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Gardening Tips

Beet Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1⁄4"-1⁄2"
Row Spacing: 12"
Seed Spacing: 1"
Days to Germination: 6-12 days
Germination Temperature: 45°-75°F

Beets grow from compound seeds, which may produce several seedlings. Enhance germination by soaking the Beet seeds for an hour in bathtubwarm water. Planting Beets too early may cause stunting and bolting (going to seed), so wait until the soil has warmed to at least 45°F and there is no chance of hard frost. Beets prefer evenly moist, moderately fertile soil. Keep the Beet bed wellweeded, carefully thinning to 3" between plants when seedlings are about 2" tall. Baby Beets make the most choice eating. Harvest them on the smaller side to enjoy their sweet taste and smooth texture. (Or, harvest a bit larger for winter storage.) Enjoy chilled, with goat cheese, black olives and dried cranberries over baby greens with a raspberry vinaigrette. Yum. Or roast them whole with other root vegetables for hearty winter dinners. Beet greens are delicious too when steamed and dressed with butter and lemon juice.

Tips for Harvesting and Storing Root Vegetables

Baby Beets
If you’re planning to serve your tender baby Beets whole and unpeeled, try hilling the soil around their shoulders as they grow. This will keep the skin from hardening over and losing its smooth, red appearance.

Beet Geometry Saves Time
Beets do long service in the garden, from the first snippets of spring greens to rich, flavorful storage beets in winter. But their “seeds” are actually pods containing multiple seeds, so rows must be laboriously thinned. Turn that trait into a time-saver by planting multi-plant blocks. Using soil blocks or plug trays, sow two seeds in each block. This will produce four or five seedlings per block. Plant the blocks 10" apart in rows 12" apart. They will grow fine in clusters, and you’ll have plenty of space in between for cultivating in two directions~much easier than weeding a crowded row. The same trick works for Onion seedlings, which are also difficult to weed. Plant them in groups of four and they will push themselves apart a bit as they grow.

Late Great Beets
Storage Beets need to be planted early in the season to give them plenty of time to make full size. But did you know you could start a second crop of smaller beets just for fresh fall eating? Sow these six weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. You’ll be rewarded with tender, tasty Beets that you can harvest all the way up to the first hard freeze. They’re great steamed in a covered pan with butter or even sliced raw in salads. And the tender greens are delicious too. The cool weather keeps them mild and fresh tasting.

Shade Tolerance

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Spinach Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
:1/2”
Row Spacing:12”-18”
Seed Spacing:1/2”
Days to Germination:10-14 days
Germination Temperature:45°-85°F

Vitamin-rich Spinach likes it cool, so you may direct-sow in the spring as soon as you can work the soil. You may also sow in the late summer or early fall for fall and early winter harvest. Spinach thrives in rich soil, so amend beds with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-rotted manure as needed. Keep soil evenly moist. When seedlings are 2" tall, thin to 4" to 5" apart. (Thinnings are great tossed into salads.) If you plant Spinach in warm weather, sow seeds deeper and in partial shade with frequent watering to help it avoid bolting. In cool climates, direct-sow Spinach seed every 2 to 3 weeks for constant harvest. To harvest, either use a few outer leaves from each plant or cut the plant off at the base, after which the plants will likely regrow a second crop of leaves. Make sure to wash thoroughly in cool water before use. Pat dry.

Cool Weather Spinach
Summer gardeners miss out on the three seasons in which this tasty, nutritious green truly thrives. For fall Spinach, wait until cool weather is just starting to settle in, but there are still enough frost-free days to bring the crop to maturity. For winter Spinach, just protect it with a cold frame or--if your climate is mild--a layer of straw. The outer leaves may look beat-up in the dead of winter, but fresh new growth will continually appear at the center. For spring Spinach, you can keep on harvesting these wintered-over plants, or start new ones from seed as soon as the soil can be worked. Another trick is to sow a late fall crop that will germinate just before the ground freezes up, then overwinter the young seedlings. (In cold climates, protect them with a cold frame.) They’ll start to grow as soon as spring arrives!

Hail to the Hardy Greens
Most garden greens can hardly wait for cool weather to come. They perk up and sweeten up as the mugginess of August fades away. Crops such as Spinach, Arugula, Claytonia and Mâche, if protected by a cold frame or simple unheated greenhouse, survive the winter in cold climates, to be cut and re-cut for a continuous harvest. Sow them in September in the north, October in warmer parts of the country. They do best hunkering down, close to the earth. Lettuce and Endive over-winter best when cut at baby leaf size rather than full-sized heads.

Kale, Collards and Brussels Sprouts fare better if grown to full size and left outdoors to soldier on as long as they can, since they do not re-grow if cut back in winter. We can often harvest them for our Christmas table, even in snowy Maine.

Shade Tolerance
Summer Squash Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
:1”
Row Spacing:4’-5’
Hill Spacing:2’-3’
Days to Germination: 4-10 days
Germination Temperature:65°-75°F

Direct-sow 3 to 5 seeds per hill when soil and weather are reliably warm, after the danger of frost has passed, thinning to the strongest single seedling. To start transplants, sow singly in pots 3 to 4 weeks before setting out. Provide ventilation, strong sunlight and even moisture. Gradually accustom to the outdoors, planting out after the danger of frost has past. Enrich soil with compost, organic fertilizer and/or well-rotted manure. Cover seedlings with cloches or other protection if it gets too cold. Water regularly and feed as needed with manure tea, kelp or fish emulsion. Harvest on the small side for the best flavor. Regular picking also encourages production. Leaves contain a skin irritant, so work carefully around the plants or wear long sleeves. (Powdery mildew on the leaves is normal in late summer, as temperatures cool and humidity rises. It won’t affect the squash.)

Our Pollinators are in Peril

Sex and Squash Blossoms
Melons, Pumpkins and Squash all have yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers, though those of Melons tend to be smaller. Large ones are prized for cooking by Mexican chefs, Italian chefs--and yours truly. The first to appear are usually male blossoms, and until the females appear, you can eat all you want of them. After that, leave a few of the guys for pollination purposes. You can recognize female blossoms by the little bump at the base that will become a Squash once the flower has been pollinated. Males just have a long stem--a perfect “handle” for dipping the flower in batter before deep frying.

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Cooking Tip: Simple Summer Squash
Slice the Squash very finely and put it in the top half of a steamer along with finely sliced Onions. Steam briefly until just tender but not mushy. Drain, then stir in chopped Parsley or another favorite fresh herb, along with salt and butter.

Savory, Sweet and Soulful Summer Squash
Tomatoes With Character
Some Tomatoes are glamorous like Elizabeth Taylor--lush, perfect, refined. Brandywines are glamorous like Melina Mercouri or Anna Magnani. Though their flavor is extraordinary, they do not always form perfect circles when sliced. Sometimes the fruits are lumpy, contorted, or deeply cleft, and you end up cutting them into free form chunks. They are perfect tossed with bread in an Italian panzanella salad, where flavor is more important than form. Or in salsa. Or in sandwiches with lots of mayo. Or try this one: toss some chunks of brie in hot, drained pasta, then add oddly shaped pieces of Brandywine Tomatoes. Ah, summer.

Tomato Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
:1/4”
Row Spacing:36”
Plant Spacing:24”-30”
Days to Germination: 6-15 days
Germination Temperature:70°-85°F

It’s best to raise Tomatoes as transplants. Sow Tomato seeds in sterile seed mix 6 to 8 weeks before the danger of frost has passed, water lightly and provide bottom heat. Grow seedlings at 60° to 75°F in a brightly lit, well-ventilated area. (Windowsills are not bright enough; the plant will get leggy and flop over.) Fertilize lightly as needed, increasing the pot size as needed. After the last spring frost, place outdoors for a week to harden off and to introduce to stronger sunlight. Prepare fertile Tomato beds in full sun with lots of compost and/or well-rotted manure. Transplant, burying seedlings deeper than initially grown, incorporating organic fertilizer under each transplant. Support with Tomato cages or tie plants loosely to rough wooden stakes, using soft cloth. Feed occasionally as needed. Keep Tomatoes well-watered by soaking the soil and not the leaves. Harvest when ripe!

Green Means Go
If you're wondering if your Tomato plants (or any annual crops) are getting the soil fertility they need, keep an eye on the "seed leaves". This is the first pair of leaves to emerge when a seed sprouts. They remain at the base of the stem as the plant grows. If the seed leaves stay healthy and green, you're doing something right with the soil in that row. If they are pale, yellow or withered, you need to prepare the soil more carefully next time you plant.

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Delicious, Voluptuous Heirloom Tomatoes

Not-So-Strange Bedfellows
According to the theory of companion planting, Tomatoes and Basil benefit one another when grown in the same plot. Certainly, they cause each other no harm, for we have often interplanted the two in a row, especially when we're training Tomatoes vertically on strings. There's plenty of space in between them for bushy Basil plants. After all, they keep excellent company in the kitchen, whether you're serving fresh Tomatoes strewn with the pungent green Basil leaves or cooking both up into a luscious sauce for pasta. It's handy to be able to pick the two together. And who knows? Perhaps the Basil's strong scent repels insect pests that might otherwise prey on the Tomatoes.

Juicy Fruits
The more water a vegetable contains, the more water you need to give it in dry, hot weather. Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Celery are especially thirsty. If you can, group them together and run a soaker hose through the patch.

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

Cooking Tip: Variations on a Theme
At the height of Tomato season, platters appear on the table regularly, and we never seem to get tired of them. But it’s nice to vary the dressing. Sometimes it’s just a simple vinaigrette. Sometimes its a heavier balsamic vinegar dressing with olive oil and honey. Sliced red Onions are often part of the mix. Basil, either with the leaves whole or cut into ribbons, is a frequent player. And sometimes we make a pesto with our Lemon Basil and some good olive oil--maybe a little extra lemon as well, and some parmigiano cheese. It stays a brighter green than other pestos, and is wonderful spooned over the Tomato.
Just because legumes are known to improve the soil in which they grow, it does not mean that they needn't be planted in good soil themselves. This is especially true of Beans. If you dig in well-rotted manure at the time of planting, your bean plants will grow better, be more free from disease and give you a better yield.

Beans Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
: 1"
Row Spacing: 18"-36"
Seed Spacing: 3"-4"
Days to Germination: 6-10 days
Germination Temperature: 60°-80°F

Beans love sun and well-draining, fertile soil. Plant Beans when the soil has warmed to 60°F and all danger of frost has passed. Amend the soil as needed with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-aged manure. Cool, wet weather may necessitate a second planting: bean seeds rot in cold, damp soil. After planting, do not water until the sprouts emerge, unless it is very hot and dry. After emergence, and throughout the season, avoid watering the foliage. Water as needed by soaking the soil around the Beans and fertilize with kelp or fish emulsion as needed.

For Pole Beans, provide support with rough poles, teepees, netting or a trellis. Harvest when the Beans are young, slim and on the small side for the best eating! It is vital to keep Beans picked regularly since seed formation slows and eventually halts production. Sow Bush Beans every 10 to 15 days until 2 months before the first frost date in the fall for continuous yields.

A mainstay of the kitchen garden, homegrown Beans outshine those that are store-bought in their delicious, just-picked flavor, crisp-tender texture and rich vitamin content.

Beans Show Their Colors
My favorite use for purple-podded Beans is to pick them while slim and tender, along with green and yellow ones, and arrange all three on a platter with a hummus dip.

Beans, Beans & More Beans

Shade Tolerance