Friday, May 29, 2009

Attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden – Our First Contest!

Although we love earthworms and bees here at Renee's Garden Seeds, there's nothing quite as exciting as catching a glimpse of a hummingbird zipping through your garden, looking for a snack. You can't deny the lift in your spirits when you watch a butterfly crash-land gently onto a bright “Red Sun” sunflower.

So, we thought. Why don't we share our winged friends with our readers?

Contest #1: A Blooming Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden Contest

For our first-ever contest on Renee's Blog, we want to offer each of our two contest winners a butterfly bonus pack and a hummingbird bonus pack. You can grow your very own butterfly and hummingbird gardens.

Here's what they look like:

seeds for a hummingbird gardenseeds for a butterfly garden

These are both brand new for this season. Click here to read about these collections.

How does this contest work? This contest is open to our Canadian and US readers. You may enter once anytime before 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Friday, June 5th. The following week, we will select two responses at random, contact the winners, and send them each a butterfly garden and a hummingbird garden.

All you have to do is click on the "comments" link below this article. In the text box, tell us your favorite vegetable or flower and include your name and e-mail address so we contact you. After filling out the box, click the orange "publish your comment" button.

Two winners will be selected at random. The week of June 8th, we'll publish the winners' first names on the blog.

In Other News: Our New Intern!

Also new at Renee's Garden Seeds is Nellie Boonman, the marketing intern (me). I recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship.

I'm very excited to work with Renee and the entire team here in beautiful Felton, California. The trial gardens are absolutely bursting right now with lettuce and spinach, so everybody in the office goes home with bags of leafy greens in their back seats. Definitely a perk. I've especially enjoyed the Mesclun mixes, which you can order online through our catalog. They're incredibly tasty with an Orange Citrus Dressing and our chopped Delicious Duo scallions.

I'll contribute occasionally to the Renee's Garden Seeds blog, Twitter account, and to the Renee's Garden Seeds Ning community. I look forward to hearing your gardening stories and comments.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lettuce Days: Fields of Green & Red

lettuce fields at shamrock seeds Recently we visited Lettuce Field Day at Shamrock Seeds, a premier lettuce breeding company. One of the benefits of our location in Central California is that several of the seed growers we work with are within easy driving distance. Shamrock Seeds hosted us during their “Lettuce Days” open house in their beautiful trial fields in Gilroy, CA.

Estella cutting lettuceWe lucked out with a perfect spring weather for touring the "living catalog" of Shamrock varieties, existing and under development, with knowledgeable Product Development Manager, Estella Barajas. The trials featured row after row of interesting varieties – from romaines to baby leaf varieties to wasabi arugula. Estella impressed us with her encyclopedic and very precise knowledge of every single variety and her boundless enthusiasm for the details of growing and producing seed for great greens. She showed us how she evaluates the different varieties for form, weight, disease resistance and slow bolting. And taste of course! Renee makes a point of tasting each variety in the field, so we had plenty of opportunity to talk about the various nuances of flavor.

The most exciting find of the day was completely new variety of arugula that tastes amazingly like the spicy wasabi that often accompanies sushi. We didn’t believe it until we tasted it. The first taste is the spicy, peppery flavor of arugula, but then the intense flavor of wasabi hits you. It was a truly uncanny experience discover the tangy, delicious flavor of the wasabi in a salad leaf! We all agreed that there would wasabi lettucedefinitely be a great interest in the market for this new green. It is still in development by Shamrock but we’ll be testing it in our own trial gardens this fall.

Many specialty lettuces also caught our attention, especially a soft, delicate butter lettuce they usually sell mostly to European customers, and the intensely colored red leaf lettuces and mustards that are Shamrock specialties.

butter lettuce from shamrock seedsOn the theme that "everything old is new again", Shamrock has reselected an old home garden favorite, Little Gem lettuce. Renee was especially excited to see and taste both green and red varieties of these old-fashioned little vase- shaped lettuces that qualities of both butterhead and romaine lettuces. sweet ruby lettuceShamrock's breeders have refined this variety to have more crunch, sweetness and heavier heads.

We also were excited about the densely leafed new variety Shamrock is working on called "thousand leaf lettuce." It is the most densely packed l head of leaf lettuce we've ever seen and tastes good too.

shamrock seeds lettuce fieldsNext up will be for us to evaluate these new variety" finds" several times in our own company trials to see if they will perform well for home gardeners before deciding to add them to our Renee's Garden line. There will be many salad meals to come…

-by Sarah Renfro, Renee's Garden Business Manager

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Springtime in Seattle - Sue Shecket, webmaster and NW trial gardener

pacific northwest snowIt was an exceptionally long, rough winter here in the Pacific Northwest. We do expect a bit of snow to dust us now and then in Seattle, but this year was the "real deal" , with bitter cold and lots of the white stuff that stuck around for weeks. While we had some fun sledding down our very steep hillside streets, watching people cross country ski downtown, playing bumper cars on the side streets and bemoaning the inability of the city to plow anywhere but the mayor's neighborhood, the novelty wore off very soon and thoughts turned to the sad fate of our more tender plants and trees.
pacific northwest spring garden
Indeed I did loose a few old favorites to the snow load and deep freeze, but fortunately there is a happy ending to this tale of woe, as the exceptional cold also gave new life to long ago planted and forgotten bulbs. So when spring bloom season finally arrived (and even our Tulip Festival was 2 weeks late), it was spectacular.

sweet peas, larkspur, and poppies in seattleAgainst all odds, my fall planted sweet peas soldiered through and are up and running, and the early spring seeded poppies and larkspur also stayed afloat. I had sowed fava beans as a cover crop in the vegetable beds, and many plants did survive to be turned under and enrich the soil for my April planting of lettuces, greens, brocolli raab, bok choi, radishes, scallions, spinach, peas, chard, kale, carrots and beets.

raised vegetable beds The raised beds look a bit like a laundry line with row covers over everything to protect the seedlings from heavy rain, digging cats, hungry birds and murauding slugs and snails (an ongoing NW battle). I do start my warm weather crops indoors, and have a good supply of my favorite Sungold tomatoes to set out and share, as well as a sampling of our container varieties. Cherry tomatoes are more reliable in my less than ideal conditions (half day sun, cool nights), but I have had success here with our container eggplant and peppers, so have started Little Prince Eggplant and Baby Belle Peppers as well.

We are already looking forward to our first spring salads and I am, as ever, thrilled to see so many healthy seedlings sprouting in the beds. I'll be watching those nighttime temperatures closely with my seed packets out and ready for sowing lots of flowers and warmer weather crops.
We just published this month's Enewsletter - click to check it out: Add to your "garden ideas" toolbox.
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