This is always a nerve wracking time of year for me. It's seed starting time and I always wonder how I'm going to mess it up this time around. I'm off to a pretty good start so far. Here's the first round of starts that are ready to go into the garden and I've actually got a space in one of the new beds that is mostly ready (I just need to lay out the drip lines. This flat is full of paper pots of Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas and Rolande French Filet snap beans. The snow pea plants are supposed to be dwarf plants that grow to about 30 inches and are highly disease resistant which is very important in my powdery mildew haven of a garden. The green beans are a bush variety and produce the tiny little haricot vert beans that I've been paying a small fortune for at the farmer's market. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rats won't devastate my crop this year.
Next up is a flat of miscellaneous herbs, vegetables, and flowers. The top row, from left to right, has three containers of my favorite variety of basil, Profuma di Genova from Renee's seeds. I sowed all the seeds from the three old packets of seeds that I had in my stash. The germination was better than I expected from the 2006 packet, remarkable from the 2004 packet, and non-existent from the 2002 packet (no surprise). There's one container in that row of Zatar Oregano from oldish seeds which I didn't really expect to germinate, but there are sprouts! Now the challenge will be to get them to survive to transplantable size. The next row has one pot of Italian oregano, even older seeds which haven't germinated but I'll give them some more time. The next pot has garlic chives from an old packet and I'm happy to see that some sprouts are starting to pop up. The Primor leek seeds from last year or the year before are popping up also. And the Parade Scallions from last year are growing like crazy. The third row is all lettuces, the Rhapsody Butterhead and Garden Ferns have great germination, the second pot on the left is Ice Queen from a new seed packet and not one seed has germinated yet (huge disappointment), and the fourth pot has my old favorite Sweetie Baby Romaine which is just starting to show some sprouts. Row four has two new for me brassicas, Lark's Tongue kale and Apollo sprouting broccoli. And the other two pots are sweet alyssum Summer Peaches and Summer Romance, one variety peach colored and the other a mix of lavender, violet, rose-pink, and white. I like to grow a lot of alyssum in the vegetable garden for both their compact beauty and their attractiveness to beneficial insects.
The Lark's Tongue (Larketunge) kale is an heirloom German variety that I read about in William Woys Weaver's book 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From. It's name comes from the shape of the leaves which supposedly resemble Lark's tongues, long and narrow, although they are also frilly which doesn't seem very much like a bird's tongue to me. I've seen the leaves described elsewhere as being like a frilly Lacinato kale leaf. Lark's Tongue kale, unlike Lacinato kale, is extremely winter hardy and will easily tolerate subzero temperatures. In warmer climates like mine it will be reluctant to bloom and may grow for years eventually getting to be 5 feet tall or more. Most importantly, it is supposed to be tasty! And, I know that I'm actually getting the very same Lark's Tongue kale that Mr. Weaver describes in his book since the seeds came directly from him - he's offering them to Seed Savers Exchange members through the 2012 yearbook. The biggest challenge will be if I decide to try to save seeds, how long will I have to wait for the plants to bloom and how will I be able to dedicate the garden space for all the plants that are necessary!
As I said in my post about peppers, I'm getting over my disdain of F1 hybrid vegetables, and the Apollo broccoli is another example of my exploration of that realm. Apollo is supposed to be like the fancy and expensive broccoli+kai-lan cross "Broccolini" that my husband loves. Seeds for true "Broccolini" are not available to home gardeners and I have no idea if Apollo is actually a broccoli+kai-lan cross or just a sprouting broccoli that is very like "Broccolini", but I'm willing to give it a try. The seeds are definitely pricey, but if the plants produce something that can pass as "Broccolini" then they will have paid for themselves.
So, no major seed starting screwups yet, cross your fingers that we'll get to see most of these starts mature enough to see them in a future Harvest Monday post.