In France they call them “potages” and in Scotland “kaleyards,” but here in St. George we know them as kitchen or vegetable gardens. In any event, eating out of one’s garden is not a new thing on this peninsula, where residents have been growing their own food since settlement, mostly out of a need for self sufficiency and thriftiness. These days the satisfaction that comes with eating out of a home garden not only continues that tradition, but also has a lot to do with gastronomic pleasure—nothing tastes so good as a freshly picked tomato or head of lettuce—not to mention the satisfaction that comes from doing right by our families (giving them whole food), and our planet (walking out to harvest from the garden doesn’t leave much of a carbon footprint).
Because we think St. George’s large gardening community has a lot to share about growing vegetables, fruits and herbs, with this issue of the St. George Dragon we are launching “Kitchen garden talk,” a regular feature that we expect to be both useful and enlightening. The“talk” we are after is of the sort that regularly takes place as fellow gardeners stroll among one another’s vegetable beds. The topics will be familiar, but no less engaging for that—ranging from favorite crops and plant varieties to how best to meet the challenges presented by weather and pests. In each issue we’ll pose a question aimed at eliciting “garden talk” from our gardener readers. In the following issue we’ll publish as many of the responses we get as space makes possible.
Since January is when kitchen gardeners begin thinking about what they’d like their gardens to produce during the coming growing season, we have primed the pump by asking some of the kitchen gardeners we know about where they go to get their seeds and why. Here are their answers:
Bethany Yovino, Wallston: Typically I buy most of my seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine—the locavore in me likes to shop local, plus the quality of their products is always top notch and they have such an extensive selection of both organic and nonorganic. I love nothing better than perusing the Johnny’s catalogue on a cold winter day in front of my wood stove! I also support FEDCO Seeds in Clinton, Maine [with a mailing address in Waterville] as they have a good selection of seeds that work well in our colder climate. Renee’s Garden is also a company I like. I was initially attracted to their attractive packaging but have since learned they are a company that donates seeds to a wide variety of organizations and educational programs worldwide. You have to love a company with a social conscience. Their products are all free of GMOs.
Jane Bracy, Hart’s Neck: The gardeners at Blueberry Cove Camp are getting together this month to plan out the garden for the upcoming season. At this meeting we’ll talk about what worked last season and what didn’t. We get input from the cook and assistant cook to see what they need and would like.
We buy organic seeds, mostly from Johnny’s and FEDCO. We are also going to try some seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont this year. We start some of our seeds in the main building at the camp as there are great windows facing west. We also have a very little greenhouse that we can put things in as it warms up a little. We get potatoes from the Maine Potato Lady.
Susan Carey, Tenants Harbor: My two main sources for seeds are FEDCO and Johnny’s. They are both Maine seed providers and understand the nature of our climate. Their catalogues are also fun to read, particularly FEDCO, whose honesty extends to listing one heritage tomato as looking “like roadkill.” After one use, I toss all onion and parsley seeds since their germination drops dramatically after year one but store all others in the freezer and (using a germination chart) continue to use them until their period of viability dwindles.
I currently have a heated glass greenhouse off the kitchen, but before the greenhouse, I started seeds in the attic under shop lights fitted with one standard bulb and one greenhouse bulb. I banged my head on the slanted eaves, occasionally lost seedlings to predatory mice and loved the plants I grew. Then as now I started allium seeds at the end of February, setting the pots on bottom-heating pads until the weather warmed. By the end of March the greenhouse is crowded with seedlings and I harden my heart to my least favorite chore—thinning the leeks.
Patty Cole, Martinsville: Seed selection is very much a process for me. The process takes place early January in my bathtub each year, candles lit. I thumb through every catalogue (this may take a few nights). I end up choosing Johnny’s Selected Seeds for most of my seeds. Very excellent customer service and I like that they are employee-owned. But I love ALL of the catalogs … winter dreaming!
Next issue: Our question for the February 14, 2019 issue has to do with favorite varieties of vegetables—pick any vegetable(s) you plan to grow and tell us what your favorite variety is and why. Send your response by February 4 to email@example.com or drop a note at Julie Wortman, St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860. Please supply your name or initials and where you live in St. George (i.e., Martinsville, Port Clyde, Clark Island, etc.). Thanks!