This Year’s Garden – A Sneak Peek!

February 27, 2013

— My luscious summer garden begins in the dark, in my bed, on a hopeful scrap of paper. —

The nice thing about being really, really, really, super, really sick in January is that January is when my seed catalogs begin flooding in. What else is there to do in January anyway, besides sip a hot pot of Sleepytime tea, wield a quality highlighter, press a Castor Oil pack against one’s liver region, and work your way thru a 5″ stack of seed catalogs? Illness is a blessing in disguise, I say; your body’s way of telling you, “It’s time to order, like, way too many seeds for one person to use in a lifetime, girlfren!”

At least that’s what my body tells me.

— Next year my garden will be better…I just know it! —

I start dreaming about my next garden in late summer as I’m fighting through the prickled jungles of my overgrown summer squash and my wilted cucumbers turning to dust from Mosaic Virus. I start yanking out my naughty old plants and mumbling to myself as I march them toward the compost pile. I think about how great my new garden will be. How organized this time. How pared back. How perfect.

At its core, my garden is always based on my old favorites and dependables, fluffed out with new ideas, and bulging at the seams with the sultry temptations presented in said seed catalogs. I have been duly warned about the power of marketing but I am hardly immune. With descriptors like “The distinctive, long fruit are fluted and ribbed; medium green-striped skin; rich and very flavorful,” or “New! Small 3″ oval fruit are a bright, creamy white, about the size of a small apple!” or “vigorous, high-yielding vines, a favorite of Thomas Jefferson,” who am I to say no?

So January is an exciting time.

— Why grow regular stuff when you can grow warty, curly things? —

— A garden can be like a painting… —

— …or a fairytale. —

After years of trial and error (can anyone say here are my seed company recommendations:

JOHNNY’S: If I could only shop one place for seeds, it would be Johnny’s. Their germination rate is unmatched. Their quality and selection is always excellent, albeit a bit on the vanilla side for my exotic taste. Pelleted carrot seeds are the bomb. Johnny’s is the backbone of my order every year. I supplement with the following other stuff.

BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS: Baker Creek has the most gorgeous catalog of the bunch. You’d have to tie me down to keep me away from their tempting treats. Their extensive list of heirlooms is like scooping up a bit of Americana and growing it for your very own. They make everything look and sound yummy. I especially adore their collection of squash and colorful beans like “Good Mother Stallard”.

RONNIGER‘S (AKA POTATO GARDEN): Call me crazy, but I think you should order potatoes from potato people. These are the potato people, so order from them. Order early because most of their grooviest varieties like Caribe sell out quickly.

RICHTERS: Try as I might to grow less than 10 varieties of basil (okay, I don’t really try at all), I cannot help but over-order from these guys. Richter’s catalog is far from glitzy, but they do herbs of every variety like nobody’s business. They also have a crazy “Seed Zoo” with uber-rare and ancient goodies like Monkeyface Peppers. I cackle with glee when my Richter’s “Medicinal, Aromatic and Culinary” seed order arrives – it brings out the witch in me!

COOKS GARDEN: They get the marketing thing down so well at Cooks Garden that I cannot say no. I am always tempted by something in this catalog. This year it was Cha Cha Chives, which I need like a hole in the head. I always order their Custom Lettuce Mixes (a trademarked name, I’m sure) and the equally trademarked “Fuseables” which promise little bits of Provence and Pretty Babies in my garden.

KITAZAWA: Because of an oath I made to my husband (“I promise not to plant all that weird stuff that nobody eats this year”) I am not ordering anything from Kitazawa this year, but that doesn’t diminish how great their seeds are. They offer all those wonky things you find at the farmer’s market but have no name for: Asian green, mustards, radishes, onions and leafy greens you never knew existed. And you have to give props to a no-photo catalog. Tall, proud and pungent, their Red Beard Bunching Onions are one of my favorites.

— I organize my seeds in photo storage boxes from the Container Store. —

— Before there is pesto, before there is Caldo Verde soup, before all of that, there is this. —

Here’s  the final 2013 seed list (minus potatoes and plants from Zema’s):

  • De Bourbonne Cucumber
  • Striped Armenian Cucumber
  • Parisian Pickling Cucumber
  • Good Mother Stallard Pole Bean
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Tennessee Dancing Gourd
  • Cream of the Crop Squash
  • Bonanza Squash
  • Cha Cha Chives
  • Custom Radish Mix
  • All Season Romaine
  • Little Gem Lettuce
  • Heatwave Blend
  • Silvia
  • Forellenschluss
  • Greens, Pretty Babies Mix
  • Mesclun, Provencal
  • Mesclun, Salad Mix
  • Melon, Collective Farm Woman
  • Mr. Big Pea
  • Superbo (Genovese) Basil
  • Chiogga Guardsmark Pelleted
  • Bullsblood Beet
  • Nelson Pelleted Carrot
  • Deep Purple Carrot
  • Mokum Carrot
  • Hakurei Turnip
  • E-Z Pick Beans
  • Windsor Fava Bean
  • Jumbo Italian Bean
  • Super Sugar Snap Pea
  • Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea
  • Premium Treated Pea
  • Maxigolt Pea
  • Beira Kale
  • Spigarello Liscia
  • Sunset Kale
  • Sunrise Kale
  • Sweet Thai Basil
  • Bright Lights Pelleted
  • Magda Summer Squash
  • Flying Saucer Summer Squash
  • Nabechan Bunching Onion
  • White Pickler Cucumber
  • Astro Arugula
  • Vitamin Green
  • Red Veined Sorrel
  • Mild Micro Mix
  • Alaska Mix Nasturtium
  • Bouquet Dill
  • Marigold Red Gem
  • Fiero Chicory
  • Chervil
  • Giant of Italy Parsley

And here is what The Muddy Kitchen 2013 vegetable garden will look like!

And here’s The Muddy Kitchen Herb Garden in progress!

— Edible marigolds, violas, and nasturtiums weave in between everything. —

— This year is going to be great! —

Take your boots off before you come in here!


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

nan solow

Thinking about all of the plants in your garden makes me smile. I marvel at all of the hard work that you will have to exert to make it happen and know that it’ll be grueling, joyful, fun, exhausting, dirty, buggy, and eventually both beautiful and delicious. Spring is just around the corner, and your garden is waiting for you.


Jennifer Solow

Thanks, Nan Solow!

Smiles are good.



Wow, how organised you are, and what a lovely lot of vegetables you are going to grow. We don’t grow nearly half that amount and still I struggle to keep it all going. Hats off to you!!


Jennifer Solow

Thanks, Kathy!

You run a Bed & Breakfast!! No wonder you’re busy! Thanks for the hats off…mine is a velvet top hat with a jaunty feather!


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