2009-12-17 / News

Unusual plants start with good seeds

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

Have you noticed how many American gardens plants from the Home Depot, Walmart or any of the large chain stores dominate in early spring? If a plant isn’t at any of these stores, it might never get planted in most gardens.

Don’t be afraid to try something a little different. Some plants may not survive outdoors, but with a little care during winter, they may well survive in a greenhouse or indoors. If you plan on growing any unusual plants, the time to start them is right after Christmas, in your own germination chamber.

To make a germination chamber, hang two shop lights in a warm place – a corner of the basement is ideal. In each shop light, put one warm white and one cold white fluorescent tube. Approximately 48 four-inch pots will fit under two grow lights, so you can grow a large number of plants for spring.

You’ll need to order seeds to put in these pots, but that’s easy. Here are some online seed retailers to try: www.superseeds. com, www.brentandbeckysbulbs. com, www.henryfields. com, www.seedsofchange.com, www.abundantlife.com, www. highcountrygardens.com, www. territorialseed.com, www.theheirloomgardener. com, www. gurneys.com and www.thompson morgan.com.

You won’t plant every seed in the packet, so you’ll end up with lots of opened seed packets. Don’t throw them away. Put the seeds in a cool place, such as your refrigerator, and they’ll be ready for next year.

What unusual plants should you grow? Try some herbs. Rather than grow the common large-leaf basil, give red, African blue, cinnamon, Thai or lime basil a try. Or, you can grow dwarf fernleaf dill – ideal for pots – or any of the different lavenders to make sachets in summer, lemongrass (for your Asian dishes) or epozote (use with Mexican dishes). Lovage, sage and pineapple sage, stevia and any of the thymes are also good choices. English, French, German, orange and creeping thymes are also available, and you’d be surprised at their subtle influence on some of your favorite dishes.

You can also grow your own tomatoes instead of buying big boy or beefsteak. One catalog called Totally Tomatoes lists more than 100 varieties. You can grow tomatoes from tiny currant tomatoes up to goliaths that can weigh up to two pounds. You can also grow white, red, green, orange, yellow, black, pink, striped and variegated tomatoes, tomatoes for sauces, canning, salads, frying, slicing, pickling and plain old eating. Not all these varieties are available in stores, but it is easy to start tomato seeds. Just don’t start too early unless you plan on putting your plants into your greenhouse. The best time to start tomato seeds is in mid-March for May 15 outdoor planting.

Another plant to start indoors is the pepper plant. Peppers are easy to grow, provided you have enough sun or a warm spot for them. Only by starting your own will you be able to grow anchos, anaheims, chili, Caribbean red, cayenne, fajita, chiltepin, habanero, jalapeno, Hungarian wax and Scotch bonnet peppers.

Peppers and eggplants germinate and grow slowly, so you can start them sometime around mid-February for transplanting to your outdoor garden, and even earlier if you have a greenhouse.

These are just a few of the plants you can grow when you start your own. But before you can start growing, you’ll need to order your seeds – and start filling your refrigerator!

Return to top