Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seed Shopping!

Based on Janet's recent advice on online seed and plant vendors she likes, I finally sat down last weekend to do a little armchair gardening of my own, ordering seeds from the web for the first time ever (from Territorial Seed). Yay for me! And, while I'm at it, yay for Territorial Seed too -- I placed my order Sunday afternoon and my package arrived Wednesday morning. Wow, they're fast!

I'm joining Janet to take the "Growing Challenge" this season, and have decided to give mesclun salad mix a try. Last year was the first time I'd ever tried growing lettuce, and I had gone with a butter lettuce of some sort (I forget what it was now) and had no success with it at all. The plants grew pretty well, but the lettuce itself was inedibly bitter.

We tried eating the leaves when they were younger, and then when they were older. We tried harvesting the leaves more often so it would put out more of them. We tried watering more, then watering less. We tried singing Beatles songs, then punk rock songs (I swear, those leaves perked up when I was humming The Ramones, but they still didn't taste any better).

Eventually, I dug the plants up and chucked them in the yard waste bin, because I resented keeping them alive any longer if they weren't going to do anything for ME in return. Whatever, butter lettuce. You're on your own.

I've since read that getting too hot can make lettuce bitter, and am wondering now if maybe I planted it too late in the season, or if full sun wasn't the best spot for it after all. This year, I'll do some reading on the optimal conditions for that mesclun salad mix before I put it in the ground and see if I can't do a better job of it. I'll be keeping you posted! I can't promise I can actually post weekly, as the Challenge dictates, but I will certainly try my best.

While I was picking out those seeds, incidentally, I also threw in some for Cosmos, my favorite flower. Chocolate-colored Cosmos (which I have never seen for sale anywhere, alas) was my wedding flower, and I just love everything about those plants. They have gorgeous flowers that last almost all summer long, it seems, and even their foliage is pretty -- soft and fluffy-looking.

My Mom plants a lot of Cosmos in her yard every year and hers typically do extremely well -- they get really tall and look absolutely stunning (the photo at the top of this post is of my twin sister and her adorable son in front of my Mom's Cosmos, by the way -- see what I mean by stunning? And thanks for letting me include this photo here, sis!). I'm not having that same kind of luck, though, and in trying to figure out why this winter, I learned that Cosmos like to be both hot and dry. It IS both hotter and dryer at Mom's house in Salem, Oregon, and maybe that's why hers thrive and mine struggle? But I also know I'm extremely guilty about overwatering everything (being thirsty gives me a headache, and I definitely project that onto my plants) so that may be another reason why my Cosmos don't seem to do all that well.

This year, I may try them in big black pots, so I can move them around and find the optimal spot for them, as well as get them up closer to the house where they'll stay warmer. They want hot and dry? I can give them hot and dry. Or, at least, I can give them "somewhat hotter and possibly a bit on the drier side." I'll let you know if that seems to work (it sure worked last year for our tomatoes!).

This weekend, assuming I feel up to it and it's not pouring down rain (I've been down with a cold or sinus thing most of this week), I'm hoping to get both my mesclun mix AND some sugar snap peas into the ground. I can't believe it's just a few days away from March already! I'm very excited for spring gardening, and looking forward to seeing how this whole Growing Challenge thing works out. Cross your fingers for my lettuce mix! And if you have any pointers on how to make Cosmos OR mesclun grow well in Seattle, I'm all ears!


Tina said...

I can't understand why you're having so much trouble as cosmos are usually one weedy plant you can't kill - or get rid of once planted. Maybe it was just the seed and not anything you did? Maybe try a different brand or type? Seriously, I really don't think it's anything you did.

If you're still looking for vendor info - have you ever seen T's Flowers & Things? All of her packets are a buck each (except daylily, I think?). I could go nuts at her site! lol.

Anyway, do give cosmos another try. I've always either wintersown mine or direct sowed and now I'm yanking seedlings out most years.

Meg said...

Huh, well, I'm glad to hear it might not have actually been ME that was the problem with my cosmos! Thanks, Tina! One thing I'm doing differently this year IS actually starting them from seed -- previously, I'd used starter plants. Maybe that will help, especially if I get them in the ground at the right time.

Thanks for the suggestion on the other vendor too -- I will head over there right now and see if I can't get myself into some trouble! :)

Janet said...

Re: the lettuce, heat does make it bitter. I usually plant mine by mid-March, and I'm lucky to be able to eat it much past mid-June. But I don't have much luck with butter lettuce either. Try the leaf lettuces. They're much easier than head lettuce, and they're prettier too--red, green, green with red freckles... fun. Romaine is also pretty easy.