Potager 101 – Classe 4, On Seed Selection and Starters

Mar 3, 2011 | Gardening, Potager, Potager 101 | 8 comments


In case you missed it… classes will run thru March!
 When I find another moment I will update the widget for you!
Let’s get to it….
There are, in case you have NEVER grown anything before, three ways to plant your garden:
1.  To directly sow the seeds into the soil
2.  Start your seeds indoors in a protected, controlled greenhouse environment
3. To buy small plants at the nursery that are ready to be planted
Seeds that can be directly sown will vary from climate to climate, or zone to zone (explained more HERE)… for example, in my zone (zone 5a) the soil needs to be nice and warm for a pepper seed to germinate…  a pepper also needs a certain amount of time in that warm soil to bare fruit… Midwest living does not allow for that many months of warm soil temps…perhaps if you live in the south you could direct sow your pepper seeds but around here I would want to start mine inside, in a protected environment so that they are of a proper size and strength before I move them outside... more on that delicate move later.  
And of course I can play it safe and after fear of frost is over I can also buy a pepper plant that has been started for me and plant it in the ground, ready to go!
If you find this dull… humor us… it is Potager 101!
Now that you have designed your garden (or you are waiting for me to get your designs to you!)  you mind may be moving onto WHAT you will actually grow!
Sadly, it’s not as easy and Johnny Appleseed makes it sound – you can’t just walk out there and sprinkle 20 different kinds of seeds and await your cornucopia!
The books I recommended are loaded with information on many types of veggies and fruits – I also recommend a simple Google search.  For example, this year I am going to attempt to grow my own broccoli from seed as in years past I have only ever bought starters from the nursery.  Perhaps this is sheer folly but I like to try a couple new things every year.  I placed my seed orders a bit later than I would have liked and I wanted to make sure I had enough time to get the seeds going before my estimated planting date of Mothers Day so I googled, “How to grow Broccoli in Zone 5” – I find this a very helpful step and the gardening books can’t cover every zone and the subtle nuances within each zone… sadly lots of gardening books are written by culinary guru’s who have the pleasure of living in California or Louisiana.  Keep that in mind if they never mention zones or climates.
If you REALLY want to learn to do this right, you will need to know detailed information about EACH thing you are planting, each year you will learn a little more, and a little more.
Gardening is always about “next year”.

I like to print any information I find helpful and transfer it to a 3×5 card, I punch a hole and attach a metal ring and keep it with my gardening tools for easy reference throughout the season… more on that later too!
Do not feel like you have to start your own seeds to be a successful gardener That’s like saying you have to grow your own wheat to be a good baker… that is just silly and really, Starting seeds is a skill unto itself and you can easily find yourself discouraged if your sweet little plants die and you find yourself at the nursery come planting season anyways. It is a challenge and a learning process and should be viewed as such.  However, once you master a couple varieties you will find yourself ready to move onto the ones people say you should never try… when you start eyeballing properties with REAL victorian style greenhouses… you know you’ve got it bad 🙂
After talking with countless gardeners and years of trial and error myself I have learned that despite what any book says people usually come up with a little system that works for them.  I know people that swear by growing their seedlings on their windowsill, some that swear by the little Jiffypot thingys and others, like myself by using a small plastic green house in a well sunned area of the home.
More on what to do with your seeds coming soon…
but first you gotta get ’em!
This year I focused on organic and heirloom seeds from:
Gourmet Seeds catalog is horrible in that it is not inspiring but their website is great.  Their focus is on European varieties and they do a lovely job.  Don’t expect to be able to read the seed packet for instructions though… they are either wrapped in the company’s foil packaging or covered in Italian text.
The Cooks Garden catalog is AMAZING and makes you want to own an acre to two.  Their website is easy to peruse and what I love is that you can order PLANTS from them and not just seeds!
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Ugly website, GORGEOUS catalog!  I have NEVER seen so many different types of seeds available in a catalog before.  Gorgeous photography, sadly, I don’t think you can get it anymore this year.  The website is so different you think it’s another company altogether but their prices are great.  About .35 cents less per package than Gourmet Seeds.
I’ll take any questions and will answer them as best I can, promptly in the comment box.

(Too lazy to sort thru old photos tonight, all images found my google searching “seedlings”.)



    I am new to your blog. My daughter recommended you. I always want to be a gardener – so I really enjoyed this practical teaching. I will go back for class 1-3.


  2. Heather's Blog-o-rama

    Thanks for explaining why some peole start their seeds indoors versus planting them directly in the ground!!! I never understood the difference. Now I do 🙂 🙂 That’s smart to give those plants a change to thrive first, before planting them in the ground 🙂 🙂 Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather 😉

  3. Boho Farm and Home

    Glad to see you back at it! I was wondering if you were ok…after yesterdays post…I know you are.

  4. à la parisienne


    Thank you for the seed information. This year I am trying to start seeds indoors to save money. I just found out about Baker Creek this week actually, so I hope to order some heirloom seeds from there.
    My potager update:
    Sod is removed; sweet hubby built me a monster raised bed last week; and our fence holes have been dug. My parents are coming up for a visit this weekend and my dad and I will be laying out the landscaping fabric. Lots of fun going on around here. I always have the whole family help in any of my big projects.
    Oh, and I started a garden club at our church, and we had our first meeting this week. We had quite a turnout considering our church is a small country church. I wish I had taken notes. Some of the older ladies came and shared loads of tips. It was so fun! Wish you lived closer; we would have so much fun together!

    I look forward to your next post. (I swear I write a novel every time I comment on your blog.)
    Bon week-end,

  5. Renata

    Very interesting! I like how you said “gardening is all about next year” – I have made so many mistakes in my garden, but I certainly have learnt from them & finally parts of my garden are beginning to look the way I want them to (of course since I inherited an acre of run down garden, it’s going to be years before I get the whole thing the way I want it). When you move Zones it certainly is a challenge for a couple of years in finding out what works for that area – talk to your neighbours – I’ve found this very useful!
    Great class
    Hope you have a wonderful day

  6. Bringing Pretty Back

    I STRUGGLE to grow anything. I want a nice little garden. I try so hard, and it never goes well.
    Thank you for your tips! I need them!
    Have a pretty day!

  7. farm girl

    hi, i’m new here too, just recently found you and have read through some of your archives. love your views and ‘rants’ as they are right in line with mine:) anyways, i agree with you about baker creek, i got my seeds from them last week and can’t wait to try them. their prices were fab. i also was brave and bought broccoli seeds this year, rather than starts. i may have to buy the starts anyways. my main problem is having enough space in front of enough light long enough. i am moving my starts from window to window throughout the day which makes me a little crazy. thanks for the tips, i have been enjoying!

  8. Rebekah

    What great information! Thank you!
    Your Blog Is Lovely!!


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