the distance, nice hopeful

  4. Seedsaver’s Exchange is my source for seed. If you join now, you can probably get the Yearbook which is a listing of all the members with seeds for sale/swap. Great resource. http://www.seedsavers.org Membership is $40/yr which gets you the quarterly magazine, the Yearbook & 10% off all orders.

    I live in Zone 8a, your diametric opposite. We grow cabbage, root crops & greens in winter and our summer crops get planted in early-mid February. Taters go in the ground Jan 20th. My ex & I are on cordial terms, so I plant on his 8 acres. The ground is sandy loam and reasonably fertile.

  5. Hello,

    I pop in from time to time and thoroughly enjoy your writing. It is an encouragement to me, being the only plain-dressing Christian I know 🙂

    I live in central Maine and get most, if not all, our family’s seeds from Fedco Seeds. They are very well priced (I have looked and LOOKED) and offer nothing that is a known GMO. They have three catalogs that come out at the right seasons, one for seeds, then trees, then bulbs. The best part is, they carry seeds suited for climates like your and mine. http://www.fedcoseeds.com

    Hope you enjoy them. I highly recommend them. And thank you for all the effort that you put into your posts.

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