Spring is almost here! This time of year there may be a bit less work in the field for farmers, but there is still plenty of planning and preparation to occupy their time, including ordering seeds and even starting some planting. We asked a four Seeders in the LET um EAT Collective about their seed catalogue preferences and plans for this growing season. Thank you to Nadine Basile (Mineral Springs Ranch, Carlton, OR), Caleb Barron (Fogline Farm, Soquel, CA), Kara Gilbert (Vibrant Valley Farm, Portland, OR) and Chris Casad (Juniper Jungle Farm, Bend, OR) for their responses and good luck in the 2016 growing season!
What is your go-to seed catalogue and why?
Nadine Basile: Most of our seeds come from Territorial Seed in Cottage Grove. They’re local, so I know that the seeds they offer do well in our area. Also, they have a good selection of organic (and now biodynamic) seeds to choose from, and they are quick and professional. I also get some seed from Irish Eyes in Washington, they have the best organic potato selection around, and some things they offer a bit more cheaply than Territorial Seed. I also look at Adaptive Seed, Johnny’s Seed (I can’t help myself, they have the best tools in their catalog), Peaceful Valley. Of course, the mother of all seed catalogs is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and I get a few hard-to-find things from them and just sort of worship them from afar.
Caleb Barron: Johnny’s. They have the best variety and most everything I need. Plus I think they have the easiest website to use.
Kara Gilbert: Given that we grow both flower and vegetables, our go to seed catalogues are many. For the vegetables, we are very loyal to Johnny’s Seeds in Maine. They are consistent, we know the seed quality and can rely on them, and they are affordable. Regarding the flowers, we are very fond of Geo Seeds, a southern company in Georgia that has an incredible selection and the women that work there are super helpful and excited to share their expertise.
Chris Casad: Seed Savers Exchange. We use all heirloom so we can do our best to save seeds and never have to purchase them again. The seed quality is excellent and they have the larger amounts that the farm now needs. Not all heirloom companies have more than just packet sizes.
Do you do any seed saving?
Nadine Basile: As much as we can! Flowers and lettuces are easy for us, tomatoes too. We try to do our best with melons and squashes, but we plant too closely to know whether we’ll get something true back, but we try regardless. This year we’ll be reseeding beans, oats, lettuces, popcorn, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, flowers and some melon seeds I hold dear. We’ve had the same strain of garlic for the last 5 years and it gets better every year. Fingers crossed that we’ll have success with it again this year. I still can’t help myself from buying new seeds though.
For the last 2 seasons we’ve been able to grow the majority of our own cover crop seed on the South side of the property to use on the North side farm and in the vineyard, too, which is a great cost savings for us.
Caleb Barron: We do not.
Kara Gilbert: We do save seeds. We save some vegetables, like peppers, garlic, mustards and arugula. As a diverse flower and vegetable farm, we are often limited in space for crops to grow to seeds, so we most often save flower seeds. Given that the flowers are already heading towards their life cycle of seeding, it makes it easier to save them, instead of waiting for items that take far longer like cabbage or onions.
Chris Casad: Tons. The last couple of years we’ve even been packaging and selling individual family size packages. Our catalog is growing but saving seeds adds a whole other project and list of tasks. You have to be very mindful of when to harvest, when and where to store and when to get on things before they mold or get eaten by mice or birds or chickens or pigs or cows…
How and where do you store your seeds?
Nadine Basile: Dried in paper envelopes in a tupperware container in my office. Or in glass mason jars, depending on quantity. Our cover crop seed gets stored in 55 gallon poly barrels with screw-top lids.
Caleb Barron: I store the seeds I buy in an old wooden rat proof cabinet.
Kara Gilbert: At Vibrant Valley Farm we store our seeds in Rubbermaid totes, and do our best to assure they are in dry cool areas of the garage or the farm office.
Chris Casad: Generally, unless we have time during the warmer months, we usually bundle and hang the entire plants from the branches of trees to keep them out of the rain and start the drying process. Then once we get to them, whether it be fall or winter, we start processing the seed off the plants.
When will you start planting this year?
Nadine Basile: Already started in the greenhouse with some micro-greens, mustards and orach! But mostly we will begin in earnest in mid-February in the greenhouse, most everything in the greenhouse is seeded by March, and then we begin seeding in the field in May. I think this will be an early season if it ever stops raining. We may sneak in a spring planting of favas in the field as soon as we can get them in.
Caleb Barron: Peppers, tomatoes, and onions, last week of January/first week of February. Everything else in March.
Kara Gilbert: We have already started to plant specific items, although most of our large sowing days are coming up and this happens mid-February, early March.
Chris Casad: We just started planting seeds in the greenhouse and in the field. It’s different every year but the at some point the weather shifts and the animals like geese start to move which is been our sign to get going.
Are you trying to grow anything new this year that you’re particularly excited about?
Nadine Basile: Some new tomato and pepper varieties, cardoooooons, new-to-us perennial herbs, and a host of new flowers that I’ve never planted before. I’m also excited about trying some miniature red eggplants this year, and we’re planning for some dense plantings of cut-and-come-again lettuces that we can harvest for salad mixes. That will be new for us as well, we usually do lots of head lettuces.
Caleb Barron: I’m trying to simplify the CSA by growing the same amount of different veggies, but focus on the varieties we can also sell at market and be more consistent with every crop (which I’m still learning to do). The few crops that really sell well at market that I want to grow more of are red kitten spinach, Pircicaba broccoli, little gem lettuces, fairytale eggplant, white satin carrots, orange/yellow beets, and always more padron peppers.
Kara Gilbert: The beautiful element of farming on a small scale, is that whether or not we are growing something totally new or something we have grown before it is always a new experience that is exciting and something to learn from.
Specifically this year we are excited to grow Kalettes, Cipollini onions, Micro- greens, Indigo, Lisianthus and new Dahlias varieties like Café au Lait.
Chris Casad: We always seem to try a couple handfuls of new varieties of this and that. My goal this year for seed saving is to do better at creating a box of plants for seed saving and actually saving the best ones no matter what. Other than that the only thing that sparked my serious interest this winter has been sweet potatoes, which can be done here in Central Oregon.
Seed Companies used by these Seeders: