By Vicki Spencer, Master Gardener
Last year, many gardeners were dismayed to find popular seeds had sold out early. This was especially the case with open-pollinated seeds. Open-pollinated seeds are desirable because they have slowly adapted to local growing conditions. Two sources for open-pollinated seeds in Colorado are High Ground Gardens and Pueblo Seed & Food Company.
High Ground Gardens (highgroundgardens.com) is owned by the Pike family from Crestone where they have worked for the past 15 years to develop high-quality, noncertified organic vegetable and herb seeds that thrive in harsh climates, including Colorado’s high altitudes with its short growing seasons and wide temperature swings. The company’s website divides seeds into categories that include grains, greens, herbs, individual vegetables and flowers.
Some interesting open-pollinated grain seeds include amaranth burgundy, a richly colored plant whose leaves are edible when young. It produces white seeds that can be threshed and ground into flour or popped for a popcorn-like snack. Another grain, Black Aztec corn, is a hardy plant that makes great flour. With its deep red petals, Rubenza cosmos is a striking flower, and Elka white poppy, with lavender petals and deep purple accents, is an interesting change from the more common orange and yellow poppies.
Food security and seed production are Bryon Pike’s passions. In response to last year’s unprecedented growth, he hopes to meet customer demand by expanding his product line, but you still need to order early.
Pueblo Seed & Food Company (farmdirectseed.com) emphasizes that it’s not a full line company; it specializes in certified organic open-pollinated seeds that grow well in arid and semiarid environments. It partners with various companies such as White Mountain Farm in Mosca, Ringa-Ding Gardens in Howard and Mer-Girl Gardens in La Villita, New Mexico. Most of its seeds come in standard size packets, but some are available in bulk.
Colorado’s electric cooperative members are fortunate to have this resource for obtaining unusual seed varieties, including:
• Blanca quinoa, developed at White Mountain Farm in the San Luis Valley
• Hopi turquoise corn, grown in southern Colorado with 4- to 5-foot stalks, two ears per stalk, and deep blue, purple and turquoise kernels
• Valencia onion, a globe-shaped, sweet crisp onion with bronze skin, introduced from Spain to Rocky Ford in the 1920s
• Jade green beans, a high-quality, slender, long, high-yielding bean
• Shirley poppy, an excellent pollinator with red, pink and lilac blossoms, grown by Mer-Girl Gardens.
Although the past year brought a great deal of uncertainty, one thing is certain: More and more people have started gardening for the first time. Whether a novice or veteran, you may experience occasional failures, but don’t become discouraged. If seeds fail to germinate or if they die before becoming well-established, remind yourself that it’s all part of a learning process.
Review planting and care guidelines, think about what you could do differently and try again. All it takes is time, practice, patience and a dash of good luck to become a successful gardener.
Gardener Vicki Spencer has an eclectic background in conservation, water, natural resources and more.