Category Archives: Heirloom Seed

Spring Planting for 2012 Rooftop Gardening

With weather returning closer to average for April, I’m relieved I didn’t do any premature direct sowing back when the temps hit the 80s (other than spinach that likes cool temps). As recently as last week Chicagoland has received freeze warnings. This coming week looks to be quite warm, but it’s still too early to plant many varieties outside due to nighttime temps still dipping into the 30s and 40s. Even if the cold temperatures don’t kill the seeds/seedlings, it can stunt growth and cause poor performance later in the season.

Potatoes planted in March are thriving on the rooftop- they can handle cool night temps. Turns out, potatoes make great container plants.

Yesterday I sowed several seed varieties indoors. Competing with the high winds on the rooftop and lack of space indoors made growing from seed a challenge last year. Without much space indoors to accommodate proper lighting, it’s difficult to grow hardy seedlings that can then handle the hardening-off transition to outdoors. If we don’t get hurricane force winds and marble hail like we did last year in Chicago (literally) then I may have more success than I did last year.

Strawberries are also great container plants that thrive in the midwest, and despite the harsh conditions on a rooftop. With them getting an early start this year, it looks like we'll have our first crop in May.

Here are the seed varieties I planted yesterday along with the varieties I’ve added to the calendar for direct sowing in May & June:

Late April seeding for June transplants:

  • Cantaloupe (seed saving from an organic store-bought melon)
  • Tomato (Atkinson, heirloom)
  • Green Peppers (California Wonder, freebie seeds)
  • Green Pepper (Big Dipper, freebie seeds)
  • Eggplant (Tiger, Thai hybrid)
  • Eggplant (Chinese long)
  • Sweet Peppers (Shishito)

Plastic produce "clamshells" (left) make good countertop sprouting containers and come with lids to keep seeds warm and moist for quick germination.

Seeds for direct sowing this week:

  • Extra Dwarf Pak Choi, bok choi
  • Pai Tsai, bok choi
  • Tasoi Savoy, bok choi
  • Cucumber Lemon (heirloom)

Seeds for direct sowing when night time temps remain a bit warmer:

  • Malabar spinach
  • Green beans
  • Acorn squash

We’re planning to supplement these seeds with seedlings from a local nursery that sells heirloom organics… especially if the wind mows down my young ones!

Choose Heirloom or Choose Monsanto?

Without jumping too deeply into the political fray, I just want to share a few links that will help home gardeners choose their seed supplier this year. This is particularly timely, with a gigantic class-action lawsuit pending against Monsanto by a collective of farmers and the wild popularity of the movie Food, Inc.

If you want to avoid genetically modified seed varieties while supporting sustainable options like organics and heirlooms, then here is a link that lists which seed companies are owned by or sell Monsanto/Seminis seeds: That link also shares alternative sources for non-Monsanto seeds.

[Note: Seminis is a child company of Monsanto and according to Wikipedia is “the largest developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world.”]

In addition, the Council for Responsible Genetics lists seed companies that have signed the 2012 Safe Seed Pledge.

Make your own pledge to stay informed and make your vote (money) count when you make purchases this year. While it may be fun and nostalgic to thumb through the annual Burpee, Jung or Park Seed catalogs, just know that they are all supplied by Monsanto.

Now, hopefully nobody wearing a black suit knocks on my door this week…

[UPDATE] Not 5 hours after I published this post, did the New York federal court toss out the lawsuit against Monsanto. Back to the drawing board.