The Living Seed Company

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Planting your Winter Garden in the Summer

www.kerstinkeifer.comEver wondered when would be a great time to plant a garden you can harvest in the cold of winter? Now! Believe it or not, from now till mid-summer is the ideal time to plant seeds for your fall and winter garden.

If growing a winter garden has piqued your interest, then read up on how to best grow varieties you would like on your winter table. It will be wise to do some research and even check in with your local extension office, as not all varieties will want to be grown now and some will grow better in the fall and others in the spring.

As your spring garden begins to wane and more space becomes available in your garden beds, now would be a great time to begin selecting your favorite cool loving vegetables.   Think Brussels spouts, cabbage, kale, carrots, beets, Swiss Chard, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, celery, favas, leeks, mustards, radishes and many more!

Keep in mind that protecting your plants from the heat, during the summer months and then protecting them from fall and winter frosts will be the key to a successful winter garden. Integrating cold-frames, row covers and clotches might be the perfect solution to extending the seasons and protecting your crops.

When deciding what to plant, think of the varieties that take the most time to mature and plant those now, while plan to seed those varieties that are fast to mature and plant those later in the season. Take into account the amount of time needed before transplanting and harvesting, this in addition to, noting plants sensitive to frost is something to consider. Lastly, taking into consideration fall factor is key to success! Fall factor represents the change in pace plants take as they move into the dark of the year.

When thinking of what you want to enjoy on those cold winter days, its important to work backwards when planning your garden. Take into account the following:

  • The amount of days from planting to transplanting
  • Incorporate the average number of days till maturity
  • Tack on an extra couple of weeks to account for the fall factor

= The number of days to count backwards for prime winter garden production

If you live in areas where temperatures reach around the late 90’s and early 100’s, in the summer, it is important to take extra care of your seedlings as they emerge. Keeping them in areas that hover around 85 degrees or below is important to make sure they are not being scorched. An easy solution would also be to start your seedlings inside and transplant after they have reached about an inch or so in height.

Keep in mind that mulching your garden beds now, like any other time, is only going to benefit water retention, weed suppression, added organic matter and enhanced fertility.

Succession planting is another excellent planning method to help you arrive at a continuous harvest. Keep track of your planting days on your garden calendar or journal. Keeping good notes, year after year, will ensure that you are learning from your mistakes and making the most of each season!


Seed of the Week | Lemon Cucumber

Lemon Cucumber

Every week we are going to introduce a Seed of the Week, where we are going to select one seed to highlight.  We will share the historical attributes, the story that makes this variety an heirloom and why we love it so much!

This unique, pretty cuke is prized by gourmet chefs for its delicate flavor and crisp flesh.  Deriving its name from its yellow skin, shape and size.  An old heirloom that is sure to still please the discriminating cucumber lover and is easy to digest.

This one is easy to grow, works well in containers, and is extremely productive. Best when harvested young. Great for slicing, salads, on sandwiches and makes delicious pickles!

Please meet … Lemon Cucumber

A perfect vegetable to plant now and enjoy towards the end of summer – a perfect time to cool with cucumber water or salad!  Best of all?  It’s on sale, for only $1.50 – time to eat cucumber

The Giving Seed Program

Denver Urban Gardens

The Living Seed Company believes everyone should have access to vital, pure, open-pollinated seed varieties and through their The Giving Seed Program, seed donations have been sent to Haiti, India, Africa, Europe, South America and throughout the United States.

Over the past three years, The Giving Seed Program has given away over 4,000 packets of fresh heirloom seeds to school garden programs, inner city youth programs, community gardens, seed libraries, food banks, correctional facilities, veteran programs and others.  The Living Seed Company also covers the cost of shipping.

We take recommendations for seed donations, feel free to email us at  Interested in donating to our program?
Donations can also be made by calling us at 415.663.8002 or by sending a check to:

The Living Seed Company                                                                                                                                                                                      P.O. Box 177                                                                                                                                                                                                      Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Namibia Seed Donation

Namibia Seed Donation

India Donations

Women’s Earth Alliance Seed Donation India

The Giving Seed Program began with a vision to give back to our local, national and global community.  We kicked it off with donating a collection for every ten collections sold.

Today, aside from giving away collections, we are also giving away individual packets suited to particular growing regions and community needs. 

 The Living Seed Company also gives out Basic Saving Booklets to encourage and support communities saving seeds and adapting them to their bio-regions.


A Few of our Donation Recipients

Inner City Coalition

Inner City Coalition

  • Seed Lending Library | Steamboat Springs, CO
  • N.W. Regional Correctional Facility | McChord, WA
  • Denver Urban Gardens | Denver, CO
  • Mill Valley Seed Library | Mill Valley, CA
  • Hunters Point Family Girls Program | San Francisco, CA
  • The 4-H Auerfarm | Bloomfield, CT
  • Youth  Over the Rhine | Cincinnati, OH
  • AgriCorps | San Jose, CA
  • Opportunities Over the Rhine | Cincinnati, OH
  • Capital District Community Gardens | Troy, NY
  • Comida del Bosque | 4 Corners
  • The Institue of Ag | Steamboat Springs, CO
  • Huichol People | Mexico
  • Idaho Plant a Row  | Coeur d’Alene, ID
  • Church Living Stone Baptist | Chesterfield, VA
  • Alfred Community Garden | Alfred, NY
  • San Quentin Correctional Facility | San Rafael, CA
  • Alder Ave School | Egg Harbor Township, NJ
  • The Neighborhood Farm Initiative | Washington DC


Thank you so much for your seed donation and for what your company is doing to save these valuable seeds.                         M. Fay

We are so appreciative of your generosity in choosing DUG as the recipient of a seed donation. Your donation means so much to the gardening community in Denver. Thank you!                                                                                                                           J. Romer  

We are greatly appreciate your effort and helping us with the seeds program for Haiti.  Again many thanks May God richly bless you.                                                                                                                                                                                               Pastor J. M. Etienne



Not All Seed Is Created Equal

Painted Mountain Corn The world of seeds can be a cornucopia of information, images and wild descriptions, almost all with promising results.  Unfortunately, for most novice gardeners, it can be very misleading and frustrating.  How can you tell if a seed company is good or not?  Simple, if you can call them and have them provide you with where their seed crops have been grown.  Most small seed  houses would be more than happy to provide such information, as it proves that the consumer is going the extra mile to ensure where their seed source truly comes from.  You will be surprised to learn that not many seed companies grow their own seed, which leaves the consumer to trust each company for providing seed that has vigor, traits and characteristics signature to each seed.

Today, you can find prices for a packet of seed, start at a modest 99 cents and reach upwards of $8.00.  So what is the difference in that large gap?  Most seed, sold economically via big box retailers is usually grown in Asia.  Which means, it is already adapted to a region, soil type and water source, that is completely different from what you have at home.  Their organic standards may be something to question, as well as their labor practices and environmental impact, among other things.  Despite federal germination standards, inexpensive seed has lower germination.  Although this may or may not be due to the quality, it often has to do with how the seeds are stored and transported, before it makes its way into a garden.  Seeds are living breathing embryos and conditions that are too hot can inevitably kill the seed before it has even had a chance to germinate.  At the turn of the 20th century, the United States was full of regional seed houses covering the country from coast to coast.  In the 80’s there was a huge consolidation of the seed industry when large pharmaceutical and big ag companies bought out many of these family owned businesses.  This not only reduced the available genetic stock to gardeners and farmers, but began to tip the scales heavily, in a direction that did not favor biodiversity, preserving genetic stock, seed saving or family farms.    This has caused a dichotomy in the world of seeds and available food varieties, but with new seed houses sprouting up again, things are changing and rare and unusual varieties are becoming the vegetables and fruits of choice.  Most importantly, consumers are becoming more aware of what to look for in their food, what questions to ask their farmers and now, how to choose from a reputable seed company.

Not all seImageed is created equal.  A seed may have the same variety name, as seed from another company, but the quality in its traits may be vastly different.  Just imagine the difference in how a small farmer vs. a large farmer will have the ability to pay attention to his fields and truly choose crops that are only of the highest quality. The purity of a seed variety is only as clean as the attention paid to that crop. More awareness among gardeners and consumers, alike, are realizing the importance of supporting small family farms and family owned businesses, which the very back bone of what this country was created on.

Seeds naturally adapt to where they are being grown, the  more they are planted in the same place the more resilient they become to pests, disease and inclement weather.  Seeds, sold from a reputable seed house can offer seeds that were probably grown in conditions where plants are rouged and seed is never harvested from diseased or weak plants.  This practice in turns builds strength and purity in a genetic line, assuring vigor in future generations.  Choosing seed that has been grown in your local area or in similar climate will assure that the seeds you plant will naturally be more acclimated to your climate and will thrive with your love and attention.  This inherently builds regional resilience in the food supply of an area.Image

It wasn’t too long ago that most gardeners and farmers saved the seed from their fields, but with the on-slot of modern agriculture, that ancient practice began to fall away in favor of hybrids and petroleum-based pesticides and insecticides.  The chain was broken, but only temporarily. There is a resurgence in returning to these practices, these ways that have been tried and true for thousands of generations and they are reminding us of how things were done.  In such a way that is in reverence to the plants and the earth, where a relationship of reciprocity is developed and trusted.  One of our main principles, as a small family owned seed company, is for more and more farmers and gardeners to begin to tap back into the beautiful cycle of life, known as seed saving.  We believe seeds are not meant to be stored, we believe the most vital seed vault is in your very garden.  The living embodiment of life and death, the place where we find ourselves and learn about the nuances of life.

There is a strong opposition, happening globally, to reject what is happening in modern ag and the truth is that growing a garden may be one of the most radical acts anyone can do.  It directs the energy into what works, locally grown food sourced from your backyard.  For those without a yard, supporting local farmers via CSA’s and farmers markets can be as rewarding and powerful.  Starting a garden with pure seed is essential in growing a healthy vibrant garden!  When folks buy seed from us, we see it as though they have joined our growing family.  Where they will received the support they need to assure their plants thrive in the ways that they are meant to!



Seed of the Week | Vermont Cranberry Bean


With the amazing response we have received from highlighting our favorite seeds, we have decided to do a seed of the week!

Every week we are going to introduce a Seed of the Week, where we are going to select one seed to highlight.  We will share the historical attributes, the story that makes this variety an heirloom and why we love it so much!

The Vermont Cranberry Bean is an extremely versatile heirloom, able to be enjoyed as a snap, shell or dry bean.  Originally dating back to the 1800’s from Northern New England,  this bean is truly timeless in its taste, texture and appearance!   Known as mild bean, that can easily absorb the flavors it is cooked with.

This is an excellent bean for West Coast climates that has a tendency towards cooler nights.

Interested in trying your hand at seed saving?  Beans are one of the easiest crops to start with!  Let the plant dry completely down, harvest pods, remove beans and store in an air tight (not vacuum sealed) jar.  If rain is approaching and you have not harvested your beans yet, pull the entire plant, roots and all and place in a dry and rodent-free place, until the pods are completely dry.

Please meet … Vermont Cranberry Pole Bean

What a wonderful heirloom pole bean from Vermont!  Multipurpose, maroon with cranberry stripes, bean can be used as a dry bean with a rich flavor for soups and makes an outstanding baked bean.  Also an incredibly beautiful pink-striped snap bean and great as a shelly.

This bean will do great in cool-weather, short season climates.  Dry bean keeps great in storage.


Seed of the Month | Cosmic Purple Carrot


Every month we are going to introduce a Seed of the Month, where we are going to select one seed to highlight.  We will share the historical attributes, the story that makes this variety an heirloom and why we love it so much!

This stunningly beautiful vegetable is now sought after by chefs and home-cooks for its radiant colors, delicious taste and enhanced health benefits.  Purple Carrots have been grown in since 900 A.D. in Afghanistan, Turkey and Middle East, but this incredible carrot was only Introduced in 2005.  Dr. Philipp Simon and staff at the USDA  in Madison, Wisconsin, bred a whole new spectrum of  colored carrots, stay tuned for more of those varieties!

The Cosmic Purple Carrot adds a punch to any meal, whether enjoyed raw or cooked.  Grate it in a salad or on the side, add some lime juice and relish in the crunch while enhancing your meal with a sweet spice!

Please meet Cosmic Purple Carrot

An amazing colored carrot, Cosmic Purple on the outside and brilliant orange and yellow on the inside.  A delicious sweet and spicy flavor that kids of all ages will love!  This one is a favorite!

Purple has always been a sign of royalty and now purple vegetables are a sign of health. Rich in phytonutrients, this vegetable will add more than just beauty to your meal, it will enhance your overall well-being!

The importance of Planting a Garden this Year

Drought With California experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record and Governor Brown having declared a state of emergency, it is no wonder many gardeners have decided to let their gardens go fallow this year. The only problem with that philosophy is that by planting a garden this year, could be one of the wisest thing gardeners can do, to actually save water. There is a misunderstanding that growing a garden takes a lot of water.  On the contrary, gardens when done properly, do not require much water at all.

The irony, in this misnomer, is that factory farms and large farming operations, intensely and often improperly use water to not only irrigate crops, but also to wash and prepare veggies for market. A backyard garden would use a dramatically less amount of water to grow and wash the same vegetables.


In the shadows on this drought, it is also estimated that food prices are on the rise. With California being one of the largest global producers of vegetables, fruits and nuts, it is only natural that prices will reflect the effects of this drought. It is also speculated that it will have a two-year impact on tree crops, such as fruit and nuts, since its takes these crops longer to recover from the drought.

Carnival Clown carrots from our garden Quoted from the USDA website:

Despite the surge in the fresh fruit … and ongoing concerns regarding the effect of the California drought, farm-level fruit prices fell 6.8 percent in March, and farm vegetable prices rose 1 percent. The timing of the effects of the drought on prices … depends heavily on the harvest period for each

commodity; such effects may not occur until the Summer or Fall of 2014.

 This forecast is based on an assumption of normal weather conditions; however, severe weather events could potentially drive up food prices beyond the current forecasts. In particular, the ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices …


We have come a long way in water technology to design and create systems that inherently are water efficient and more wasted watereffective in their purpose, for example to water plants and not sidewalks.

By integrating a drip system in your own garden, you are not only effectively watering your plants, by targeting their roots, but you are also using a system that conserves water. Not all gardens will have the ability to have drip installed, but there are further alternatives in water technology to be water wise. Not all nozzles are created equal. Using nozzles that properly aerate and distribute water can be a simple solution for those who enjoy hand watering their gardens.

Consider collecting the water, that is wasted, when you are waiting for the water to heat up to water your garden. Do you have aerators on your kitchen and bathroom faucets? Another simple water saving solution under $2.

Think of your stormwater and greywater, are you properly managing the water on your property? These days, installing rain barrels to a downspout is a simple and cost-effective solution to re-purpose our rainwater. Creating burms and swales helps navigate our storm water from ever even leaving our property and allowing it to properly be retained in the soil and replenish our water tables. Rerouting the waste water from your washing machine is another effective solution to water your trees. Best to use biodegradable detergents and naturally based detergents, if you are considering this option or are already implementing it.


SoilBuilding soil in your garden is the key to healthier crops, better water retention and drainage, better soil structure and less susceptibility to pests and disease. Healthy soil is the foundation of every garden and farm.

There are many simple cost-effective ways to add organic matter into your garden, such as planting a cover crop in the fall and using it as green manure. Other simple ways are sheet mulching, adding compost and integrating well-rotted manure. Mulching is another excellent way of building organic matter, suppressing weeds, preventing rain compaction, but most of all, it will retail moisture in the soil. There are many types of mulch, anything from grass clippings to leaves (oak leaves in particular make an excellent mulch). If you choose to buy your mulch and wanting to buy straw, make sure that you are buying straw and not hay. Hay will have seedheads that eventually will sprout in your garden. Maintain the 5% – 6% organic matter rule, as too much of it can over stimulate the microorganisms in the soil which can cause soil fertility to decline.

Soil that is properly tended, without chemicals and with the microbiology of the underground flora in mind will support and replenish water tables.


Saving seed this year is going to be another simple step in adapting, your vegetables to be being able to thrive on less water, if you replant them year after year. The more you save and adapt your seeds, the more resistant the seeds will be to pests and disease and adapted to your specific local climate and soil. In turn, if there is inclement weather, your crops are more likely to be resilient and able to properly respond to changes, such as drought.

Another way to save water in your garden or farm is to start exploring dry farming. With a long history, Mediterranean countries have been dry farming olives and grapes for thousands of years, producing some of the finest wines and olive oils. It is the process of establishing your crop, on the onset with irrigation and then removing it. This stress causes the plant to reach deep into the water table to find its water and re-hydrate itself. What happens in the process is that by restricting the water intake, the fruits have less water content, this naturally raises their sugar content as well as other enhancing flavor compounds, creating scrumptious fruits and vegetables.

If dry farming interests you, there things to keep in mind. You should know your water table levels, be assured that the plants you plan on dry farming are more drought resistant and lastly dry farm from the beginning. Varieties that thrive in this method are grapes, olives, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, garbanzos, apricots, apples, grains, potatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes and winter squash.

This may be the beginning of seeing the possibilities of growing food in a year of drought, while also empowering you to take a deeper look at where water conservation techniques can be integrated in your home, whether you own or not.



Seed of the Month | Chioggia Beet

Chioggia SmallEvery month we are going to introduce a Seed of the Month, where we are going to select one seed to highlight.  We will share the historical attributes, the story that makes this variety an heirloom and why we love it so much!

Best of all, this is a great variety to plant right now in many parts of the country.

We have enjoyed it cooked and raw in many of its beautiful forms.  We eat it grated raw in salads or as a side, pickled as a side dish as well as lightly cooked. Its sweetness and fun pattern make any meal so exciting!  We also toss the greens in a salad, as it adds additional taste and texture to the mix.

Please meet Chioggia Beet

A delightful candy striped Italian heirloom, name for a fishing village near Venice.  An eye pleaser with scarlet skin and red and white ringed flesh.  The flesh is sweet, mild and tender.   Wow your dinner guests with this beautiful beet!  Wonderful for fresh eating, in salads, steamed, pickled and if roasted whole and sliced just before serving it retains it’s markings.

Chioggia Front Packet

Bay Area Planting Guide


Q & A with Matthew: How to start your Spring Garden from Seed



Ask an Expert: Matthew Hoffman of The Living Seed Company


Winter is a great to time to start planning your indoor or outdoor edible garden for the year ahead. After you decide what to grow, the next step is to choose and then sow your seeds–tasks that can sometimes seem daunting to first-time or less-seasoned gardeners. We asked Matthew Hoffman, owner of Northern California’s  The Living Seed Company, for his troubleshooting tips and recommendations for planting an edible garden that flourishes, no matter what your space or experience level . Read on for his expert advice on choosing, sowing and transplanting seeds and seedlings.




What seeds do you recommend buying for an indoor edible garden?  


Grow what you love to eat!  And don’t be afraid to experiment.  Many herbs such as basil and cilantro will do great. Leafy greens such as, lettuce, spinach, kale, etc, are also very easy to grow and well suited for indoors.  A vining bean or pea is a great decoration as well as an edible.  Run the vines around a shelf or window.  Kids love picking the green beans and peas and popping them in their mouths.  Roots can do well indoors too.  Try shorter varieties of carrots, beets and radishes.  Tomatoes and peppers will work as well but need a larger pot, more space and more light.  Of course I would recommend The Living Seed Company’s Urban Collection.



When should one buy seeds? 


Starting in the early winter, the freshest seeds for that year become available.  Seed packets will state which year they are packed for, but most will live a few years beyond.  Over time, seeds will lose some of their viability. Seeds are alive–they should be kept in a cool, dark and dry place to extend their life.  You could keep them in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  If you do this, when you take them out make sure to leave the container out at room temperature until it warms up, before opening, to avoid condensation on the seeds.



What are the ideal conditions for growing seeds indoors?  


Plants, especially vegetables, need sunlight.  While leafy greens, carrots, peas and beets do not need a lot of direct light, they will grow faster the more they get.  Tomatoes and peppers really need 6-8 hours minimum to produce fruit.  A windowsill by the sink with sunlight can be a perfect place for some herbs or lettuce.  A bay window can become your own miniature indoor dream garden.  You can even hang pots to increase growing space.   South facing windows will receive the most light.  Be aware in the middle of summer that your plant friends will need more water if in full sun.  If its really hot and intense pull them (especially the greens) back from the window a bit until it cools down.  If lack of light is an issue,  indoor grow lights can be used.


If you are using saved seeds, or seeds given to you by a friend, how do you determine the ideal depth for planting them?  


Small seeds like carrots, lettuce, basil and kale should be planted just below the surface of the soil.  You can place the seeds on the surface of the soil and sprinkle a little more soil (1/8 to 1/4 inch) on top.  Larger seeds like beans, peas, squash and corn, can be planted about three times their width (a 1/2 inch bean about 1 1/2 inches deep).  Make sure to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged as young sprouts are very delicate.


Can you save seeds from your harvest for planting next year? If yes, how?


Yes!  Saving seeds is one of the most rewarding activities a gardener can do.  Not only do you benefit from having more seeds to plant, the seed will adapt to your particular climate and bioregion over time.  Just imaging your favorite varieties doing better and better over the generations.  Plus,  it is truly amazing to be part of the miracle of plants producing an abundance of seed and completing their life cycle!  Seed saving can be simple or complex depending on the type of seed you are saving.  Self pollinating perfect flowers like those on beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers can be very easy to save, with out worrying too much about cross pollination.  For beans and peas just let some of the pods dry down completely on the vine.  You can then shell the seeds and plant again next year.


Be sure to save seeds from numerous plants to avoid inbreeding depression, which will weaken you plants vigor and resilience over the years, do to genetic bottlenecking.  Let lettuce flower (also known as bolting) and once the pretty little yellow flowers are dried out, looking somewhat like a miniature dandelion, shake the flower heads into a paper bag every few days until you have the amount of seed you desire.  Pepper seeds can be removed from the flesh and placed on plate or cookie sheet to dry in a warm (not over 95 degrees F), dry place out of direct sun.  When the seed snaps between your finger nails, it is dry enough to store.  Tomatoes benefit from a fermentation process that treats the seed for seed borne diseases.  Cut the tomatoes in half at the equator.  Squish the seeds and juice out into a jar.  Place jar in a warm area (on top of the refrigerator is great).  After two to four days a mold (that co-evolved with the original wild tomato) will appear.  The seeds are then ready to be cleaned.  Fill the jar with water and stir.  After a few moments the good seeds will sink to the bottom and the bad float to the top.  Carefully pour off the bad seeds, any skin or flesh and the mold.  Repeat until water is mostly clean then pour the seeds into a strainer.  Remove any remaining debris by hand.  Empty seeds onto a plate or baking sheet and place in a warm, dry place.  When seeds are dry, using the finger nail snap test, you can safely store the seeds.


Other seed saving can be a bit more complex.  Biennials such as carrots and beets take two years to produce their seed and may require removing the roots from the soil if being grown where the ground freezes.  Other vegetables like squash, cucumbers and the cole crop family (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.) can cross pollinate with members within their species quite easily and measures need to be taken to prevent this if more than one variety is being grown and pure seed is desired.  If you really get into seed saving, I recommend picking up a book on the subject as their are many wonderful techniques and tips for seed savers.



How do you really know when your seedlings are ready to transplant?


If starting from flats, transplant into a container when the first true leaves emerge when the seedling is still very young.  These seedlings may then be transplanted again outside or into a larger container when they develop more but before they become root bound.  When transplanting to the outside, you will need to toughen them up for the outdoors by hardening them off.  Stop feeding them and water them less. Start putting them outside in a protected area out of wind and direct sunlight or in a cold frame. Start for a hour, then two, then a few hours in the morning, gradually building up time outside over a week or two avoiding extreme weather.  Then they are ready to transplant.



Do you recommend fertilizing seeds or seedlings to help them along? Composting?


Seeds do not need fertilizer or even soil.  How cool is that?  Once the baby plant emerges it will require nutrition.  If using a soilless potting mixture, the seedlings will need regular fertilization after the first true leaves appear.  Fish emulsion, compost tea or manure tea will work great.  If using a soil-based potting mixture that has compost or other nutrients, fertilization may not be needed for several weeks.


Yes to composting!  You can make your own in a compost bin or worm farm.  It is so rewarding to take your vegetable kitchen scraps and leftovers and turn them into nutrient rich compost that you give back to your plants and garden!  Add compost to the  garden soil or containers before transplanting.


How do you estimate the last frost date? 


For likely the most accurate information I would go to the National Climatic Data Center .  They will provide frost probability levels at 10, 50 and 90%.  10 % probability will be the safest date.  Some places, like where I grew up in Northern Wisconsin, can have frost almost year round, yes even in July!  If you live in such a place, plant when frost is no longer a regular happening and pay attention to the weather.  If it’s going to frost in July, cover your tender plants like tomatoes and peppers.


What type of soil amendment do you recommend for replenishing raised beds or in-ground garden plots?


It can vary greatly depending on your soil.  If you really want to “dial in” your soil, get a soil test done to know what you are starting with and amend with what is recommended by a trusted testing company.  Remember organic is healthier for you and your soil.  Compost and worm castings are great.  Apply liberally when transplanting and during the growing season as a mulch or side dressing. Another great way to build soil, while conserving water and suppressing weeds, is to mulch with straw (not hay) around your plants and turn it in at the end of the season.


Where should I put my sprouting seeds?  


When sprouting seeds indoors keep them in a warm place in the house.  Near a hot water heater or on top of a refrigerator is ideal.  Make sure to check on them in 2 to 3 days.  Lettuce seeds need light to germinate.  Once the sprouts emerge from the soil the baby plants will need plenty of light.  Seedlings need more intense light than full grown plants, 12 to 16 hours a day is best. If the seedlings a growing long, pale and spindly they need more light.  Seedlings do not need as warm of temperatures as germinating seeds.  Seedlings also need regular moisture and a reasonably high humidity. Do not over water seedlings, evenly moist but not soggy.  A couple light mistings a day will help.



Is there any way to determine if seeds are viable before planting them?  


You could do a germination test but that would require you sacrifice some of your seed and take some extra work and time.  If you want to make sure they are viable before you go through work of planting them, this is what I recommend.  Different varieties have different average life spans under ideal storage. For instance, lettuce seeds are viable for about 6 years while onions are only viable for a year or two.  These are just general guidelines not exact measures. There are plenty of stories of very old seeds still being viable, so take good care of them.  The oldest verified seed to sprout was a Judean date palm that was 2,000 years old!


My seedlings died after transplanting. What could have gone wrong?


The seedlings might not be dead!  Keep watering them regularly until you are sure they are dead or they come back to life.  Sometimes plants drop off (look wilted or dead) after being transplanted and then come back in a few days. There are almost an infinite amount of variables when it comes to gardening.  One major problem with transplanting is not “hardening off” (acclimating for the outdoors) the plants properly.  Be sure to transplant on a cloudy or misty day or late in the afternoon to avoid being burnt by the sun.  Be very careful with the fragile root system as well.



Can you grow plants from seed all year long, or are there better months than others to start a garden?  


For most growing regions, it is best to start seeds in the late winter (to transplant) and spring if growing outdoors.  If you are growing indoors and have a window with sunlight or indoor grow lights you can grow year round.  If you are growing outside it really depends on your climate.  If growing over the winter, you will want to plant seeds in the late summer through mid autumn to give your seedlings enough light to grow and survive through the darker part of the year.  Here where I am in coastal northern California we are blessed with the ability to grow some varieties year round.  Even though it frosts here, the varieties we grow are “frost tolerant” vegetables like beets, carrots, peas, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce that like it cool.  Varieties like Red Russian Kale are even able to survive at 10 degrees below zero F!  Picture digging through the snow to come upon some sweet, tender, green and purple leaves in the middle of January!  I recommend gardening and growing as much as you can get away with!


by The first Williams-Sonoma store opened in 1956, selling a small array of cookware imported from France. Since then, the brand has expanded to hundreds of products from ar … Read more

We're dedicated to the preservation of the genetic diversity in our food chain through the distribution and growing of open-pollinated seeds and educating about the life affirming art of seed saving.



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