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Now that I know I’ll have some dirt to play in this summer, seed catalogs have a very magnetic appeal to me. A friend loaned me her Johnny’s catalog, and on the third page is the best chart I have ever encountered. On it are all of the categories of garden vegetables, how many seeds you need per 100′ row/acre, and how many pounds you will get per 100′ row/acre at the end of the season. This will be very helpful in planning how much to plant. I plan on doing 50′ rows, so all I have to do is divide in half. Easy peasy.

I tried finding a copy of it online to post on here, but the best I can do is link to the catalog so you can see it for yourself. In the online version, the chart is on page 4.

Now, I realize that I probably won’t get the same exact yields as what is reported on this chart, but it does represent a good guestimate. Say, for corn. I would like to have around 500 ears of sweet corn, so using the chart I would divide the 200 seeds per row by 2, giving me 100 seeds per row. Since the chart says an average yield is 8 dozen ears of corn per 100′ row, I would expect 4 dozen. Using a bit of basic math, I find that I would need to plant at least 10 rows (50′ long) to get 500 ears. Figuring in insect and animal damage, I would probably add another 4 rows for a bit of wiggle room. (I’ve heard the deer are numerous around the farm.)

That chart is going to help me figure out about how much to plant, but I still need to figure out WHAT to plant. Although the chart in Johnny’s is helpful, I’m not a big fan of their products. Most of them are hybrid, which I want to avoid at all costs. I would like to be able to save seed from year to year, and you can’t do that successfully with hybrids.

I know the broad categories of things I will grow, but selecting varieties is going to take a bit of research. For instance, I know that I would like to grow cherry, paste, and slicing tomatoes. For a cherry variety, I would like to try Borgo Cellano. Amish Paste tomatoes are a definite. For slicing, maybe some Brandywine, Oxheart, and Mortgage Lifter. But of course, I will probably go wild and end up growing at least a dozen different varieties. I like having a variety, as you probably know from my earlier posts. A great site for heirloom tomatoes is

While I do have experience with a lot of fresh garden veggies, there are some that I have yet to grow or taste. Beets, for instance. I have had pickled beets, but that is the extent of my experience with them. I liked them pickled, but wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what to do with them in their natural state, nor which varieties would be the best tasting. Some other things that intrigue me include artichokes, brussels sprouts, celeriac, kale, fennel, pac choi, sorrel, mustard, collards, leeks, parsnips, rutabegas, shallots, salsify, swiss chard, turnips, soybeans, wheat, oats, rye, barley, grapes, blueberries, goosberries, and many different herbs. Most of these things I have eaten, but never grown. Salsify, pac choi, and brussels sprouts are new to me on every level, so I don’t know that I will try to experiment with those yet. Maybe next year.

Oh, the selection is so huge! And that’s not even the beginning, because once I get the seeds I still have to figure out which ones I can direct seed and which ones I will have to start early in the house. We also have to try to rig up some cold frames and perhaps a cheap little greenhouse. We’ll see. It’s all so exciting!

If anyone has suggestions for heirloom varieties of ANYTHING that will do well in zone 5, feel free to leave me a comment. Now I’m off to look at seeds!

December 2009

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