Every gardener gets through the winter by dreaming of spring and the new growth it brings. Seeds are the gardeners’ dreams in a packet. The number of available varieties gets better each season, making seed selection an exciting pursuit year after year. Ask your seed seller for advice on new varieties, or if you are unsure about what to grow.
There is great interest in heirloom varieties, as these offer great flavour, proven success, and some natural resistance to problems. A common problem home gardeners face is the dreaded tomato blight. Blight is either in the ground or airborne — it just arrives on the wind — and can be very hard to control. Varieties have been discovered that were bred for tomato blight resistance (and other problems in the garden, like powdery mildew).
The term breeding refers to the hybridization of plants. A hybrid is two varieties bred together (cross-pollinated) to get the best traits of both. This happens in nature all the time, as pollinators travel from flower to flower and cross-pollinate. The seed from the hybridized plant will not re-produce itself. Seed companies can sell a hybrid seed by knowing the “recipe” of seed combinations to get a specific variety. Hybrids are not genetically modified in any way. They are usually identified on the seed packet by the notation “F1.”
One new variety this season that will be exciting to try is the “Iron Lady Tomato,” developed by High Mowing Organic Seeds with Cornell University and North Carolina State University. It is a mid-sized, great flavoured tomato with impressive resistance to late blight (most common) and the stems and branches resist early blight. It is also resistant to fusarium wilt, verticillum wilt and seporia leaf spot. This is a bit technical but if you have ever had your tomatoes wiped out by blight you should try this variety!
One other thing you can do to deter blight is to keep your garden clean. If you did get blight or other diseases, remove all of that plant material and dispose of it or burn it. Do not compost it! Mulching, after planting your garden, also helps keep diseases that are in the ground, in the ground and not on your plants.
An heirloom flower from Renee’s Garden Seed has been re-introduced for spring 2016. The “Climbing Phoenix” Nasturtium is a split-petal, vining nasturtium dating back to the 19th century that has not been offered for sale in years. Its unique petals, shaped like little flames, are sure to be a standout. The flowers range in colour through crimson-red, rich gold, fiery orange, warm cream and soft peach, offering bright bold and pastel blossom shades. Another great reason to grow this, as with all nasturtiums, is that both leaves and flowers are edible, offering a mild peppery flavour note. They are also a prolifically flowering plant, and wonderful as a border or in containers. The vining element offers great possibilities for containers as an upright feature with some support, or left to cascade over the edge. Ontario Seed Company (OSC) also has a mounding version of the Phoenix nasturtium.
Pollinator plants are very much requested, and a very popular choice to help nature maintain some balance for the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Some of the beautiful and bountiful varieties to look for are Anise Hyssop, Verbena Bonariensis and Cerinthe. Many native varieties are also great pollinators and make attractive garden plants. These include Butterfly Weed (a member of the milkweed family, with bold beautiful orange flowers), Echinacea or Cone Flower (with striking flower heads in an attractive purple), Black-eyed Susan (great black and soft orange flowers), and Bee Balm (with gorgeous colours from pale to deep pinks and rosy lavender). Pollinators are the preferred plants of birds and insects seeking a good food source that reliably produces nectar and is easily accessible for feeding.
Growing from seed is rewarding, educational and economical. To grow your plants from seed start a minimum of six to eight weeks before the last frost, which usually occurs between May 24th and June 1st. After that you can safely plant out the seedlings you have nurtured, or seed directly outdoors without any worries.
Check out the 2016 seed selections and try something new!
Local Seed Suppliers
Anything Grows SEED Co. • Saturdays at The Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market • anythinggrows.com
Canadale Nurseries • 269 Sunset Dr, St. Thomas • canadale.ca
Cozyn’s Garden Gallery • 680 Huron St, Stratford • cozynsgardengallery.ca
Heeman’s • 20422 Nissouri Rd, London • heeman.ca
Klomp’s Nursery & Garden Centre • 3994 Line 20, Saint Pauls Station • klomps.net
Parkway Gardens • 1473 Gainsborough Rd, London • parkwaygardens.ca
Van Luyk Greenhouses and Garden Centre • 1728 Gore Rd, London •vanluyk.com
Online Catalogue Seed Sources
Floribunda Seeds • Indian River • florabundaseeds.com
Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds • Palmerston • hawthornfarm.ca
Ontario Seed Co. • Waterloo • oscseeds.com
Richters Herbs • Goodwood • richters.com
William Dam Seeds • Dundas • williamdam.ca