Seedy Business

California’s drought drags on. To that end, I’ve planned my seedy business judiciously. About two weeks ago, this sweet little box of seeds arrived in the mail, my modest order from Botanical Interests. They even included “thank you lettuce.” You don’t see that ever day.

Botanical Interests Box of Seeds

Botanical Interests Box of Seeds

When I first starting buying seeds, I didn’t pay much attention to the source. Now that I’m better educated, I prefer buying organic where possible, while supporting small, independent companies.

Cover Crop:

Once the unidentified behemoth, aka the pumpkin/zucchini mystery plant, dies back, I’ll plant both vegetable boxes with a cover crop. Purchased online from Botanical Interests,

This hardworking combination of field peas and hulled oats is a legume and grass cover crop that quickly benefits the soil with nutrients and green matter, while helping suppress weeds. A great cover crop for established gardens, the mix is also perfect for improving areas being turned into gardens such as lawns and vacant lots.

Pea plants fix nitrogen and condition the topsoil while the pea flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. As an added benefit the young pea shoots and tendrils are edible and can be used in salads or as a soup topping. Oats hold nitrogen, provide green matter and provide support for the pea vines.

cover crop seeds

Cover Crop Seeds

When planted in the fall, the oats and peas benefit from the cool weather but are killed by the cold temperatures of winter and won’t regrow in the spring. The dead plant material provides a wonderful winter mulch that helps prevent soil erosion and is ready to be tilled into the garden as soon as soil can be worked in the spring

Not bad for $2.99 a packet! I bought three.


This is my only cool-season crop. I’ve grown it before and it got by on very little watering. I’m hoping for the same success to keep my water usage low.

Butterfly Flower:

After reading earlier this year about the decline in butterfly populations, I learned that one of the problems is the reduction in Milkweed. I’ve never seen it offered in our nursery centers, but found the seeds online.  It’s a perennial, and will replace the seasonal flowers I’ve grown for the past two years in the triangle near our front sidewalk.  The plant prefers swampy conditions, but they say it will do okay with ‘regular’ garden watering.

Butterfly Flower and Broccoli

Butterfly Flower and Broccoli

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, since San Jose is anything but swampy. I’ll be thrilled, though, if I can plant a healthy shrub that attracts Monarch’s and helps them on their way south.

Cat Grass Oats:

My sister’s indoor kitty, KT loves his greens. He prefers home-grown to what’s available at the market and I can grow it for a song year round. Pretty cool, eh?  So I plant a pot every few weeks and place it near the kitchen window. My sister brings me the empty pot, and I start a new batch so we always have them in rotation.

I tried to get Mr. Personality to pose for these pictures, but we wasn’t having any of it. He eventually nibbled on the corner of the envelope, before jumping down and moving on.

cat with grass seeds

“Clever” Photo attempt Number One

cat with seeds

“Clever” Photo attempt Number Two

Here is the lovely KT moving in for a nibble. Isn’t he the sweetest? KT started out as a foster cat, but she couldn’t let him go.

KT Loves his Greens

KT Loves his Greens

So, that’s my seedy business this fall. How about you? Are you dropping a seed or two into the earth, a greenhouse, or the time-honored pot in the windowsill?

Broccoli is In!

I’m a fair-weather gardener. I like to plant spring through summer, enjoying what survives the onslaught of snails, squirrels, rats and tobacco worms.  Seasonal favorites include pumpkins and tomatoes, along with a row of towering sunflowers.

We added a few raised beds two years ago, and since then I can’t stand to see all that bare soil.  Even with my tiny plot, I’m aware of the benefits of cover crops: less erosion, for starters, and if properly planted, cover crops like fava beans will enrich the soil with nitrogen for next season’s plantings.  Last year’s fava beans were tilled back into the soil, and we followed with a bumper pumpkin crop.

This year’s cover crop is Broccoli.  I wasn’t raised eating this delicious green.  I was in my twenties before tasting it on a flight to Vancouver.  It’s now one of my favorites.  I’ll eat it raw but love it steamed or in soups.

This week, my lush, green plants started to yield tiny florets.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching things grow.

The Power of Broccoli:  nutrition, selection, storage and history

Recipe: Sesame Steamed Broccoli

Recipe: Creamy Vegan Broccoli Soup*

*I made this recipe a few weeks ago with organic broccoli from a local market.  It was delicious!

Mid-Autumn Garden

Broccoli in the Ground

My plan was to start broccoli from seed this year, but I temporarily misplaced the seeds when they fell behind the recycling bin. I planted starter-plants instead to give the garden a head start, next to the still-flowering tomato plants. In Canada the tomatoes would have been toast by now, but they continue to produce through the first “frost” here in sunny San Jose.

Last year we planted fava beans, then tilled them into the vegetable bed before they produced any beans. I learned that the small white nitrogen nodules that appear around the roots enrich the soil. The plants themselves act as a cover crop, reducing erosion from rain and wind. This year, the broccoli will act as a covering winter crop, but will hopefully produce some greens for the dinner table as well. Three out of four of my family members will actually eat broccoli, not bad in our household of picky eaters.

Winter gardens are easier to tend in a variety of ways: fewer weeds, fewer garden pests and if the weather cooperates, scattered showers throughout the growing season.

We’ll see how it grows!

Flowering Tomatoes

Tomato Plants Gone Wild