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Jan 17, 2011 03:32 AM

Trying something new this year?

Last year I search for choy sum seeds. Didn't have great results growing but I'll try again. Red Noodle Beans were prolific but I failed to find a recipe we liked. I expected they would taste like green beans.

I haven't learned. This year I am on a turnip craze and ordered seeds from a company that carried one of the varieties (actually it's a rutabaga) and something at least as good but advertised as better than hakurei turnips (might have that first name wrong - it's a white summer turnip). Turnips and rutabagas have not been important on our table but maybe these new ones will turns us into turnip lovers!

Despite being very happy with Confection Winter Squash from Johnny's I'm trying a competitor's claim for a squash that's even better.

How about you? Are you looking for something that maybe someone else has found? What new varieties are you planning to try (and why)?

Happy New Year!

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  1. Well, I've never started seeds before, (other than those direct sown) and hope to this year, so that's new for me! I am tired of my zucchini taking over my tiny garden, so I want to try the heirloom trombocino. It was basically the only true trellising zucchini I could find, so that's what got me thinking about the whole seed starting idea. I hope I do well, because there are just so many interesting things out there to start from seed, and I hope I end up like you, trying exotic foods I won't find anywhere else!

    3 Replies
    1. re: centralpadiner

      Trombocino didn't grow well for me, but I think it's because I cannot grow zucchini, even the trellising kind. I tried it b/c we have so many squash vine borers. I thought that getting the vines up off the ground would help foil the borers, but the vines just didn't grow well and the dreaded powdery mildew did it in.

      1. re: gimlis1mum

        That's a bummer. :( I will give it a try anyway, I am usually inundated with whatever summer squash I grow, and by the time powdery mildew takes over, I've had my fill. I do rotate my plants as much as I can, but the garden is so small it gets hard. Eventually, I just have to take a break from those crops.

        1. re: centralpadiner

          I hope it works better for you...honestly, I think it's just my garden and acidic soil that certain veggies don't like, I don't think it was a problem with the specific variety.

          I grew up in the Pittsburgh area and we had baseball-bt-sized zucchini to consume every summer (mom was good about picking but a few always hid away until giant size). It just KILLS me that I can't grow zucchini here!

    2. We're just beginning to seriously mark up the slew of new gardening catalogs that have arrived. We tried baby bok choy last year and it was a dismal failure. This year we're trying a napa cabbage instead. Did mile long beans last year. Long on Gee Whiz! short on taste excitement. Going back to Kentucky Wonders and trying limas this year.

      As far as quality of seeds and service from Johnny's: never going back, won't recommend them. Poor sprouting seeds, small amount of seed for the money, incredibly rude customer service.

      We like Hakuri turnips but we're always looking for something new. What was the new variety you found?

      6 Replies
      1. re: morwen

        I've never ordered from a seed catalog before, and was going to go with Territorial. Any experience there?

        1. re: centralpadiner

          We really like Osborne Seeds ( and Gourmet Seeds ( We've used Fedco that dfrost references and been happy with them but don't really order much there anymore. We've used Territorial Seeds as well but again don't order much from them anymore. You might be interested in the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange ( which specializes in heritage and open pollinators for the mid-Atlantic area. Osborne, Gourmet, and SESE are our first choices when ordering seeds.

          I see you're from central PA. I grew up in the Lewisburg-Mifflinburg area. Are you near there?

          1. re: morwen

            Thank you so much! I will be checking all those sources.

            I have lived in Dauphin, Franklin, and Lebanon Counties, and in my whole life have only lived outside of the general region for college, and brief stints in the Pittsburgh and Philly areas. Now I've been in Lancaster Co. for most of the past 14 yrs. As you probably know, people around here are kinda into the idea of "where are you from." But I can't list just one place, so I say Central PA, and embrace the whole area. :) Except for college, and that brief stint in the Philly burbs, by husband has lived in Lancaster Co. for 30 yrs. I think we'll stay put. :)

            1. re: centralpadiner

              Gorgeous area, Lancaster. As soon as I see those rolling hills when traveling north I know I'll shortly be home.

          2. re: centralpadiner

            I've bought potatoes, garlic, and ground cover seeds from Territorial, been happy with all of them. They have a lot of what's on my wish list for thisyear, so depending on how everything else works out I'll be ordering from them as well as Seed Savers Exchange and Shumway's. I was going to try Johnny's this year but maybe not...?

          3. re: morwen

            Trying Oasis which are supposed to be like Hakurei, Gold Ball because the description was interesting and Gilfeather, a Vermont specialty. All from Fedco. Haven't tried Fedco before but prices looked good and free shipping if order was over $30. Said their busy season was end of January. Didn't care for any of ther bean selections except for Golden Rocky which is similar to Buerre de Rocceneau (sp) which I think I've grown before and liked.

            Sorry you had a bad experience with Johnny's. I've ordered many times but I did think they were getting expensive. Liked Baker's Creek choices last year and Asian varieties from Agro Hatai. Still have different choy sum seed to plant. I would like a good napa cabbage.

          4. Last year was asparagus peas and we surprisingly didn't like them much at all. We also did peppergrass which was lovely. I also planted 18 varieties of herbs (not from seed as we are in Zone 1a - the coldest possible).

            This year I want to try salsify and grow more kale. And try purple Graffiti cauliflower, red egg aubergine and mini leeks.

            7 Replies
            1. re: chefathome

              Chef, I have to ask if you are using any season extending tunnels or tricks? Where do you get seed for mini leeks?

              1. re: dfrostnh

                Yes - my husband built glorious raised beds which drain earlier in the spring (i.e. end of May) and they are easier to cover with sheets in the fall (starting in August). We also use tunnels, cloches and so on. We are lucky to have a suntrap - the raised beds are against our white house and surrounded by gravel. So, in 2010 our tomatoes grew to 7 feet high and they usually get to only 2 or 3 feet.

                1. re: dfrostnh

                  I forgot to add that our season is far too short to seed leeks so I buy the sets just like onions and shallots. Thankfully we have some very interesting greenhouses around here who carry them!

                2. re: chefathome

                  Mini-Leeks? I'd like a link to that too!

                  1. re: morwen

                    If you plant leeks such as King Richard close together you get thin leeks or:


                  2. re: chefathome

                    This is a fun thread...I had planned to try out asparagus peas last year but never got around to planting them. Maybe I won't bother!

                    1. re: gimlis1mum

                      The plants themselves really are pretty; the red flowers are lovely. They were also very prolific! However, we did not enjoy the sort of soapy astringent flavour (not in a good way like cilantro!) and began giving them away. The recipients did not enjoy them, either.

                      As we have limited space in our raised beds (although it is shocking how much one can plant in those things) we must grow what we love, not what we want to like or force ourselves to. They were fun to try once as a novelty - we thought as we both love asparagus and peas they would taste like that but these did not. We will not be trying them again.

                      I think these would be fun for families with small children as they really are unique plants.

                  3. I'm thinking about trying dent corn, to use for making cornmeal. Just a little bit, for fun...Bloody Butcher has a great name, but the growing season is long (catalogs list it at 110 days?) and my garden is near Boston. I guess the days to harvest is a lot because you let it dry out on the stalks.

                    I grew a little Golden Bantam Improved a couple of year ago that did surprisingly well in our acidic soil and with limited sunshine (~8 hours). The Golden Bantam was in a 3 sisters planting with Purple Podded pole beans (easy to spot the beans amongst all the foliage) and Waltham Butternut (the vines are tough, the borers only got to one plant). I've since learned that there are varieties of pole beans that are specifically suited to a 3 sisters planting but have yet to track some down. i may just go with the purple podded again anyway, since it did well. I might also try out some popcorn. Seed Saver's lists one called strawberry popcorn that is just too cute.

                    I'd like to try growing some Korean chilis and radishes but haven't found a source for seeds.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: gimlis1mum

                      That's nice to know about Waltham Butternut. Last year we were in a running battle with borers and squash bugs.

                      1. re: morwen

                        I'd love to try out some of those beautiful winter squash varieties, but I don't have room for butternut and something else. Not sure I could take the heartbreak if the borers got to the beauties...I might try one of those slightly-shorter season butternuts, that have smaller vines & fruit, though.

                        Forgot to say, I planted some multiplier onions last fall. A few green tops were peeking up through the dirt before this snow hit so I'm hopeful that they'll make it.

                        1. re: gimlis1mum

                          Many years ago in a garden far away I planted Egyptian walking onions and came to regret it.

                          1. re: morwen

                            Why? Something volunteered in my garden that I suspect was of the walking onion variety. I dug it up since I wasn't totally sure and didn't want to eat it (it wasn't very attractive, either). The ones I just planted are the "potato-onion" kind, you dig up the roots to harvest & replant some in the fall for next year.

                            1. re: gimlis1mum

                              Because it lived up to it's name and became extremely invasive spreading not only in the area reserved for it but somehow popping up on the far end of the property from it and everywhere in between. Had the same problem with perillo/shiso. I haven't planted either since.

                              We grow garlic, shallots, onions, and chives, and I want to try leeks this year so we have plenty of alliums to choose from.

                              1. re: morwen

                                If you haven't grown garlic chives yet (sometime called Chinese garlic chives, I think) you migh want to give them a try, too. I grew garlic for the first time last year & decided that I love garlic scapes - the garlic chives got me through that part of summer between scape harvest and bulb harvest.