“It’s seed order day. We’ve been perusing the catalogs for a few weeks but that was just window shopping. I thought you might be interested to know what goes into the decisions we make when we choose types of produce, the variety and the quantity.
The first considerations are taste, production, and suitability. If a variety is described as clearly superior in taste, nearly failsafe in lots of different growing conditions, or ‘the standard’ for commercial growers (a favorite seed catalogue phrase) it is a likely choice. We also look for plants resistant to the blights that tend to plague us. We have a short growing season here in the north country, 100 days from frost to frost, so we often choose the varieties that mature fastest. We also like varieties that will get us eating fresh vegetables as early as possible in the season, and varieties that will store well through the winter and into the spring.
Another consideration is distribution of labor. With some plants, like potatoes, the ratio of labor in to calories out is astonishingly good. Others suck up labor all the way through the growing season. They must be started in the greenhouse and transplanted or take a lot of labor to harvest. We have to be careful not to overdo it with the labor-suckers. We usually sneak in a few hail Mary crops that only succeed in years when the conditions are perfect for that plant. Celery is one example. Popcorn is an another. This year, we might try a little okra, which will yield well only if we have a blazing hot summer.
The last thing we consider is price. The cost of seed is significant but as a percentage of the investment in a crop (that is, compared to the labor that will go into it from planting to eating) it is small. So, unless a cheaper seed seems just as good or better than a more expensive one, we don’t shop seeds on price….” Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.