GROWING EDIBLES ON THE COAST
It is more than two years since my last contribution to this series. I believe it is time to come back to it, partly to update my advice and partly to correct past errors but mainly to discuss some of my favourite subjects in more detail. We buy most of our seeds from catalogues. Having ordered many in the past, we are inundated with mailings at this time of year, many of them from places we have never patronized. For the most part we stick to varieties we have grown successfully in the past but it is fun to try something new from time to time. I am always a sucker for the breathless descriptions and beautiful photos of whatever the company is pushing this year. Most of the time we are disappointed but every now and again there is a real find to keep us hopeful. Buying from the local nurseries avoids shipping costs and offers immediate availability if you need to plant something right away. Certain standard varieties are usually available but the range is limited. I sometimes complain about the small choice but I understand the problem for the retailer. Most buyers have no idea about varieties or look for something they remember that grandmother grew in her garden in the midwest. If the nursery tries to offer something more adventurous it will sit unsold on the shelf and most of the wholesalers won't take back stock that remains at the end of the season. When you order by mail you will probably get fresh seed that has been properly stored in addition to being able to choose from a huge selection. I have heard it claimed that all of the seed comes from a very few large wholesalers and sometimes I wonder whether the seed companies put their own catchy names on standard varieties. It is understandable that the home gardener would be more attracted to a name like "Firefox Pepper" than to "bell pepper U33749". I also suspect that old favourite names like "Blue Lake bean" might be applied to the latest improved hybrid. There have been years when the beans grown from a package labeled "Blue Lake" have been quite unlike what I expected. I usually order from four or five nurseries each year and my stalwarts are Stokes (Ontario), Nichols (Oregon), Thompson & Morgan (England) and Johnny's (Maine). Sometime I will get only a couple of packages on an order even though I get killed on the shipping costs. One supplier I strongly recommend is the Italian company, Pagano. A good selection is available locally from Andersen's and perhaps from other nurseries. The packages are fairly priced and contain a generous amount of seed which keeps well for a year or two, unlike many of the hybrids.