Seed catalogs vs reason

I’m writing to you from the small room where I have been locked up.

As you can see I still have laptop access so you might conclude that my guard is not very professional but really he does pretty well for a dog.

alert guard

Like so many, I am innocent.

It was a case of seed catalogs becoming what is sometimes called an attractive nuisance.  Still, just like in the song (“Was I drunk? Was he handsome? Did momma give me hell?”)–
I don’t regret a thing.

too many packets

As I sift through the pile of envelopes from Territorial Seed I remember a lot of vegetable visions which were in my mind as I looked through the paper catalog and I do wonder if there wasn’t something, maybe in the ink…

I see I ordered special cucumbers to pickle–while I’ve never made pickles before in my life.  And here’s something called Double Purple Orach. (What could that be?) And then there is a packet of quinoa. I do remember that one–pretty flowers and then seeds to eat.  I met up with quinoa in a rice mix I bought once. (I wonder if I ordered rice seeds too…)

Isn’t this fun? And don’t I wish I had a crew of maybe seven gardeners on staff to help me?

Plus today the flower seeds also arrived from Mail Land, but FYI there are hardly any compared to the vegetable onslaught. They do include a packet of Verbena bonariensis, something I grew once before then removed due to the voices of plant fearmongers who insisted it would be rampantly invasive. Since then I’ve heard nothing but sweet praises for this tall purple verbena, which I see is also known by the cheerful name of Purple Top Vervain.  (Note: I already grow regular ancient vervain, and it has kept my garden vampire-free for ages.)

In the interest of total clarity, which I sometimes sort of care about, I will add that I even ordered some fancy red organic seed potatoes to plant, which will arrive in early spring.

Now, if you are the type of gardener who still thinks it’s all about birdsong and sunshine and big baskets of lush vegetables well this might be a good time for you to go take your medication because potato growing is not like that– potato growing is one of those things that sounds cinchy and fun but is quite a lot more like complicated and hopeless.

Undaunted, this year I have committed (which is different than having been committed) to one more effort toward growing potatoes that are findable. (Note: UN-findable potatoes are what you get when NO potatoes are produced by the ungrateful wretched spiteful mean potato plants.)

Now, I do happen to accidentally know that potatoes will grow nicely in a compost heap.

You may ask, “How does she know this?”

Well guess.

While I am not willing to indulge this arguably perverse inclination among potatoes and I am most particularly not willing to give over my compost pile to Potato Fun for months on end, it has also come to my attention that potatoes are somewhat unquestioning sorts and, eyes or not, can be tricked with relative ease.

Their gullibility has suggested a solution, together with the fact that there exists, in my life, an alarming accumulation of enormous empty pots, formerly the homes of  various of Mr O’s fruit trees.  I envision the hugest of the pots filled with compost to become the new potato condo! (But don’t think I’m done with this. There is a whole bury-them-as-they-grow thing with potatoes and I’m not facing it without you.)

As you likely know, I have a will of steel. Or maybe cashmere. In any case I resisted buying any of the mushroom growing kits when I ordered vegetable seeds. If you have had a fabulous experience with mushroom kits please let me know right away so I can email one more order before the funds get squandered on something boring like the power bill.

PS: If all your mushrooms died I don’t need to know.

About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in propagation, vegetable garden and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Seed catalogs vs reason

  1. Susan says:

    I had been missing your posts but it was worth the wait. All those seed packets must have felt like the arrival of a usurping baby brother or sister to your little Westie. Good for him for taking a stand. It was cucumbers on the compost for me.

    • linniew says:

      Oh Susan, time gets away from me! Yes I have heard those rumors about cucumbers and compost too. Do you suppose we should just plant everything up the sides of a mountain of compost and call it the veggie garden?

      Max sends a wag!

  2. blondintexas says:

    So glad to see you still have lapdog access…I mean laptop access. A couple of years ago, I stuck some old new potatoes (old new?) I’d found in the pantry into some pots on my patio, thinking they might grow attractive vines like sweet potatoes. They don’t; they grow ugly, shrubby little plants, but I did get some cute baby potatoes at the end of the season. Make sure they stay covered by dirt and out of the sun until harvesting or they get bitter. I also experimented with sticking some inexpensive sweet potatoes in other pots, which did result in attractive vines and even produced several more sweet potatoes, but since I’d started with cheap potatoes, I got very low quality (basically inedible) potatoes; however, it was worth it just for the experience and I may do it again this year–with better potatoes. Good luck with your crops!

    • linniew says:

      I loved lapdog/laptop!– It must MEAN something but I’m not clear what although perhaps it will come to me later… I’ve had lots of potatoes grow like mad in a drawer. Once Mr O stuck some such in a tiny pot but nothing much resulted, just as you describe. Thanks for the tip about sun and bitterness– it’s so hard to get the truth about these things from books. I hope you do indeed try growing potatoes again this year so then at “harvest” we’ll have our therapy group all pre-organized!

  3. Cynthia says:

    I’m immune to the vegetable seed catalogs; the nursery is my weakness, and it is nearing time for a visit . . . good thing my husband doesn’t read my postings. Good luck with all your seeds!

    • linniew says:

      Well Cynthia let me say that just because an otherwise balanced person has the tiniest bit of trouble resisting seed catalogs is no reason to assume that same person will exhibit any sort of strength when it comes to shelves full of little expensive pots of adorable new perennials or even those pansies with the giant ruffled blooms or fragrant-flowered shrubs or say a new variety of lavender… United we stand. (I won’t tell your husband.)

  4. Ricki Grady says:

    New packets of seeds are piling up here too. Never mind that the leftovers from years past would easily fill up all available space (if only someone would take initiative and go out there and stick them in the ground).

    • linniew says:

      Oh Ricki you have mentioned the spectre of Old Seed Packets. Yes I have a box of them, and really in my experience they are good until they are gone. (Sure I might only get 200 old lettuce seeds to germinate instead of 400 fresh ones, but since I only want 20 plants, does it matter?) I sprout virtually everything in little boxes in the greenhouse because I have observed that almost nothing grows otherwise, and I do use up seeds of things I love. So the real problem is that all the new seed varieties are in addition to the box of old seeds. Which is why I really do need a staff of gardeners and maybe a very tiny tractor and also a powerful magic wand.

  5. Sharon says:

    Friends fell under the spell of shiitake mushrooms a couple of years ago. They are still bragging about the volume produced from their unattractive logs. One person even made gravy with hers and poured over our pork roast. Delicious!! Even this did not entice me to cut up logs innoculate them and promise to keep them out of the sun and give them frequent soakings in a water bath (no bubbles required). Your reward is a nice crop the second year and maybe for a few more.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Sharon!
      Please just make yourself comfortable on my therapy couch. Now it appears you have seriously conflicted feelings about growing mushrooms. On the one hand, you don’t want ugly chunks of innoculated logs in the bathtub. I understand this. On the other hand, you do want shitake gravy on your pork roast. Mmmmm. Yes. Given that you have odd friends who evidently have no problem bathing with firewood I would advise that you cultivate the friendship rather than the mushrooms. Buy these people some nice wine, knit them a couple sweaters, get their child a pony– But wait! Perhaps a soggy log in the shade would be simpler. I say give it a go, send me all the mushrooms, and only then make a decision on this difficult issue. Cheers! Dr. L

  6. Holleygarden says:

    I want to love to order seeds, and I drool over the catalogs, but for some reason I never get around to ordering them – until spring comes, and then I fret that it’s too late to put them in the ground. I suppose if I were locked in a room, with a guard dog, then I would happily order away – with a “help me” note attached to the order! 😉

    • linniew says:

      Yes Holley this post was my cry for help, like lipstick on the mirror! But alas, too late, just like in the movies.

      Could be some kind of greenhouse, even a tiny tiny one, is the trick to motivation when it comes to ordering seeds. Now I can go out and make little miniature sprouting gardens out there and pretend it’s summer, very seductive in the deep dark cold rainy time, like from now until May here in western Oregon.

      I do fear if you send a ‘help me’ note to the seed companies they will just send another catalog…

  7. I’ve never grown regular potatoes but I did grow sweet potatoes very successfully last summer in a big pot. Here’s what I did: went to Lowes and bought a big, wide, cheap pot. Stuffed it full of moisture retentive potting soil mixed with compost. Stuck a few slips into the soil and watered them until they started growing. I watered every couple of days. That’s it. I had enough sweet potatoes in 2 pots to make 2 big casseroles at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    • linniew says:

      Who knew I might grow sweet potatoes? Oh boy, THIS will surprise Mr O! Fortunately there are maybe a million of those big tree pots out there in the rain…

  8. b-a-g says:

    Linnie, as you’re an expert on growing from seed …
    I tried to beat the spring rush by planting my seeds early in seed pods and left them in my garden shed. The soil in the pods is now frozen. Do I have to start again ?

    • linniew says:

      Yes b-a-g I understand you are having some kind of blizzard today in London. As a propagation expert I must still inquire, what the heck’s a seed pod? I mean, aren’t seed pods what grow on plants, with seeds in them? I am very interested to hear how you got those seeds back into pods. Expertly yours, L

      • b-a-g says:

        Sorry, just checked, they’re called seed tray inserts. No wonder I haven’t had any luck, I’ve never inserted them into anything because I’ve been calling them seed pods all this time. Thanks so much Linnie.

  9. We used a mushroom growing kit, and it did produce mushrooms plus it was fun to watch. However, once was enough so we get them from the local farmer’s market. I have never had any luck with potatoes no matter what I grew them in. I thought it was just me. Love that verbena, i just sprinkled the seed. It is a biennial and comes back every year but not invasive here. You can just yank it easily if it’s somewhere you don’t want it.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Carolyn
      Oh, do you suppose there is a Potato Gene, and you and I just don’t have it? Like that Digital Gene that seems to have evolved as of the next generation? Well anyway it is comforting to know I’m not the only struggling potato farmer. I thought the verbena was perennial so I’m glad you noted its biennialness– I will try to collect seeds just in case it gets busy and forgets to come back.

  10. Scott says:

    Hahahaha…I can relate all too well to the winter madness of ordering plants…and then, come spring, wondering where on earth I will put them all! I’m glad you’re giving Verbena bonariensis a second try. I’ve grown them for years, and while they reseed like crazy…I’ve yet to see one escape into the wild 🙂

    • linniew says:

      Scott! I was pretty certain it was YOUR blog that showed that Verbena bonariensis looking so dashing but it’s good of you to confess. I’ll give it my best shot at growing and if it fails I shall be scouting for volunteers by flashlight in your garden one night…

  11. Lyn says:

    I used to think that I really liked the idea of growing things from seed, and that was why I ordered all those packets. But time and bitter experience has shown me that in fact, what I am addicted to is BUYING seeds. That’s what gives me the rush. The evidence of my dependency lies in a (prettily covered) box in my kitchen. It is January (mid-summer) and my spring seeds are still in that box. And the shameful thing is that I cannot bring myself to throw them out, even though I know I won’t plant them next spring, either.
    My cunning plan is that as long as I have them, I won’t order any more. The fact that this same plan has never worked in previous years doesn’t mean it won’t work this time, dammit.
    Meanwhile the Tomatoes, Chard, Zucchinis, Fennel, Pumpkins and Potatoes are happily (a lesser person would have said “smugly” ) growing out of the compost I spread on my garden last autumn. I admire you for resisting the lure of the Mushroom Kit. Stay strong.

    • linniew says:

      Good heavens Lyn your vegetable garden is practically on automatic pilot–no wonder you can skip the planting of seeds part since you have a whole assortment of volunteers and they have doubtless grown well where they have chosen to sprout since independence is a big deal to plants. Regarding seed accumulation, I do blame the catalogs, which arrive during desperate winter with their alluring photos and distracting words. On the other hand, if things go really bad like say with the arrival of the zombie apocalypse YOU my dear will be set to live off the land for years in safe isolation.

      So far so good on the mushroom denial front.

  12. Hi Linnie, I expect you have been freed by now. I haven’t grown potatoes or mushrooms before, although to be honest I think the later would be a bit of a cinch. Great I haven’t seen or heard that word used in decades. Good luck with all your stuff this year.

    • linniew says:

      Yes I got out.
      But, what? You don’t cultivate ‘tatties’?? Why Alistair I hardly know what to say… I do kind of consider you my potato expert–at least in regard to cooking.

      I hadn’t thought of ‘cinchy’ in quite a while either. I kind of enjoy resurrecting words. Lately I like vexed and timepiece and every now and then I use groovy even though Kininvie told me it was shockingly archaic.

  13. It’s a conspiracy. I’m completely convinced that seed and plant purveyors are in cahoots with the weather gods. You see, winter, when the skies are blanketed with somberness and the air is bone chilling and all plants with any common sense have sequestered themselves under the compost, this wintertime void is when those pesky catalogs arrive. Exactly when our eyes and ears and noses and hands long for the lush beauty of that sunny season so long ago. Somehow buying something will make it sunny and warm and make us happy. We fall prey every stinking time, buying way more than we need or even want because it gives us something to do and a reason to look ahead, a reason to exist. And a way to cope. I suppose it’s cheaper than a stay at the hospital and the orderlies are much cuter too as your photo so aptly illustrates.

    One year, my kids and I grew potatoes in an antique galvanized washtub. It was a rather underwhelming event. They tasted good. Fresh potatoes really are delicious. Good luck with yours and I’m sure Mr. O’s containers will work splendidly.

    Write me when you get a chance. I miss our correspondences. 🙂

    • linniew says:

      It is doubtless true that the power of seed catalogs would be defused without crummy weather. (Do you suppose anyone orders from seed catalogs in San Diego?) But it’s a fine ritual and as you say it’s cheaper than medical care –but then most everything is cheaper than medical care. Still I’m very encouraged by your comment that homegrown potatoes taste better and based COMPLETELY upon that remark I will forge ahead with Potato Tree-pot Propagation. (No pressure, Gracie.)

  14. Alberto says:

    Well it seems that I call weeds what you more elegantly call Double Purple Orach, well ok, cool purple weeds then. If you google it you find out that very cool gardeners like Nancy J. Ondra grows it in her garden and at the end of the day all my beloved grasses are weeds in the US prairies…
    Good weather for catalogues around here too, I desisted on spring bulbs (since I left a small treasure of dahlias out in the cold I decided I didnt deserve other spring bulbs) but I deserve roses, so I am planning how to fit more 6mt tall roses in my garden. I might build another pergola if I find a sponsor…
    I don’t know anything about potatoes but I’ve seen b-a-g growing nice potatoes out of rotten French fries on a compost bag, so I guess everything’s possible for you too (and for me too, so I’m gonna try next spring!).
    My dad had a ball with mushrooms growing on it in the cellar (I’m not being misunderstood here, right?). Well it was some disgusting thing to see and mushrooms tasted of nothing. I guess you better save you money for some good seasoning to go with those posh Orach.

    • linniew says:

      So the rare exotic Purple Orach is a weed at your house? Not a deep purple mountain spinach? But it has three times the vitamin C as spinach and is an outstanding annual edible— and don’t you forget it you sceptic you! If I lived in a prairie state I’d make fun of your grasses…

      So glad you will be planting potatoes Alberto but just a tip: not French fries because they NEVER have eyes. (I do not for a minute believe that b-a-g planted fried potatoes.) We must vow to compare (photographically –and no Photoshopping) potato harvests at the end of summer. That is of course assuming my potatoes are Findable at this year.

      Getting pretty negative energy overall on the whole mushroom concept…

      • Alberto says:

        If I had found a purple Orach I’d surely keep it. I’ve never ate my weeds but I know Orach could be eaten, you shall harvest the plant when it reaches about 20 cm and cook everything. I could harvest my weeds so we can compare on that too. I am not sure about potatoes yet, I guess they won’t like my clay soil but I may give them a try, just to compare with your unfindable potatoes!

        • linniew says:

          Oh yes join our Potato Growing Festival please Alberto– I have clay soil as well, you know. (Got any big tree pots?) How do you think we might conduct the Festival? A monthly Potato day? Maybe the second Tuesday of the month is Potato Day and we all post images of our efforts up to harvest? I believe we plant potatoes here in early May, so we could begin about then with exciting images of pots of soil or empty looking garden spaces…

          • Alberto says:

            Join us at the ‘potato meme’ every second tuesday of the month! Every cool blog seems to have a meme (that’s why I decided I won’t follow anyone anymore), shall we proof the world we are cool too?!

            • linniew says:

              Well we are without question totally cool, but I could never decide exactly what a ‘meme’ is and that, together with the fact that is isn’t a cute word, seems like something I should maybe not worry about. So no, it’s not a meme. Rather we might call it something direct but exciting like Emergency Potato Day. And it’s probably best to not schedule it because you know I can’t follow schedules (in almost two years I have posted once on the mid-month “bloom day”) so it will be a really flexible kind of not-meme where we post about our potatoes whenever we damn well feel like it. Does that sound about right do you think?

  15. Fay says:

    Hello there – you’ve been seduced by the lure of the exotic vegetable species. They’ll do for you everytime! Well done on not getting too much time locked in a room. Well done max – did he perform a kind of great escape for you? You can always start dropping seed packets down your trouser leg (as like in the great escape and the soil) and see what comes up where. Enjoy the great tattie adventure of 2013 – I may join you. I still have those neep seeds to send you but you look awash!

    I’m glad I came on here – Id wondered if french fries would be a good propagation method for tatties, possibly not from what I read.

    I’ve never grown mushrooms – but I hear they are fungi’s 🙂 which is a very groovey joke – a word I also love, despite its out of fashioned tones…….


    • linniew says:

      Oh yes let’s have an online Tatties Festival–we’ll have to work on that Fay! (You see I am still optimistic, easy in winter.) And we do agree I think about not planting french fries but I suppose if one did plant them you should put a bit of catsup into the planting hole to be safe. I’m not at all surprised that you appreciate ‘groovy’ — it’s a fine word and makes young people look at you funny which is worth a lot.

  16. Katie says:

    Hi Linnie!
    I hope you ordered a machete along with that quinoa! I had an “experience” with it a few years back. That was the year I ordered amaranth and several other oddball things that luckily, never did much. Last year was chia. What fun would gardening be without taking a few adventures into the unknown? You know, I’ve tried growing lots of different potatoes, and I really think the different kinds are happy only under certain conditions which you may or may not have in your garden. Only by trial and error will you find the compatible ones for you. The one that never fails me here is “Early Rose”. I have great optimism for you for this year’s potato endeavor!

    • linniew says:

      Well, we have a chainsaw. I usually only use it on rose bushes.

      Katie that thing you said about potatoes– well I might not live long enough to trial and error my way through the million possible varieties ala Cinderella’s slipper! Isn’t there someone with the answer who is also possible to bribe with say chocolate?

  17. A House and A Garden says:

    Ah, what an excellent blog.

  18. Rachelle says:

    Just to let you know O; All Knowing Goddess of Everything the idea of a potato festival has been taken by a small village near me. They call it Tater Toot and crown an actual Tater Queen. They grow 1,000s of acres of potatoes around there. Taters grow well in sandy/loamy soil and like lots of water. You can plant them in a deep hole (not the one dug to China Or West Virginia, not quite so deep, San Francisco, perhaps?). Anyway if you fill up the hole a bit as the potatoes grow you don’t have to bother with the hilling thing. The Blue Potato doesn’t attract Colorado Potato Beetles. I think they make them sad (the beetles).

    • linniew says:

      I am entirely not so sure about “Tater Toot” but then I don’t get to name it. All the little towns here have festivals of some sort: Strawberry, Lamb & Wool, Bean… I’m afraid if I could dig a hole to San Francisco I would be down it in a flash just like Alice because I adore San Francisco. Ive found the big pots for the potatoes and soon I will be posting all the chaotic details of my potato growing, but don’t tell a soul at the Tater Toot, they will laugh. xo L

      PS: the Colorado Potato Beetles might need antidepressants.

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