Tag Archive | Lettuce

Who Owns Who? Where and How Monsanto Has Their Sticky Little Fingers In the Home Garden Seed Industry

(Originally Published 9/24/11, Updated 12/1/15)

“Hi Horticulture Talk People,

I am starting to plan my garden for 2012 and I’ve been trying to not plant any varieties that are GMOs or related to Monsanto.  The problem is that I recently found out that the seed I get from seed catalogs and at the store are not grown by the company I bought them from.  They buy the seed in and repackage it.  How can I know I’m not supporting Monsanto if I am buying from a seed catalog?  If I avoid hybrids, will I be okay?

Thank you,



Hi Stewart,

Thank you for emailing HorticultureTalk on Gmail with your question on Monsanto.  I completely understand your hesitancy in growing you garden without knowing where your seed comes from.

What you have been told is true: most mail order seed companies are a repackaging plant.  They purchase seed in bulk form.  In terms of seeds that are like dust (like Begonias), a ‘bulk’ packet may be a gram or ounce of seed that has 50000 seeds in it.  For larger seeded varieties (cucumbers, peas, beans, corn, etc.), bulk is a collection of 50 or 100 pound bags of seed.

Like any repacking company whether it be food, paper, or seeds, the markup on seed is… extraordinary!  When you buy a packet of seed, keep in mind that an open pollinated variety costs the seed company about 1% or less of what you are paying for it.  For hybrids, the cost is about 5% of what you are paying.

Now, you might be thinking that a seed company would want to be selling more open pollinated varieties because they can make an extra 4% for their profits.  And unfortunately, you would be wrong.  Large corporate seed producers, like Monsanto and their home garden seed market subsidiary, Seminis, pay for their place on a catalog page or website.  As a person that used to be involved in brokering deals like this, I can tell you that Monsanto wants to be front and center.  If you have a page that features your ‘best’ or ‘customer favorite’ varieties, they must have at least 50% of the varieties represented there.  You cannot put their product on the bottom of the page or in the ‘thumblap’ area, where a customer’s thumbs may cover information on the page if they are holding the catalog on the side edges.

Unfortunately, many people think that Monsanto owns mail order seed companies because they don’t understand the inner workings of how this industry runs.  If you look around on the internet, you are going to find a TON of websites and Facebook groups that say that there are a bunch of companies that are owned by Monsanto.  It’s not true, and likely someone that is a know-it-all (that doesn’t really know it all) started that rumor.  In truth, the companies are ‘owned’ by Monsanto by having the premium given for page space advertising.

In addition to this, if you work with a mail order seed company, you are not supposed to refer to the company as Monsanto to any customer (and probably even to your coworkers) because it puts the seed ‘in a bad light’.  When Seminis was still its own company, it was bring out new varieties left and right.  Monsanto bought them and then new varieites kind of dribbled out until about 2006 or 2007.  After that, instead of new things, it was ‘we have dropped these major-selling varieties’.  Great examples of this are Giant Valentine Tomato, Ichiban Eggplant, and Table Queen Acorn Squash.

Saying that you are going to avoid any and all hybrids will, unfortunately, not address the problem because some of the varieties offered in the Seminis line are open pollinated varieties.

When Monsanto purchased Seminis in 2005, they acquired the rights to a number of open pollinated — many of which were considered ‘nearly’ heirlooms.  In the time since, Monsanto has cut out a number of the open pollinated varieties — which is a blessing because at least we can knock those off our list for our gardens and have less to do with them.

Additionally, you should check out my other articles on what seed companies have a loving relationship with Monsanto/Seminis and what companies are owned by other companies (many you may have guessed and others will surprise you).

So, what varieties to avoid?  If you want to be completely Monsanto- and Seminis-free in your garden, the following is a list of varieties that you need to avoid.  Please note that those that are hybrids are not noted as the information is not provided on Monsanto’s website.


  • Alicante
  • Banga
  • Brio
  • Bronco
  • Cadillac
  • Carlo
  • Ebro
  • Eureka
  • EX 08120703
  • Excalibur
  • Fandango
  • Festina
  • Firstmate
  • Gina
  • Gold Dust
  • Gold Mine
  • Golden Child
  • Goldrush
  • Grenoble
  • Hercules
  • Labrador
  • Lynx
  • Magnum
  • Matador
  • Opus
  • Pony Express
  • Romano Gold
  • Sea Biscuit
  • Secretariat
  • Serin
  • Slenderpack
  • Spartacus
  • Storm
  • Strike
  • Stringless Blue Lake 7
  • Sunburst
  • Tapia
  • Teggia
  • Tema
  • Thoroughbred
  • Titan
  • Ulysses
  • Unidor
  • Valentino


  • Castle
  • Captain
  • Contributor
  • Coronado Crown
  • General
  • Heritage
  • Iron
  • Ironman
  • Legacy
  • Major
  • Packman
  • Revolution
  • Tlaloc
  • Tradition


  • Atlantis
  • Blue Dynasty
  • Constelation
  • Golden Acre (RS)
  • Headstart
  • Platinum Dynasty
  • Red Dynasty
  • Tropicana


  • Abledo
  • Achieve
  • Cellobunch
  • Dominion
  • Enterprise
  • Envy
  • Legend
  • Propeel
  • PS 07101441
  • PS 07101603
  • Tastypeel


  • Cheddar
  • Cielo Blanco
  • Cornell
  • Freedom
  • Fremont
  • Juneau
  • Minuteman
  • Whistler

Cucumbers (Pickling)

  • Arabian
  • Colt
  • Eureka
  • Expedition
  • PowerPak
  • Vlaspik
  • Vlasset
  • Vlasstar

Cucumbers (Slicing)

  • Babylon
  • Cool Breeze or Cool Breeze Improved
  • Conquistador
  • Dasher II
  • Emparator
  • Eureka
  • Fanfare or Fanfare HG
  • Indy
  • Intimidator
  • Marketmore 76
  • Mathilde
  • Moctezuma
  • Orient Express II
  • Pearl
  • Poinsett 76
  • Rockingham
  • Salad Bush
  • Speedway
  • Sweet Slice
  • Sweet Success PS
  • Talladega
  • Thunder
  • Thunderbird
  • Turbo

Dry Beans

  • Black Velvet
  • Cabernet
  • Chianti
  • Etna
  • Hooter
  • Mariah
  • Medicine Hat
  • Pink Panther
  • Red Rover
  • Windbreaker


  • Black Beauty
  • Fairy Tale
  • Gretel
  • Hansel
  • Ichiban (discontinued in 2010 and not supposed to be found for sale anywhere, yet many Mom and Pop greenhouses in my area still supposedly sell them.  Find out more in this article and the comments that follow it.)
  • Lavender Touch
  • Twinkle
  • White Lightning


  • Annie
  • Braveheart
  • Bubba
  • Conquistador
  • Coyote
  • Del Oro
  • Desert Spring
  • Grizzly
  • Honcho II
  • Javelina
  • Mohawk
  • Raider
  • Sahara
  • Sharpshooter
  • Sniper
  • Sure Shot
  • Top Billings
  • Valley Heart


  • Cabrillo
  • Caravelle
  • Colima
  • Cristobal
  • Destacado
  • Durango
  • Earli-Dew
  • Earlisweet
  • Fastbreak
  • Honey Dew Green Flesh
  • Hy-Mark
  • Laredo
  • Magellan
  • Mission
  • Moonshine
  • Roadside
  • Santa Fe
  • Saturno
  • Zeus


  • Abilene
  • Affirmed
  • Aspen
  • Barbaro
  • Belmar
  • Bunker
  • Caballero
  • Candy
  • Cannonball
  • Century
  • Ceylon
  • Champlain
  • Charismatic
  • Cirrus
  • Cougar
  • Exacta
  • Fortress
  • Gelma
  • Golden Spike
  • Goldeneye
  • Grateful Red
  • Hamlet
  • Joliet
  • Leona
  • Mackenzie
  • Marquette
  • Mercedes
  • Mercury
  • Montblanc
  • Nicolet
  • Orizaba
  • Pecos
  • Rainier
  • Red Zeppelin
  • Savannah Sweet
  • Sierra Blanca
  • Sterling
  • Swale
  • Tioga
  • Verrazano
  • Vision

Peppers (Hot)

  • Anaheim TMR 23
  • Ancho San Martin
  • Aquiles
  • Ballpark
  • Big Bomb
  • Biggie Chile brand of Sahuaro
  • Cardon
  • Caribbean Red
  • Cayenne Large Red Thick
  • Cherry Bomb
  • Chichen Itza
  • Chichimeca
  • Cocula
  • Corcel
  • Coyame
  • Fresnillo
  • Garden Salsa SG
  • Grande
  • Habanero
  • Holy Mole brand of Salvatierra
  • Hot Spot (with X3R)
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot
  • Inferno
  • Ixtapa X3R
  • Kukulkan
  • Lapid
  • Major League
  • Mariachi brand of Rio de Oro
  • Mesilla
  • Milta
  • Mucho Nacho brand of Grande
  • Nainari
  • Nazas
  • Papaloapan
  • Perfecto
  • PS 11435807
  • PS 11435810
  • PS 11446271
  • Rebelde
  • Rio de Oro
  • Sahuaro
  • Salvatierra
  • Santa Fe Grande
  • Sayula (with X3R)
  • Serrano del Sol brand of Tuxtlas
  • Super Chili
  • Tajin
  • Tam Vera Cruz
  • Time Bomb
  • Tula
  • Tuxtlas
  • Vencedor
  • Victorioso

Peppers (Sweet)

  • Baron
  • Bell Boy
  • Big Bertha PS
  • Biscayne
  • Blushing Beauty
  • Bounty
  • California Wonder 300
  • Camelot
  • Capistrano
  • Cherry Pick
  • Chocolate Beauty
  • Corno Verde
  • Cubanelle W
  • Dumpling brand of Pritavit
  • Early Sunsation
  • Flexum
  • Fooled You brand of Dulce
  • Giant Marconi
  • Gypsy
  • Jumper
  • Key West (with X3R)
  • King Arthur (formerly Fat n Sassy)
  • North Star
  • Orange Blaze
  • Pimiento Elite
  • Red Knight (with X3R)
  • Satsuma
  • Socrates (with X3R)
  • Super Heavyweight
  • Sweet Spot (with X3R)


  • Applachian
  • Buckskin
  • Harvest Moon
  • Jamboree HG
  • Longface
  • Orange Smoothie
  • Phantom
  • Prizewinner
  • Rumbo
  • Snackface
  • Spirit
  • Spooktacular
  • Trickster
  • Wyatt’s Wonder


  • Avenger
  • Barbados
  • Hellcat
  • Interceptor
  • Tigercat

Squash (Summer)

  • Ambassador
  • Clarita
  • Commander
  • Conqueror III
  • Consul R
  • Daisey
  • Depredador
  • Dixie
  • Embassy
  • Gemma
  • Gold Rush
  • Goldbar
  • Goldfinger
  • Grey Zucchini
  • Greyzini
  • Independence II
  • Judgement III
  • Justice III
  • Lemondrop
  • Liberator III
  • Lolita
  • Papaya Pear
  • Patriot II
  • Patty Green Tinit
  • Patty Pan
  • Portofino
  • Prelude II
  • President
  • ProGreen
  • Quirinal
  • Radiant
  • Richgreen Hybrid
  • Senator
  • Storr’s Green
  • Sungreen
  • Sunny Delight
  • Sunray
  • Terminator
  • XPT 1832 III

Squash (Winter)

  • Autumn Delight
  • Butternut Supreme
  • Canesi
  • Early Butternut
  • Pasta
  • Taybelle PM

Sweet Corn

  • Absolute
  • Devotion
  • EX 08745857R
  • EX 08767143
  • Fantasia
  • Merit
  • Obsession
  • Obsession II
  • Passion
  • Passion II
  • Seneca Arrowhead
  • Sensor
  • Synergy
  • Temptation
  • Temptation II
  • Vitality


  • Amsterdam
  • Apt 410
  • Beefmaster
  • Better Boy
  • Big Beef
  • Biltmore
  • Burpee’s Big Boy
  • Caramba
  • Celebrity
  • Crown Jewel
  • Cupid
  • Debut
  • Empire
  • Flora-Dade
  • Flirida 47 R
  • Florida 91
  • Granny Smith
  • Healthy Kick
  • Heatmaster
  • Huichol
  • Husky Cherry Red
  • Hybrid 46
  • Hybrid 882
  • Hypeel 108
  • Hypeel 303
  • Hypeel 849
  • Jetsetter brand of Jack
  • Lemon Boy
  • Margherita
  • Margo
  • Marmande VF PS
  • Marmara
  • Maya
  • Patio
  • Phoenix
  • Picus
  • Pik Ripe 748
  • Pink Girl
  • Poseidon 43
  • PS 01522935
  • PS 01522942
  • PS 345
  • PS 438
  • Puebla
  • Quincy
  • Roma VF
  • Royesta
  • Sanibel
  • Seri
  • Sunbrite
  • SunChief
  • SunGuard
  • Sunoma
  • SunShine
  • Sunstart
  • Sunsugar
  • Super Marzano
  • Sweet Baby Girl
  • Tiffany
  • Tye Dye
  • Tygress
  • Viva Italia
  • Yaqui


  • Apollo
  • Charleston Grey
  • Companion
  • Cooperstown
  • Crimson Glory
  • Crimson Sweet
  • Cronos
  • Delta
  • Eureka
  • Fenway
  • Jade Star
  • Majestic
  • Mickylee
  • Olympia
  • Omega
  • Regency
  • Royal Jubilee
  • Royal Sweet
  • Sentinel
  • Starbrite
  • Star Gazer
  • Stars ‘n’ Stripes
  • Tiger Baby
  • Wrigley



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

All-America Selections’ Winners for 2015

Reblogged with permission of the National Garden Bureau:

All-America Selections
Announces the
 First Vegetatively Propagated
AAS Winners

After more than eighty years of trialing only seed-propagated varieties, All-America Selections (AAS) began trialing vegetatively propagated varieties early this year. With the 2014 trial season now completed, AAS is pleased and honored to grant the AAS Winner status to two impatiens that performed exceptionally well in the AAS container trials for vegetatively propagated annuals.

The two Vegetative Winners are:

In addition, there are an impressive ten seed varieties that have earned the AAS Winner designation:
Regional Winners are:

National Winners are:

“The AAS Judges, Board of Directors and staff are extremely excited to enter this new phase where we are now representing a wider cross section of the horticulture industry. This ushers in a whole new facet of our national trialing program.” states AAS President Ron Cramer.

With this announcement, these varieties become available for immediate sale. You will find these Winners for sale in the coming months as supply becomes available from suppliers. AAS Winners will also be available as young plants in lawn & garden retail stores next spring, in time for the 2015 gardening season.

A complete list of trial grounds and judges can be found here.

A complete list of all AAS Winners since 1932 can be found here. Note that the AAS Winners are now sortable by Flowers from Seed, Flowers from Cuttings and Vegetables.

Page down for more details on each new AAS Winner:

Impatiens SunPatiens® Spreading Shell Pink
AAS Vegetative Ornamental Winner

The unique genetics of SunPatiens® Spreading Shell Pink delivers unsurpassed garden performance with season-long, soft pink flowers that never slow down. Strong roots take hold quickly after transplanting and these impatiens thrive under high heat, rain and humidity. The AAS Judges loved these vigorous spreading plants that keep their shape all summer, plus, they do just as well in full sun as in shade. These low-maintenance plants are perfect for gardeners looking for impatiens that are resistant to downy mildew. Available in plant form only.

Impatiens Bounce™ Pink Flame PPAF ‘Balboufink’
AAS Vegetative Ornamental Winner 

Bounce impatiens provides gardeners with shade garden confidence. Bounce looks like an Impatiens walleriana in habit, flower form and count, but is completely downy mildew resistant, which means this impatiens will last from spring all the way through fall. Bounce Pink Flame boasts of a massive amount of stunning, bright pink bicolor blooms with tons of color to brighten your garden, be it in shade or sun. And caring for impatiens has never been easier: just add water and they’ll “bounce” right back! Available in plant form only.
Pepper Hot Sunset F1
AAS Regional Winner 
(Southeast, Heartland and Great Lakes)

For banana, or wax pepper lovers who desire a prolific and earlier harvest of delicious and spicy (650 Scoville units) fruits, Hot Sunset is for you. Large, healthy, vigorous plants are disease-free and produce tasty and attractive fruits all season-long. The AAS Trial judges noted what a great taste this thick-walled pepper has, not like other hot peppers where all you get is heat. We think this tasty morsel should be featured on a TV cooking show where chefs compete to bring out the best in this goodie! Whether it’s prepared fresh, grilled, roasted or pickled, it’s sure to win over even the most particular foodie!

Tomato Chef’s Choice PInk F1
AAS Regional Winner (Southeast, Great Lakes)

First we introduced Chef’s Choice Orange as an All-America Selections Winner and now we have her sister, Chef’s Choice Pink–another tasty beauty in beefsteak tomatoes. Indeterminate potato leaf plants yield large (often more than one pound) fruits with a sweet, meaty flesh. This hybrid is easier to grow than most beefsteaks so don’t be timid, give it a try. The reward will be healthy disease-resistant plants and a large harvest of tasty, attractive pink fleshed tomatoes reminiscent of heirloom varieties.

Basil Dolce Fresca
AAS National Winner

If there was an AAS category for an edible plant with ornamental value, this AAS Winner would fit that classification. Dolce Fresca produces sweet tender leaves that outshone the comparison varieties while maintaining an attractive, compact shape that’s both versatile and beautiful. Use the leaves as you would any Genovese basil and we hear it makes an excellent pesto. After harvest, the plant was quick to recover and kept the desired ornamental shape that’s perfect for containers, borders or as a focal point. Great for gardeners looking for drought tolerant, hearty plants, foodies interested in a new and better basil and anyone who wants that Mediterranean taste added to their cuisine.

Pepper Emerald Fire F1
AAS National Winner

A grill master’s delight! At 2,500 Scoville units, this is the hottest pepper in this year’s pepper winners but it boasts extra large and very tasty jalapeno fruits that are perfect for stuffing, grilling or using in salsa. Emerald Fire produces gorgeous, glossy green peppers with thick walls that have very little cracking, even after maturing to red. Gardeners will appreciate the prolific fruit set on compact plants that resist disease better than other similar varieties on the market.

Pepper Flaming Flare F1
AAS National Winner

Most Fresno peppers are considered rather finicky plants that typically grow better in warm and dry climates. The fact that Flaming Flare is an AAS National Winner means it performed well in all AAS trial sites. The fruit is ideal for making chili sauces and the heat of that sauce will increase depending on how late in the season the peppers are harvested. Flaming Flare is an exceptional pepper that was sweeter tasting than similar Fresno types and consistently produced larger fruits and more peppers per plant. Yet another AAS Winner that culinary gardeners should consider for their kitchen gardens.

Pepper Pretty N Sweet F1
AAS National Winner

Look…in the garden! Is it an ornamental pepper? Is it edible? Yes to both! Now we can tell consumers that an ornamental pepper CAN be eaten and it tastes fantastic! It’s time for new terminology to describe this multi-purpose plant…how about an “Ornamedible?” Pretty N Sweet is just that: a sweet, multi-colored pepper on a compact 18” plant that is attractive to use in ornamental gardens and containers. Against the comparisons, Pretty N Sweet was earlier, more prolific and has a much sweeter taste with more substantial pepper walls to enjoy fresh or in your favorite pepper dish.

Squash Bossa Nova F1
AAS National Winner

The beautiful dark and light green mottled exterior of this zucchini is more pronounced than other varieties on the market, which sets it apart and makes the fruits easier to see during a long and prolific harvest. Compact plants produce fruits earlier in the season and continue producing for three weeks longer than comparison varieties. During taste tests, the AAS Judges deemed the smooth flesh texture and sweet, mild taste much improved over other summer squash. Culinary gardeners will delight in adding this variety to their 2015 vegetable plans.

Squash Butterscotch F1
AAS National Winner

This adorable small-fruited butternut squash has an exceptionally sweet taste and at just 1.25 pounds, is the perfect size for just one or two servings. Compact vines are space-saving for smaller gardens or those who just want to fit more plants into the space they have. This is another AAS Winners that is perfect for container gardens and will resist powdery mildew later in the season. Culinary tip from a squash enthusiast: pierce the skin then microwave whole squash for about 12 minutes, cut in half, spoon out the seeds, and enjoy!

Petunia Trilogy Red F1
AAS National Winner

The Trilogy petunia has a new color with this stunningly rich, vibrant red version! Trilogy petunias are known for their compact dome-shaped habit sporting large non-fading blooms throughout the season. The plants cover and recover themselves in upright blooms providing a constant mass of color in flower beds, baskets, and containers. Gardeners in high heat areas will appreciate the heat-tolerance of this variety and all gardeners will like how quickly Trilogy recovers after a rain.

Salvia Summer Jewel White
AAS National Winner

A third color in the popular Summer Jewel series, white brings a much-needed color to compact salvias. This dwarf sized, compact plant has a prolific bloom count throughout the summer. As a bonus, the blooms appear almost two weeks earlier than other white salvias used as comparisons. Judges noted how the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds loved the larger flowers, making it perfect for a pollinator garden. Because of the compactness and number of flowers, Summer Jewel White is great for large landscaped areas, as well as containers and small beds.

Other recently announced AAS Winners:

National Winners:                                                                    Regional Winners:

Angelonia Serenita Pink F1                                            Brussels Sprouts Hestia F1
Bean Mascotte                                                               Cucumber Parisian Gherkin F1
Gaura Sparkle White                                                     Cucumber Pick-A-Bushel F1
Impatiens New Guinea Florific Sweet Orange F1           Cucumber Saladmore Bush F1
Lettuce Sandy                                                               Eggplant Patio Baby F1
Tomato Fantastico F1                                                   Pak Choi  Bopak F1
Tomato Chef’s Choice Orange F1                       .
Ornamental Pepper NuMex Easter F1                          Penstemon Arabesque Red F1
Osteospermum Akila Daisy White F1                           Pepper  Giant Ristra F1
Osteospermum Akila Daisy White F1                           Pepper Sweet Sunset F1
Pepper Mama Mia Gaillo F1                                         Pumpkin Cinderella’s Carriage F1
Pepper Mama Mia Gaillo F1                                         Radish Rivoli
Petunia African Sunset F1                                           Sunflower Suntastic Yellow with Black Center F1
Radish Roxanne                                                          Tomato Mountain Merit F1

Unsized Seed, Checking Hot Peppers, Grafted Tomatoes, and Pellet Ingredients: Obscure Gardening Info

“Hello Mertie,

I like your writing style and your dry humor. You seem to know a lot about seeds and plants, so I have a few questions for you.

1. What is unsized seeds? I’ve seen this in carrots, cole crops, and lettuce.

2. What is checking on a pepper?

3. Are grafted tomato plants worth the extra money and fuss?

4. What is the pellet on a seed made from? Is it safe for my organic garden?

Thank you for all your great articles,



Hi Joe,

Thanks for your questions and kind comments.  As for your questions:

1.  Unsized seed means that the seed has not been graded to a certain size. You often will see this with corn and other crops that are planted with equipment. When machinery was first brought about, your planter had a plate on it that required a certain size of seed. If your seed was to large, it would not go through the plate and would jam things up. If it was too small, the seed went through the plate too quickly and the seed spacing would be off.  For the smaller seeds like carrots, cole crops, and lettuce, it just means that some of the seed will be larger than others.  It doesn’t meant that some of the seeds (larger) will be better than others (smaller), so there are no worries with buying unsized seed.

Planting Plates

2. Checking on a pepper is often seen on the –good– varieties of hot jalapeno peppers.  Checking can also be refered to as corking or cracking on peppers by gardeners, but the seed industry calls it checking and will often put the term in seed/plant descriptions.

Jalapenos naturally produce checks/corks/cracks in their skin. The characteristic checking which may appear undesirable (to gardening novices) when harvesting is nothing more than the fruit working towards maturity. When choosing jalapenos to harvest, note that the more mature fruits will have some checks around the stems. These checks should not be a cause for alarm as they are part of the fruit’s natural maturing process and any jalapenos with checking remain safe to eat, as the browned tissue of the fruit are not perforations but discolored, dried cells on the skin of the fruit.Jalapeno

Checking in the jalapeno skin can also be used to judge the heat of the fruit. Each jalapeno becomes hotter the longer it is allowed to mature. When the fruit is fully ripe, it is the hottest that the variety can produce. So, the more mature the jalapeno is, the more checks it has and the hotter the pepper will be. Chefs sometimes use the checking to determine which peppers have the greatest chance to be hot.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that all jalapenos have checks. New hybrids that are being out on the market are being created to “look pretty” for the uninformed gardener.  Gardeners that don’t know much want a perfect green fruit, but then don’t understand why it is not hot. Well… they kind of go hand in hand…  =)


3.  Grafted tomatoes. Ha! To be honest, for most home gardeners, I don’t recommend them unless you have done your research and know that you really need them in your garden.Grafted Tomatoes

Grafted tomatoes (along with peppers, eggplants, and melons) started in the hydroponic industry to a.) reduce the amount of soil borne diseases, b.) reduce the need for crop rotation, and c.) increase the health and production of heirloom varieties. Soil borne diseases run rampant in hydroponic setups. And I am sure you are wondering why, as there is no soil. Well, 99.9% of soil borne diseases are caused by the presence of water at the wrong times.  Think of things like tomato blights: having wet leaves at night causes the blight, not the soil that it comes from.  Having a super-soil-borne-disease-resistant root stock allows for lower incidence of disease and less spraying.  This ties directly into crop rotation, as having issues with a disease in a particular hydroponic greenhouse results in the crop causing the issues to be moved to successive greenhouses (or other sections of the same greenhouse) over the next few years. If you are a smaller operation, you have to have numerous other crops (at least 3) to cycle with the disease causing crop so the same crop won’t be in the same place for at least 3 years.  Most often commercial growers graft the heirloom varieties to make them more tolerant of ‘unusual’ conditions. Most heirlooms were developed in someone’s backyard, where they were used to a nice breeze, good sun, and the occasional rain shower. Putting an heirloom into a hydroponic greenhouse is a shell shock to the plant. There are numerous ways for it to become diseased and the environment is starkly different than what it was originally adapted to.  Grafting an heirloom scion onto a disease resistant rootstock allows the plant to be less susceptable to disease and have a growth habit similar to a hybrid tomato. Also, heirlooms are said (by the industry) to produce less fruits per plant compared to hybrids (guess they never looked at the ones in my garden). Grafting increases the amount of fruits produced.  The extra cost of the graft is covered by the premium price that heirloom produce brings in.

So how does that translate to a home gardener?  If you have had problems with soil borne diseases in the past in your garden and it is not large enough to have a 4 year crop rotation or you grow only a couple plants, you may want to consider grafted vegetables. They are more expensive ($8-9 or more per plant), so you need to balance the cost with your gain. However, if you are someone that can rotate your crops, do not have severe disease issues, or you grow more than 2-3 tomato/pepper/etc. plants, I don’t recommend it. It’s just not worth it.  I don’t grow them in my garden and would never.

Also, from my experience, many home gardeners have had issues initially with the graft drying out if the plant is not kept well watered. With non-tomato grafted plants, the plant is completely dead.  With tomatoes, the scion of the plant dies and the rootstock may begin to grow.  If you are not keeping a close eye on your plants, you likely won’t notice it until your plant produces fruits and the fruit is not the variety you bought.

4.  Seed pellets are made of clay with a colorant painted on the outside. They are generally considered safe for home organic gardens. If you are an organic farmer, they are allowed only if the company you are purchasing the seed from does not offer the seed raw (unpelleted).Seed Pellets

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

Gardening’s Latest Trend: Seed Tapes — To Buy or To DIY?

“hi mertie mae,
I see a lot of seed companies have seed tapes this year. What exact are these, do they work, and do you recommend them?



Hi Wayne,

Thanks for your questions. You, like many others that received seed catalogs this year, are wondering what all the fuss is when it comes to seed tapes.

Seed tapes, and similar products like seed disks and seed carpets, are a gardening tool that have been around for hundreds of years. They are especially popular in Europe (where people do a lot more gardening than us here stateside).  There are 3 basic reasons why people use them:

1. Dexterity issues.  For older (and even younger) gardeners, it is difficult to sometimes put an individual tiny seed in a particular spot. With seed tapes, the detail work is taken out because you just lay down the tape. It works great for children too.

2. The seed is in the ground. If you have a gully washer rain storm or birds come along, your seed will stay in the ground.

3. Perfect spacing. Every time.


Sounds great, right?

Well, you must know me a bit from reading my blog because you ask for my recommendation, so here it is:

If you are smart, don’t buy the seed tapes from a mail order company.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not anti-seed tape.  I think seed tape is great if you are a person that can make use of it; however, going along with the latest seed catalog gimmick is NOT the way to go!

First, let me explain why.

1.  Currently, the seed tapes are only offered for varieties that are produced by Bejo Seeds.  Bejo is a subsidiary of Bejo Zaden Seeds, a Dutch seed producer.  We here at Mertie’s like Bejo — they have a lot of great varieties, including White Satin and Yellowstone Carrots that Mertie, Patch, and Rhubarb enjoy eating (yes, our cat loves carrots!). But if you are a person that grows a non-Bejo variety and you want seed tapes, what do you do? Do you switch varieties?

2. It is a lot more expensive to buy seeds in a tape than to by them loosely. An individual seed tape is 15′ long and has, on average, 45-90 seeds in that 15′ (45 seeds = 4″ spacing, 90 seeds = 2″ spacing). Most seed packets the same price or less often contain 200-2000 seeds, depending on the crop or the seed company you buy them from.

3.  4 years ago I had the opportunity to try commercially-produced seed tapes as a trial.  I had carrots, beets, lettuce, and radish.  With the radishes, the germination was not better than the row of the same un-taped seed next to it — and in fact, was in some cases worse because each seed was in a particular spot (to eliminate thinning), so if it didn’t germinate… well, you have a open hole in your row. Also, the little rodents that liked to wander in my garden seemed to have an easier time finding the lettuce seed because it was all in a row. They dug a hole at each spot where there was a seed was.  The beets were the only thing that did truly well, and I suspect it was because a beet seed sends up multiple shoots.  Although my research didn’t have a gully washing rainstorm involved, I find it hard to believe that the tape could hold the seed in the ground when it supposedly begins to degrade as soon as it gets wet. Those two comments seem to be complete opposites.


At this point, you are probably thinking, “how in the world is Mertie Mae okay with seed tapes, because she seems to be quite negative about them”.  As I have often stated in this blog, I am cheap, stubborn, and have enough brains in my head to make use of them a economical, do-it-yourself kind of girl, and as such, let me tell you how folks have been doing seed tapes since forever:

They make their own.  Efficiently and cost effective.

Depending on how you garden, there are two different ways you can do this: conventionally or organically.  Either method can be used for just about any seed, although tapes for larger seeds (corn, beans, peas) will need to handled with care after gluing so as to not knock off the bulkier seed.


Conventional method

You will need:

–newspaper (black and white only!!! no color!!!)

–washable white glue (Elmer’s, school glue, etc.)

–seed of your choice (can be anything)


–tweezers for small seeds, if needed

1.  Cut the newspaper into strips that are 1/2-1 inch thick strips. (After you do this a bit, you will know what seeds work best with what thickness).

2.  Read the planting instructions for your particular seed.  Pay close attention to the seed spacing in the row.

3.  Place a dot of glue along the strips at the spacing you want your seeds.  If you want to have the ability to thin your seeds,  place the dots at the measurement indicated for planting the seeds in the ground. If you do not want to thin, place the dots at the spacing of what your plants would be thinned to.

EXAMPLE:  A carrot seed packet says, “plant seed 1/2″ apart. When the seedlings are 2″ tall, thin to 1″ apart. When the seedlings are 6″ tall, thin to 2″ apart.”

DIY Seed tape with lots of thinning: space glue drops 1/2″ apart.

DIY Seed tape with some thinning: space glue drops 1″ apart.

DIY Seed tape with no thinning: space glue drops 2″ apart.

4. Put a single seed on top of each glue drop.

5. Allow glue to dry for 24 hours.

6. When planting, make sure your row is wide enough to allow for the tape to be laid down flat. Plant at the depth indicated on the packet for the seed. Water well, as there needs to be enough water for the newspaper to absorb and for the seed to imbibe.


Organic method

You will need:

–organic toilet paper or paper towel

–organic white flour


–seed of your choice (can be anything)

–a small tip paintbrush or q-tip


–tweezers for small seeds, if needed

1. Roll the toilet paper out to the desired length of our strip and cut down the middle to make 2 long strips. Make multiple long strips if using paper towels.

2.  Mix the flour and water together to make a 1:1 mixture to use as paste.

3.  Place a dot of paste along the strips of toilet paper at the spacing you want your seeds.  If you want to have the ability to thin your seeds,  place the dots at the measurement indicated for planting the seeds in the ground. If you do not want to thin, place the dots at the spacing of what your plants would be thinned to.

EXAMPLE:  A carrot seed packet says, “plant seed 1/2″ apart. When the seedlings are 2″ tall, thin to 1″ apart. When the seedlings are 6″ tall, thin to 2″ apart.”

DIY Seed tape with lots of thinning: space glue drops 1/2″ apart.

DIY Seed tape with some thinning: space glue drops 1″ apart.

DIY Seed tape with no thinning: space glue drops 2″ apart.

4. Put a single seed on top of each paste drop.

5. Allow paste to dry for 24 hours.

6. When planting, make sure your row is wide enough to allow for the tape to be laid down flat. Plant at the depth indicated on the packet for the seed. Water well, as there needs to be enough water for the toilet paper to absorb and for the seed to imbibe.

(PLEASE NOTE: either method can be used to make seed disks for pots or seed carpets for raised beds or square foot gardening with minor adjustments to the size and shape of your newspaper or toilet paper/paper towels.)

And one last interesting fact:

In looking through all my catalogs to get background information for this article, I had a couple catalogs/one main company that had a slightly different description of their seed tapes that was a bit… puzzling.  If you look at Park Seed, Burpee’s, or most of the catalogs selling seed tape, you will see that they are listed as being “biodegradable”. However, the Jung Seed write-up about seed tapes (and those of their subsidiary companies R.H. Shumway’s and Vermont Bean), they are “completely biodegradable and organic”. Organic??? Really…?  After speaking with Laura, a Jung Customer Service Representative, I found out that their version of organic is that the paper is but the seed is not.  Hmmm…  This further prompted me to contact Bejo Seed.  Their representative Mary informed me that the tape is the same that they use for customers that are ordering organic seeds; however, the process of putting the non-organic seed within the organic tape paper automatically makes the tape paper NOT organic and the Jung company is misrepresenting their product.  Many apologies followed, as Bejo has the highest standards and wants their customers, and the customers of their customers, to be pleased.

Yet another example of why it is important to read descriptions carefully and always ask questions.  As always, leave it to us here at Mertie Mae’s Horticulture Talk to get you the real story behind things!

Thank you for your question, and I hope this information helps you out!



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Radicchio? Or Lettuce?

“I ordered Radicchio from Pinetree Seeds and had this grow. It looks like lettuce to me. I didn’t plant all the seeds and what was left in the package looks like radicchio. I have grown both radicchio and lettuce for at least 40 years.

P1010401Thank you,



Hi Vlad,

Thank you for the email regarding your radicchio. Actually, your radicchio looks like some I have grown in the past.  Some varieties of radicchio is green to begin and then will have the red head form in the middle (where you see more red coloration in the photo).

I want to make sure this is clear: your radicchio seed did not grow lettuce. It just doesn’t work that way. You may already know that, but there are a lot of people out there that do not and will start to cook up horticultural conspiracy theories about it.

If it were me growing this, I would not be concerned. You do have radicchio.

If you are still in doubt, I would take a picture of the seeds you have remaining in the package and contact Pinetree Seeds. You have the proof of what was in the package and what grew in it’s place.

Thanks for the question. Let me know how it works out!


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fertilizer Basics

“Dear Horticulturist,

My garden is growing great, but I know I need to fertilize my plants. I know it needs to be done with the right product at the right time or you can kill or mess up your plants, but I just don’t know what the right time is for the various vegetables I have. Do you have a table or something that you could send me or post that would give me a better idea of what we should be doing?




Hi Carrie,

Thanks for the email. Yes, fertilizing is important — not only in the doing, but also in the ‘doing it right’. Here goes:


Pre-plant: If necessary, use 5-10-10, 3-4″ deep, at the rate of 1 1/2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: 1 T. of 5-10-10 per plant every 3-4 weeks or generous scoop of rotted manure.
Pre-plant: Work aged manure or com post into top 8″, or 3-4 cups 5-10-10 into top 4- 6″ for every 20-foot row. Side-dress: If growing slowly, use 2 cups 10-10-10 per 20-foot row.
Pre-plant: 3-4 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: 3 weeks af ter transplant with 1 T. high nitrogen fertilizer.
Brussels Sprouts
Pre-plant: 2-4 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: Once a month with 5-10-10, 1-2 T. per plant.
Pre-plant: 3-4 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. or 3-4 shovels of aged manure or com post. Side-dress: Month after transplant, 1 lb. 10-10-10 per 25-foot row.
Chinese cabbage
Side-dress: 1/2 lb. 10-10-10 per 25-foot row when plants are 4-6″, then every three weeks thereafter.
Pre-plant: 1 lb. 5-10-10 per 50 sq. ft. Side-dress: W h en 6″ tall, use natural fertilizer such as dried manure or f i sh fertilizer. Thin layer hardwood ash, 4″ deep, for potash (for sweetness).
Fall of year: Generous amounts of com post and/or manure in top 3″. Side-dress: Every 2-3 weeks with manure tea or 1 tsp. 5-10-10 per plant.
Pre-plant: 3-4 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: 2 lbs. high nitrogen fertilizer (urea or ammonium sulfate), per 100 sq. ft. when plants are 8-10″ tall. Use again when silks appear, adding superphosphate to N.
Pre-plant: Use plenty of compost or well-rotted manure. Side-dress: 4 weeks after planting, just as vines begin to run, use 2 handfuls compost or 1 T. 5-10-10 per plant.
Pre-plant: Mix 1″ well rotted manure or 2-3 lbs. 5-10-5 per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: When plants set several fruit, use 1 T. 5-10-5 or 10-6-4 per plant.
Pre-plant: 1 lb. 10-10-10 per 25 sq. ft. Side-dress: 3-4 weeks after planting, use 1 tsp. 10-10-10 per plant. May also use fish or seaweed fertilizer.
Pre-plant: Generous amounts of rotted manure or compost. Side-dress: Mulched – Use liquid fertilizer (fish, seaweed, manure tea) Unmulched – Use 1/2 cup 5-10-10 for every 4-5 plants. Again in 3 wks.
Pre-plant: 1/2 lb. 10-10-10 per 25-foot row. Side-dress: 1/2 lb. 10-10-10 per 25-foot row or aged manure or rich compost. (Side- dress three times: 1. After thinning; 2. When first pods begin to develop; 3. At least once midway through the growing season.)
Fall: Mix rich compost or manure into soil. Pre-plant: 1 lb. 10-10-10 per 20 sq. ft. Side-dress: 1 lb. 10-10-10 per 20-25 foot row when plants are 4-6″ tall and when bulbs swell.
Pre-plant: Use a slow-release fertilizer. Side-dress: If a slow-release fertilizer has not been applied, use 1-2 cups 5-10-10 per 25-foot row or its equivalent after 1-2 months.
Pre-plant: 1-1 1/2 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: When 6″ tall, use 1/2 lb. of a 1:1 mixture of ammonium sulfate and dehydrated manure per 25 foot row.
Pre-plant: 1 1/2 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: Monthly with 1 T. 5-10-10 per plant.
Pre-plant: In an 8″ trench or hole, mix 5- 10-10 at the rate of 1 lb. per 25-foot row with 2 inches of soil. Side-dress: When hilled for the 2nd time, use 1 lb. 5-10-10 per 25-foot row or compost, seaweed, or fish emulsion.
Pre-plant: Mix rotted manure and a handful of 5-10-10 into top 6-8″ of soil. Side-dress: Use 5-10-10 on hill and side roots.
No special fertilization necessary.
Pre-plant: Mix well-rotted compost or manure into soil. Fertilize early spring each year with 2-3 shovels of well-rotted manure per plant or 1/2 cup of 5-10-10. Side-dress: At the same rate in early summer after the main harvest period.
Mix compost, manure, and/or 10-10-10. No additional fertilizer necessary.
Pre-plant: Work plenty of good com post or aged manure into 1 of soil. Side-dress: 1 T. 5-10-10 per plant. Summer squash – When 6″ tall. Again when they bloom
Winter squash
When vines start to run. Again when small fruit form
Sweet potatoes
Pre-plant: 3 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. of row, plus fine com post. Side-dress: 3-4 weeks after transplanting with 3 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. (Use 5 lbs. if soil is sandy.)

Pre-plant: 3 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. Side-dress: 3 lbs. 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. after fruit sets

© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Recipe of the Week: Ranch Hand Nachos

These nachos are hearty enough to fill up a ranch hand; but they’re good for you too!


Preparation time: 40 minutes

Serves: 5


1 lb. small red potatoes, skins on
3 seconds cooking oil spray
8 oz. extra lean ground turkey breast
½ teaspoon chili powder
2/3 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 medium tomato, diced
¾ cup cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
¾ cup salsa, mild

Slice potatoes into small circles. Coat them with cooking oil spray for 3 seconds. Bake in the oven at 450°F for 25-30 minutes, depending on desired darkness. Brown ground turkey breast with chili powder in pan over MEDIUM heat for 8-10 minutes. Remove potatoes from the oven and turn off. Place the potatoes on a small oven safe platter or long dish. Top with cheese and turkey, put back in the oven to melt, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven and top with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cilantro, and salsa.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.