Thursday

How to Grow Paprika


Bulk paprika
Paprika is a mild but flavorful spice that's more than just a garnish for deviled eggs.

Paprika is a pungent addition to any dish, and Americans are only just learning what many Europeans already know about the prince of mild peppers.

Why Doesn't my Paprika Have any Flavor?


Often seen as a garnish for foods that are served chilled, like deviled eggs and mayonnaise-based salads, it isn't surprising that in the West paprika has a reputation for being tasteless. The secret to unlocking its complex flavor is in heating it. Added at the end of the cooking cycle, paprika will release a deep, sweet, earthy taste to meats and vegetables. Although exposure to high heat, like that used in sautéing, will destroy the flavor, moderate heat will liberate the flavor of this under-appreciated spice. As a side note to paprika's flavorful qualities, it is often a basic ingredient in Spanish and Portuguese chorizo, a spicy pork sausage.

Paprika is a pepper in the nightshade family (capsicum annuum). It was introduced to southeastern Europe in the mid 1500's and quickly spread throughout Hungary, becoming a favorite there. Mildly flavored for a pepper, paprika lacks the high concentrations of capsaicins found in other peppers, keeping its flavor robust, but eliminating much of the heat. It's one of those guilty pleasures that's as easy on your stomach as it is flavorful.

Types of Paprika


Counter to what you'd expect, the hotter a paprika happens to be, the less red it will be. By far the hottest paprikas are brown to yellow in color, and coloration is a great way to distinguish powdered paprika varieties. Hungarian paprika is reputed to be the sweetest, but again, the color is a good indicator of flavor when cooked.
Paprika Pepper

How to Grow Paprika


Paprika is grown in the garden much like other peppers, using well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny location. Peppers are very susceptible to frost damage, so be sure to put them out in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. Your Cooperative Extension Office can give you additional information on the expected frost free date for your area.

Start peppers outdoors from seed in zones 6 and higher. For colder climates, start seeds indoors or purchase seedlings. Peppers are very easy to grow from seed.

The longer narrow paprika varieties are commonly considered the Hungarian paprikas, while the shorter more compact varieties are considered Spanish. A great variety is the Kalosca, a thin walled, sweet paprika that is easily dried and ground. If you'd like to make your own dried paprika, this is the pepper to plant this spring.

Health Benefits of Paprika


Paprika is a great addition to your diet. Naturally high in vitamin C, it has also shown promise in helping regulate blood pressure.

The next time you head for the spice rack, consider adding paprika to your stews and soups, or plan on making a paprika encrusted shrimp or potato paprikash. Paprika is a sleeper -- one of those spices that has a a great deal to offer with almost no potential downside. Give it a try.


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Photo 1 - By Katina Rogers (paprika  Uploaded by stegop) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Houmt_Souk-paprika-katinalynn.jpg

Understanding Plant Hardiness Zones


The USDA's list of plant hardiness zones categorizes geographical locations across the U.S. based on their estimated lowest winter temperatures.  The lower the number on the list, the colder the zone will be.

For example:  Zone-10 has an expected low temperature range of between 30 and 40 degrees F. (pretty temperate).  Zone-9, which is one number lower, has an expected low temperature range of between 20 and 30 degrees F.

The numbers change in 10 degree increments all the way down to zone-1 with a range of -60 to -50 degrees F (burrrr).  

Zones are further broken into 5 degree designations.  Zone-9a has a more precisely defined low temperature range of between 20 to 25 degrees F, while zone-9b has a range of between 25 to 30 degrees F.

All of this is based on data compiled by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) between 1976 and 2005. It doesn't take into account things like high temperatures, rainfall, humidity or soil conditions.

When you look at plant catalogs or seed packets, you often see recommended zone ranges for particular plants.  This is excellent general information that will help you decide, at a glance, whether or not a plant is well suited to the growing conditions in your garden.

I say general idea, because some areas across the U.S. are made up of microclimates, small pockets where the environmental conditions are a little warmer or colder than the norms on the hardiness zone chart.  Some areas may be protected from the elements by hills, making them warmer in winter, or they may be downwind of lakes or rivers that could make them a few degrees colder than they would be otherwise.

If you live where there's an atypical microclimate, the folks at your local nursery (or the local gardening club) probably know it.  You can also consult the USDA's Cooperative Extension Office in your area to obtain more information. 

Just because a plant will grow in your hardiness zone doesn't necessarily mean it's a good match, or that it won't require some TLC.  Remember, things like humidity and the expected high temperatures for a region have a big impact on how well certain plants will fare.  It's true that with the right care you can probably grow almost any plant, either outdoors, in a greenhouse or indoors.  When you're choosing plants, though, making sure you have plenty of easy-care varieties can help make your gardening efforts more fun than work -- and more successful, too. 

Here's another thing to remember:  Plant hardiness is a determiner of winter conditions.  It's typically a rating reserved for trees, shrubs and perennial plants (the kind that come back year after year).  If you're growing annuals (plants that flower, set seed and die in a single season), zone ratings aren't a big consideration unless you typically experience a very early frost in your area.

Next time, I'll post a list of perennial herbs and their hardiness zones.  It'll help you plan your herb patch this year.


Saturday

Seed Longevity - Herbs


You don't have to be a gardener for long to start appreciating the value of seeds. They're nature's manufacturing facilities. The whole process is pretty miraculous, actually -- when it works. The problem with seeds is that they don't stay viable forever. The general idea in most locations is that they're supposed to survive until next season. Anything after that should be considered a lucky accident.

To help nature along, you can keep harvested seeds cool and dry -- in, say, small envelopes in your refrigerator.

If you can't use all that wonderful seed the following season, all isn't lost. Some plants try to be accommodating. If their seeds are kept dry and relatively cool, they may stay viable for years. Some survivalist and heirloom archival sites claim there are methods to keep seed happy and ready to sprout for a decade or longer. You may have heard of archaeologists breaking into ancient Egyptian tombs only to discover ancient seed stores that subsequently sprouted -- with a little TLC. For our purposes as backyard gardeners, though, the prospects aren't as rosy.

 

Germinating Seeds

 

Just because the prospect of germinating old seed doesn't look promising doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Where a professional grower may think a 30 percent germination rate is very poor, if you're only after two or three plants and have plenty of seeds, 30 percent may be pretty darned great for your gardening efforts. Think of it as your own little science experiment. It's a good idea to limit the resources you're willing to expend on the project, though.

Starting Seeds the Inexpensive Way -- In Paper Towels


I like the paper towel method: I place old seed between sheets of damp paper towels in a warm, dark spot, and transplant any that take off. (The paper should be kept uniformly moist. I often place a sheet of wax paper or cellophane loosely over the top of the paper to help retain moisture.)

From one season to the next, the odds are pretty good that well-maintained (protected) herb and vegetable seeds will have a decent germination rate. In subsequent seasons, some varieties will produce at least a few seedlings. By the third year, herbs seeds aren't all that reliable. I've noticed fancy cultivars will typically have lower germination rates than heirloom seeds -- the old standbys.

I've provided a brief list of herbs and what you may be able to expect from the seeds for reference purposes only. It includes how long an herb's seed stock may stay viable. (This is just my experience and opinion. Please let me (us) know if you've done much better -- and include a note about what you did to net such a fine haul.) The number in quotes is my approximate date to germination. It's very generous. You may see results in less than a third the time listed with some plant varieties. If you don't see anything by that date, though, it's probably time to pitch what you've got and buy seed.

Two year old seeds (peppers) started between damp sheets of paper toweling.

Herb Seed Longevity (Life Expectancy) List

 


  • Angelica - 6 months (21 - 30 days)
  • Basil - 5 years (14 days)
  • Borage - 4 years (14 days)
  • Caraway - 3 years (18 days)
  • Catnip - 3 years (30 days)
  • Chamomile - 3 years (18 days
  • Chives - 2 years (10 - 20  days)
  • Cilantro - 2 years (21 days)
  • Coriander - 4 years (21 days)
  • Fennel - 3 years (18 days)
  • Lavender - 2 years (21 days)
  • Lemon Balm 3 years (21 days)
  • Marjoram - 2 years (15 days)
  • Mint - 3 years (30 days)
  • Oregano - 4 years (30 days)
  • Parsley - 2 years (30 days)
  • Rosemary - 3 years (14 - 28 days)
  • Rue - 2 years (21 days)
  • Sage - 4 years (28 days)
  • Summer Savory 2 years (28 days)
  • Thyme - 3 years (21 days) 



Thursday

Planting Herb Seeds


Many herbs can be grown from seed, but that's not always a good idea.  Here's an example: It's easy to obtain lavender seed, but most lavender species are spotty and unreliable when it comes to germination.  The plants are fragile when they're small, too.  Below I have a list of popular herbs and some suggestions (yea or nay) about starting them from seed.

Here are a few general tips first:

New plant cultivars are coming out all the time, so making a blanket statement about any plant is risky.  A few years ago, I'd have shouted from the rooftops that growing rosemary where they're a risk of frost is a lousy idea.  Now there are frost tolerant varieties that can survive in areas as cold as zone-5.  The recommendations below have worked for me.  If you want to have a fun, successful experience in the garden, stick with seeds that are easy to propagate and buy small plants of other varieties you may want to try.

Lemon Balm
The expert resource for tips on growing a plant seed variety is always the seed supplier.  Those little graphics and recommendations on the backs of seed packets are important.  They tell you when to plant seeds, how deep to plant, how much water to provide and how much light the seeds (and plants) need.  Save the packets. When you're transplanting seedlings, they'll also give you information on how far apart to place plants in you flowerbeds.


When in doubt about what will grow in your area, check for zone recommendations on seed packet and in online plant descriptions.

Another excellent resource is your local nursery. Landscape experts in your area know what types of plants grow best in your climate. Take a look at what they're selling, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

You can also check with your local USDA Cooperative Extension Office for plant or planting recommendations.  This free regional service provides lots of information useful to gardeners. For more comprehensive information about regional growing zones and to find the phone number for your Cooperative Extension office, follow these links:

 

Herbs That Are Easy to Grow from Seed


Basil - Separate plants if you plan on planting more than one variety; they hybridize easily

Borage (Borago officinalis) - direct seed in the garden)

Calendula - start indoors in early spring. Calendula is pot marigold.

Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile) - start indoors in early spring

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) - start indoors in early spring

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) - can be started indoors or direct seeded (Chives self-seeds readily once established.)

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum ) - direct seed after the threat of frost. (also known as coriander)

Dill (Anethum graveolens) - direct seed after the threat of frost

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - direct seed after the threat of frost

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) - start indoors or propagate from root cuttings

Mint (most varieties) - start indoors from seed or direct sow in late spring after the threat of frost

Sage (most varieties) - start seed indoors or direct seed in the garden


Relatively Easy Herbs to Grow from Seed


Passionflower
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) - Comfrey is relatively easy to propagate from seed, but the most common method is through root division.

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) - direct seed in areas with a long growing season

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) - start from seed indoors in spring

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) - start from seed indoors in late winter

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) - start from seed indoors early in spring or sow directly in the garden after the threat of frost

Thyme
Rue (Ruta graveolens) - start from seed indoors in spring


St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)- start from seed indoors in spring

Soapwort (Saponaria -) - start from seed indoors in spring

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) - start from seed indoors in spring

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) - start seeds indoors in spring

Thyme (multiple) - start seeds of German or French thyme varieties indoors in spring.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - start from seed indoors in spring


St. John's wort

Special Needs and Challenging Herbs to Grow from Seed


Lavender (multiple) - Seeds germinate slowly and seedlings can be hard to cultivate. It's easier and less disappointing to start lavender from cuttings taken in spring or to buy seedlings.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) - seeds germinate and grow slowly.  It may take four years or so for plants to reach maturity. Buy plants if possible.

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) - slow grower. Buy plants if possible.

Parsley (Petroselinum - multiple) - Soak seeds in hot water (not boiling) overnight before planting indoors in spring.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - seeds germinate slowly and seedlings can be hard to raise. Plants may take up to three years to reach a useful size. Buy plants or start new plants from tip cuttings.


Rosemary

Other Propagation Methods



Bay (Laurus nobilis) - propagate from stem cuttings

Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) also known as bergamot - propagate from root cuttings

Garlic (Allium sativum) - grown from a bulb (or clove), garlic is easy to start outdoors in spring, but it will take two seasons to mature.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - grown from a rhizome in spring

Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) - propagate from root cuttings in spring or purchase plants

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) - propagate by division in spring or purchase plants

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) - propagate from cuttings or division

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) - purchase plants and divide them in the fall

Pineapple sage
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) - purchase plants in spring.


Tarragon, French (Artemisia dracunculus) - propagate by division or cuttings, or purchase plants

Thyme, English - propagate from cuttings or purchase plants.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) - propagate by division in spring or fall, or buy plants

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Calendula Photo - Calendula2_Wiki_Public.JPG http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Calendula_K.JPG  By Wouter Hagens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday

From the Kitchen to the Garden - Transforming Produce into Productive Plants



If you love to garden, winter can be tough. Once you harvest seeds from your annuals, put your perennials to bed for the season and prune your shrubs, there can be significant down time until things warm up again outdoors. Sure, the holidays are a distraction from your favorite pastime, and all those seed and plant catalogs hitting your mailbox in January are distracting, but nothing beats having a few winter projects going, just to keep a hand in.

You've probably seen articles about regrowing leftover produce like avocado pits. This isn't hype. You can save money on holiday produce and create some nice plants for the garden with very little effort. Here are examples of garden bound projects I cultivated indoors over the holidays. It isn't too late for you to start a few of them today:


A new celery plant growing from a heel


The Celery Trick - The heel from a bunch of celery can regrow, even if it's been in your refrigerator for a while. Whack off the stalks about three inches up from the bottom and retain them for culinary use. (You can place them in a glass of water to keep them fresher longer. Wrapping them in aluminum foil works, too.)

Take the heel and place it in a dish (a cereal bowl works well) half filled with pebbles, sand or marbles.

Insert the celery, heel down, and add water to about two inches above the base (the solid end).

Create a little well in the pebbles first, so the area directly underneath the heel is somewhat open. This gap will aid in root development.

Place the dish in a sunny location, and change the water every couple of days.

You should see roots forming after about a week and a half.

The plant will regrow from the center, and the stubs of the outer stalks will deteriorate and may be removed gently.

The pictures show a specimen after about three weeks. It can be planted out in the garden in spring.

Note: Some tutorials suggest planting the heel directly into the soil. I've had spotty success with that method, where water propagation works for me every time.
A healthy root system

Celery is biennial (has a two year lifecycle), so once it roots and the temperature heats up, it will want to set seed quickly instead of devoting energy to producing new ribs. Pinch back flowers to increase your harvest and use the outside ribs or harvest the whole plant before midsummer or thereabouts. Remember, you can always start a new plant the next time you buy celery. That's the beauty of produce propagation.

 Carrot Greens - That stub of carrot leftover from preparing your holiday crudité platter has some life left in it. I like buying carrots with the tops intact, but you can regrow carrots with only the stubby end to work with, too.

You need an inch of root (at least) if the top has been removed. That's where all the nutrition is.
Carrot Tops


Some tutorials suggest placing the carrot in a glass just touching a bit of water -- usually suspended from the rim of the glass with toothpicks. If you've used this method to sprout an avocado pit, you know the drill.
I've had better luck just placing a few carrot stubs (top up) in a plastic sandwich bag resting in some fine sand or vermiculite.

Place them in indirect light and leave them alone until they root.

This method works to root African violet leaves, too.

If the carrot top is still intact, rinse the stub (about an inch)  and trim back the tops to five or six inches.

Plant four inches apart in a quality potting soil, and place the pot in a window that receives good morning light (eastern exposure). Keep the pot uniformly moist. If you're successful, you'll notice some growth within a couple of weeks.

The bad part about this project is that cut carrots will not produce another root crop, but the green tops will continue to grow lush and appealing. You can always employ them as decorative elements in the garden, but they have another, better use. Carrot tops are slightly bitter, but still very tasty. They make an excellent bitter green ingredient in summer salads.

They have more than their fair share of antioxidants and minerals, too. Instead of shelling out a fortune for arugula or other designer greens you don't grow yourself, use carrot tops. Remember, this is from a bit of vegetable you'd otherwise toss in the garbage or onto the compost heap. I've kept carrots as houseplants for a few months waiting for the weather to warm up, and guests mistake them for ferns. They're that pretty.


Two Month Old Green Onion (from Thanksgiving)

A Green Onion Bonanza - Over the holidays, I use lots of green onions (also called bunching onions and scallions). If I don't need all of the white end (the root end), I regrow the green top in a glass of water. This also works when I have one or two leftover whole onions from a bundled bunch:

Place the onion or onions in a glass of water and onto a sunny windowsill (white side down, green side up).

Change the water every other day or so.
Onion Roots


The green tops will keep growing, and you can harvest a third to a half as needed and still have a perky happy plant.

Use this method to harvest green onions indefinitely.

Transplant into your garden in spring.


Is That a Pineapple? - Pineapple tops look a bit like succulents and make great houseplants. They're easy to regrow, too. If you live in a warm, humid climate, you can also cultivate pineapple outdoors until it flowers and fruits. This could take a few years, though (maybe 4 or so). Here's how to regrow pineapple:



Three Month Old Pineapple Plant (from a top)
Cut off the top about two inches below the base of the leaves.

Trim away as much fruit (yellow part) as possible without injuring the solid part underneath.

Remove any brown leaves.

Upend the top or set it on a paper towel in a shady indoor spot for five days to a week to harden off. This will help dry any remaining fruit.

 
Place the top in a glass with a small enough opening to hold the leaves suspended.

Fill the glass with water to just below the base of the leaves.




Pineapple (top view)
Place the glass in a sunny spot.

Change the water every other day. It won't take long for roots to form.

After a couple of weeks (you should have a healthy root network), transplant the pineapple to a six-inch pot filled with quality potting soil.

Bury the plant to the base of the leaves.

Keep the plant relatively moist, and provide extra humidity by spritzing it daily or placing the pot in a dish of pebbles to which you've added a little water (to just below the base of the pot). Keep the temperature somewhat warm (say, in the high 60s or 70s).


Gimme Garlic - You know that long skinny garlic clove in the center of the bulb? It doesn't usually yield much meat, so why not use it to grow a new plant. If you love garlic, it's an easy way to keep a ready supply. Garlic is a biennial crop, so it will take a couple of years to get your first homegrown bulbs, but if you make a habit of adding new plants regularly, you'll never run out once you start harvesting. This one's super simple:

Place the center clove in about a half inch of water (in a plastic baggie or a small glass of water). Retain the pad on the bottom. It' will help keep the garlic from falling over.

Change the water daily until you see shoots and roots form.

Transplant into the garden after all threat of frost as passed for the season.

Oh, if an entire garlic bulb has started to sprout in your cupboard, (this is when it will start to taste bitter), use this method to cultivate the whole thing instead of tossing it.

Wednesday

Why You Should Grow Herbs from Seed


During this time of year, you're probably keeping an eye on the weather and plotting out your spring and summer garden. Think of it as the calm before the storm. It's too cool and wet to start gardening in earnest, but a few mild mornings offer just enough promise of spring to give you the itch -- again.

If you're a regular visitor to your local garden supply store, it's a good bet you buy at least a few and possibly more seedlings for your garden spaces. After all, seedlings are relatively inexpensive if you just want one or two specimens of a particular variety. They're a no-fuss option, too. Dig a hole, plop a plant inside and you're done, right? Well, that might not be a completely accurate guide to seedling cultivation, but you get the idea. It can be fast and easy.

Why Grow Herbs and Other Plants from Seed

Starting plants from seed takes time. It also takes extra effort, especially if you're starting seeds indoors. There are advantages to making seed cultivation one of your late winter or early spring projects though:

Variety - The plants on offer from your local nursery or garden supply franchise were probably chosen for your specific climate and other growing conditions, which is convenient. The problem is that there may only be one or two different options for say, sage or thyme or basil. These three herbs and many others are available in dozens of varieties. Some are strictly ornamental while others are culinary. Some have medicinal applications while others can help provide solutions to pesky landscaping problems. When you grow plants from seed, you have access to lots of variety -- and maybe just the variety you need to enable a plant to thrive in your garden.

Value - Depending on the plants and seeds involved, you can often obtain a packet of multiple seeds (from 6 to 50 or more) for what it costs to purchase one seedling. Yes, you will have to provide light, soil, moisture and some type of container (maybe), but you'll net multiple plants from your investment.

Say your seeds produce five strong seedlings you can test in different locations around your herb patch, perennial border or veggie garden. That's a nice return on your investment, and creates a good learning opportunity for next year about what does well and what doesn't do so well. Multiple plants also make it easier to add companion planting to your garden design, which can aid in natural pest control.

Insurance - A new season in the garden brings new challenges. If you put plants out over the course of a week to 10 days and have trouble with unexpected pests or weather conditions, like an early cutworm infestation (the blighters) or a late frost, you'll still have the stock and time to recover and plant a healthy garden. Having those extra plants in reserve can be a nice insurance policy.


Calendula Seed
Satisfaction - If you don't grow plants from seed and frankly think the process is a pain, this can be a tough sell. I'm here to tell you, though, that it can be like discovering nature has magic on offer. Real magic and not just Harry Potter reruns on cable. I can almost guarantee you'll never love a garden more than when you've cultivated some of the plants in it from seed.

Heck, creation is powerful, and when you see new green shoots bestir themselves up out of the soil and into the light, shoots you remember as seeds languishing in a paper envelope (and lately too), you'll be hooked. Here's another inducement: Once you grow herbs and other plants from seed, your annual seed harvest in late summer and fall becomes an event better than finding a spectacular bargain at a garage sale. It is nature's two-for-one sale, or 100-for-one sale, or 1,000-for-one sale. (Yikes, I'm getting flustered just thinking about it.) If that sounds too good to miss, you're right. It's amazing.

There's more:  Every time you cultivate a crop and harvest the seeds, nature has helped you choose seed varieties with special attributes adapted to the conditions in your garden.  Every new seed is unique, and growing your own helps to produce subsequent generations that will like the environmental conditions you have to offer.


Tomato Seedlings
Plant Your Own Victory Garden

Here's another fun factoid you'll appreciate. Back during WWII, victory gardens were all the rage. By some estimates, 40 percent of the produce grown for U.S. tables during those years came from victory gardens. Gardens sprouted in tree lawns, backyards and along the sides of roadways. Many of those plants (that helped feed a nation), were grown from seed on windowsills, in cold frames and in makeshift greenhouses.


The Economics

Since 2007 (and the beginning of the global financial crisis), backyard produce gardens are on the rise. Folks want to save money, but I also think that news reports about food supply contamination and the potential problems with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) engender a desire in just plain folks to exert more oversight and control over the foods we eat.  Starting plants from trustworthy seed sources, like heirloom varieties, is a good way to start doing just that.

Start an herb garden from seed this year -- and a vegetable garden, too. Backyard gardening for food and flavor can be hugely productive. The Burpee Garden Seed Company conducted a  survey in 2008  that concluded the average gardener could realize up to a 1 to 25 cost savings by growing his (or her) own produce, including the cost of supplies. Even if that figure is somewhat exaggerated (and I'm not saying it is), it still bears serious thought. The more you plant, the more you're likely to harvest (given you observe good garden and plant management practices).

There's information here at The Herb Gardener to help get you started. I also plan a series of posts for seed happy folks like me as well as newbies. If there's enough interest, maybe we'll all start a seed exchange for next year, who knows.

If you haven't ordered your free seed and plant catalogs online, here's a link to my annual list. You can also find it in the sidebar: List of Free Seed Catalogs 2013

Get ready. Spring is on the way with its promise of a new beginning in the garden -- and isn't that terrific!

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SproutingTomatoSeed.jpg  By SunHappy (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATomato_seed_stages1.JPG

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