Days are short, and often rain-drenched and dark. The gift they bring rests in lovely long evenings, brightened by dreams of the best garden ever — dreams fed by tantalizing pages of the new catalogues as I ponder the listings and prepare seed orders.
West Coast Seeds is a handy and invaluable guide to growing vegetables, herbs and flowers as well as a seed source.
Every year brings new and interesting listings. westcoastseeds.com. Some items of note:
n Simply Salad. WCS lists all three blends of this new multi-seed salad series. Each pellet holds seeds of several different greens. City Garden Blend has red and green lettuces. Alfresco Blend is a Mediterranean-type mix with red and green lettuces, arugula, endive and radicchio. Global Gourmet Blend holds mild lettuces, tangy pac choi, and spicy mustard greens. Designed for repeated harvests by cutting, these salad mixtures are ideal for containers and small garden spaces.
n Asian vegetables. An ever-expanding selection of Oriental greens invites exploration into new flavours and textures. WCS has added two new and colourful varieties of mizuna, a superb winter green, to the catalogue. Red Kyona is deep purple-red and Ruby is bronze. Both have ornamental, feathery foliage that will look great in salads.
Listed also is the flat-headed, sweet Taiwan cabbage and Taiwan pac choi (bok choi) with frilled, delicate foliage and thick, sweet white stalks.
An Asian vegetable new to me is komatsuna, which is one of the most popular vegetables in Japan. It forms bouquets of rounded leaves atop juicy stems. This vegetable can be used raw in salads or stir-fried or steamed. WCS describes komatsuna as: “Possibly the ultimate garden vegetable. Cold-hardy yet very slow to bolt in summer, this mild-tasting Asian green grows very quickly, and is among the easiest from seed.”
Repeated sowings will yield fresh, healthy greens 12 months of the year. There is a good article on the history and cultivation of komatsuna at seedaholic.com.
n Quinoa. WCS lists two strains, one calico coloured. The other, a new listing, Red Head, is described as having the best resistance to fall rains.
n Herbs in a tray. New to the catalogue is a collection of three square pots that fit together in a drainage tray, for fresh kitchen herbs on a window sill.
n Sprouts. More than two pages of seeds for sprouting include several styles in specialized containers for easy sprouting.
n Grow bags. A series of durable polypropylene grow bags with drainage holes and handles are designed for portable and patio gardening. There are various sizes and designs, for potatoes, staking tomatoes and peas, beans or cucumbers. Another, rectangular bag is suited for salad greens, peppers, patio tomatoes and more.
n Charts. There are detailed planting charts, one for vegetables and another for herbs and flowers, with appropriate timings indicated for starting seeds indoors, direct seeding, transplanting, and covering crops against cool weather.
n Beneficials. A red ladybug symbol accompanying some herb and flower listings indicates the blooms attract beneficial insects that help control plant pests. These useful plants include dill, sage, chives and echinacea. New among the flower mixtures is a blend of blooms that attract and feed beneficials.
Mapple Farm. On the subject of sweet potato cuttings, please note that Mapple Farm is not a likely source this year. The proprietor says he is rebuilding his stock after a hip surgery caused cutting production to be scaled back.
Comox meeting. The Comox Valley Horticultural Society will meet on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay. Dr. Thierry Vrain will explore the topic The Gene Revolution. As a retired genetic engineer in the bio-tech department of agricultural research with the federal government, Dr. Vrain will explain what his hopes were for the technology 20 to 30 years ago. He will discuss the details of his work, explain evidence that questions the success of the technology and present recent literature countering claims made by the industry that their engineered crops are safe, increase yields and are benign to the environment.
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