Mail order seeds and a greenhouse too

We’re getting serious this year. Last year ordering our seeds was certainly exciting and the results weren’t bad. In fact, we were very pleased. But it was a novice effort on a new patch of land, much of it clay.

The approach to ordering our mail order seeds this year was much more focused and we’ve finally purchased the greenhouse that we’ve been planning to acquire ever since we first read Eliot Coleman‘s wonderful books.

But first the seeds. Last year we (or probably more likely I) succumbed a bit to the allure of seed catalogue surfing and purchased more seeds than was sensible. Celery for our first year on clay? You must be kidding.

So, this year, we approached the catalogues (online and offline) with a more experienced eye and the intention to (mostly) capitalize on what we’ve already had success with AND what is most important to us, namely:

1. Tomatoes, and lots of them, especially ones that are ideal for making sauce

Tomato plants in early July, eastern Ontario

2. Beans: heck, if you choose right, whatever you don’t pick and eat, can be left to dry and, hey presto, you’ve got a wonderful winter staple that doesn’t need much effort to preserve

Small garden next to front door of a house in Eastern Ontario

3. Carrots: damn, I actually grew carrots on clay, and while the minimal effort we made last year had delightful but similarly minimal results, we were surprised and pleased enough to expand our intentions this year

Young boy and his harvest of fall carrots

4. Winter squash: foods that are good ‘keepers’ are a high priority – we definitely want to aim to end the major growing season with lots to put in the cold storage for the cold months ahead. Last year we only dabbled in squash and grew a lovely couple of pumpkins.

5. Lettuces and greens: there is nothing more delightful to harvest direct from the garden for immediate use in a meal. We grew lots last year (particularly Rouge Grenobloise lettuce, Red Deer Tongue lettuce, rainbow chard, three varieties of kale, and spinach) and will refine our crops this year. Our little experiment in growing some lettuces, arugula and kale on our window sills this winter resulted in – not surprisingly – meagre crops, but it has meant that we’ve had tiny little salads to enjoy from time to time. I’ve loved that and it has spurred me on to realize our dream of growing Asian greens, lettuces and root vegetables in the winter months through the use of an unheated greenhouse.

Little bowl of lettuce leaves grown indoors

6. Potatoes, garlic and herbs – staples that just make sense for us.

I think I’ve covered all of our essentials here, in terms of the garden proper. We’d also like to experiment with growing some kind of grain this year and will have another go at some corn. I’ll certainly do a few seedlings of peppers and things like that, but the major effort and space will be devoted to those crops above. And continuing to tame our long neglectged, out-of-control apple orchard. And our raspberries…

Okay, I could get overwhelmed right now, but it’s best to stick to priorities. The greenhouse is a definite priority; we want to extend our growing season and do it without having to add heat through external means. We’ve been studying Coleman’s results (in effectively the same latitude as our own location, which is very encouraging) with coldhouses, row cover, and suchlike, and figure we just need to get started.

Weatherguard commercial greenhouse
The Weatherguard commercial greenhouse (image courtesy Wayfair)

So two nights ago we finally ordered a greenhouse. This is something we would have done last fall but we couldn’t find what we were looking for at a price we could afford (or that was available to us in Canada – we don’t have the same purchasing opportunities as our American friends). Steady research finally turned up a 20 by 12 foot greenhouse that looks as though it’s just what we’re after.

It weights 300 pounds, so we had to pay a bit extra for it to be lifted off the truck when it arrives here (I love that they can charge extra for these things!). It’s feeling like we’re really getting serious now, indeed. Stay tuned!

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