Monthly Archives: May 2015

GMO Seeds, Hybrid, Heirloom. What’s the Difference?


Our stash of saved seeds for swapping with friends and fellow gardeners.

Quite often we have people ask us if we have non-GMO seeds. Frankly, every garden center and big box store has non-GMO seeds, or at least seeds that are assumed to be non-GMO. To explain, we will start with a quick explanation of genetically modified seed. GM (Genetically modified) crops are created by adding genetic material from one species into the DNA sequence of another species. The result of genetic modification by laboratory methods is a combination of genetic materials that does not occur naturally. The good news is, you will not find any GM seeds in a home garden center at this time, they are only used in commercial applications. We are seeing cross pollination and seed contamination from GM crops here in the US. To be absolutely sure you are getting 100% GM-free seeds, we suggest you purchase seeds from Non-GMO Verified seed companies. Both Baker Creek and High Mowing Seeds are Non-GMO Project verified. They are the only two seed companies in the US currently testing seeds at high risk for GM contamination for cross-pollination with GM varieties. You can find them online, or stop in our store to see our wide seed selection.

Hybrids are developed through traditional breeding, where pollen is moved between members of the same species. Plant breeders carry pollen from one plant to another by hand or with the help of insects to produce controlled crosses of two individual plants. Hybrids are typically bred for increased vigor, pest resistance, larger fruit size; or for commercial purposes, shelf life and shippablity. Hybrid cultivars are developed over many years. A few examples of hybrid plants are Sun Gold tomatoes and many of the “super hot” chili peppers, such as the Carolina Reaper. You cannot save the seeds from hybrid plants for planting, you will have inferior plants that are not true to the parent plant. You are able to root cuttings (“take clones”) if you would like to reproduce a hybrid. Hybrid seeds are still able to be classified as organic, if grown and produced by organic methods.

You may hear discussion about open pollinated seeds. Open pollination is achieved by insects, birds, wind, or other natural forms of pollen movement. The seeds of open-pollinated plants will produce new generations of those plants. One of the bigger challenges in maintaining a strain by open pollination is avoiding introduction of pollen from other strains. Commercially, this is controlled with greenhouses, tall wall enclosures, or field isolation. We home gardeners can simply use caution in our garden planning and place various raised beds or garden plots in separate areas of our property when we are hoping to harvest seeds. ,


High Mowing Organic Seeds are certified organic and non-gmo verified. Find them here at the shop year round, for indoor and outdoor gardening.

Heirloom seeds are open pollinated cultivars that have been kept true to variety, with no cross pollination, through careful cultivation methods for over fifty years. Baker Creek Seed Company, who only sells heirloom varieties, uses tent enclosures in it’s own gardens to house their plants. Bumble bees are then introduced to control the pollination. This prevents cross-pollination from undesirable sources, as well as preventing cross-pollination between strains. Heirloom seeds can be saved and replanted, and should remain true to the parent plant.

We hope this had cleared up any confusion about the seeds and plants your are planting this spring. Happy gardening!

Join Our Gardening Workshops Saturday 5/16 at Blackacre Conservancy


Blackacre Historic Homestead located at 3200 Tucker Station Road in Louisville, Kentucky

We are delighted to be part of the Best Bloomin’ Music and Eco-Fest at Blackacre Concervancy this weekend! The Best Bloomin’ Festival is located in the community garden at Blackacre State Nature Preserve & Historic Homestead and features local vendors, demonstrations, and products promoting a healthier lifestyle, a cleaner environment, and best practices for conserving resources. Highlights include a Friday night adults only high-energy concert by CABIN, a popular local band dedicated to raising awareness of environmental issues. Saturday, visitors will have an opportunity to shop vendors’ booths as part of this unique communal arts & crafts fair in the community garden. Saturday will also include an early-morning Farmer’s Market, a Lil’ Sprouts Educational and Play Area for children, and several local food vendors. There will be a variety of workshops going on all day, including our own that are listed below. There is a unique opportunity to hear from Louisville’s own John Moody discuss backyard chickens at 1:30 pm.  John speaks at the Mother Earth Fair, so what a treat to catch him here in Louisville! Mary Berry, with the Berry Center, will be the 11:30 speaker, sharing her passion for advocating for farmers, land conserving communities, and healthy regional economies.  Tim Wooleey, with Two Fish, will be giving a 1:00 seminar on Aquaponics. The afternoon will close to the accompaniment of Appalatin, another popular local band.  The Community Garden at Blackacre has been in operation since 1981 and is the largest community garden in Jefferson County at 300 plots for seasonal or year-round gardening, including organic and non-organic. Please join us for some serious fun!  Blackacre is located at  3200 Tucker Station Road in J’town, about a mile from the Gene Snyder Freeway.

Our workshops are as follows. It’s all free, come on by and make a day of it!

Vance and Nancy looking over the 2015 Baker Creek seed catalogs at Blackacre.

Vance and Nancy looking over the 2015 Baker Creek seed catalogs at Blackacre.

BCseedline10:15 am  Practical Organic Gardening, Seed to Harvest
Vance and Nancy will be discussing seeds and clearing up common misunderstandings about what is genetically modified, what are F-1 hybrids, and the difference between open pollinated and heirloom. They will then cover starting seeds, growing in traditional tilled gardens and raised beds, and how to stagger harvests so you can enjoy fresh produce throughout the season. Finally, there will be a brief discussion on every gardener’s nemesis, garden pests, and how to control them naturally.

2:30 pm  Size Matters—NOT!  Growing Veggies in Small Spaces and Containers
You don’t need much space to enjoy home grown, fresh vegetables. In fact, an apartment balcony or tiny, urban backyard can provide plenty of room for tomatoes, peppers, herbs and salad greens. We will be exploring the different ways to maximize your growing space, including choosing varieties, container gardening, square foot growing techniques, and growing indoors.

Find out more about the Best Bloomin’ Fest, more speakers, music and food at

Hot Chili Pepper Plants Available As of May 6th


Our son with his 2014 harvest of organic hot peppers

Super hot chili peppers are a little tricky to start from seed, but easily grown in the home garden. We have plenty of hot and super hot chili pepper plants right now. Here are the current varieties and a brief description of each:

Banana (Hot)  Heat Level 2 – 3; 500 SHU  70 days. A Hungarian heirloom that is excellent for short season areas, very popular for canning and pickling. Medium to hot fruit are light yellow in color; sets fruit over a long season.

Hot Banana Peppers, also known as Hungarian Hot Wax

Hot Banana Peppers, also known as Hungarian Hot Wax

Butch T Trinidad Scorpion  Heat Level 10++; 1,463,700 SHU  Originally from Trinidad, this is the former World’s Hottest Chili Pepper. The Butch T Scorpion pepper plant grows to over three feet tall in a pot, or bigger in the ground. It produces heaps of nuclear hot pepper pods with a very characteristic shape and sharp pointy tail, resembling its scorpion namesake. The pepper matures from green to red.

Carolina Reaper WORLD’S HOTTEST CHILI PEPPER Averages 1,569,300 SHU; peaks at 2,200,000 SHU  The Carolina Reaper is a cultivar of chili pepper of the Capsicum chinense species, originally named the “HP22BNH”, bred by Ed Currie. As of 2015, it is officially the world’s hottest pepper.  The original crossbreed was between a Bhut Jolokia, a former world record holder, and a Red Habanero pepper. The Carolina Reaper has been rated as the world’s hottest chili pepper by Guinness World Records since August 07, 2013.

Cayenne  Heat Level 6; 30,000-50,000 SHU  Slender, long peppers turn bright-red and are very hot. The 2-feet tall plants are vigorous and productive. This heirloom has been popular many years for drying, using as a spice, and also using medicinally. makes this a nice pepper for heat and flavor.

Cheyenne Heat Level 6; 30,000-50,000 SHU  Attractive wrinkled fruits average 8-9″ with moderately thick walls. Flavor is excellent – fruits are both sweet and moderately hot. Excellent for frying and in salsas. High-yielding, medium-sized plants.

Ghost (Bhut Jolokia) Heat Level 10++; 1,000,000  Bhut Jolokia is from the Assam state of India. For many years it was considered to be the world hottest chili. It is almost twice as hot as the previous record holder Red Savina. It is still one of the hottest chilis in the world, but the 7 Pod Peppers and Trinidad Scorpion Peppers are hotter. Fruits mature from green to bright red. It takes 120 days or more for red ripe pods (caution: the pods can already be very hot while still green).

Habanero (green to orange) Heat Level 9; 350,000 SHU  90 days. Typical bullet-shaped slightly wrinkled habanero type fruits, ripens from green to bright orange. Sweet and fruity, don’t be fooled, these things are HOT, but still very tasty.

Habanero (red)  Heat Level 9+; 350,000 – 600,000 SHU These can be spicier than the common orange habanero, so use caution as you enjoy the incredible warmth and rich, smoky-citrus taste of these lantern-shaped 2-inch fruit. Very ornamental, as well as perfect for spicing up a pot of chili or making killer hot sauce. Heavy producer.

Naga Viper  Heat Level 10++; 1,400,000 SHU  The Naga Viper Pepper is a monster, the unholy offspring of three of the world’s hottest peppers, the Naga Morich Pepper, the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper, and the Bhut Jolokia, also known as the Ghost Pepper. The Naga Viper was ranked the hottest pepper in the world for a short time in 2011, 270 times hotter than a Jalapeno!

Scotch Bonnet (red)  Heat Level 8+; 200,000 SHU  This very hot, fiery variety produces globular shaped fruits which ripen from pale green to bright red.The plant has a short bushy plant habit and is late maturing. Perfect for Caribbean food and sauces.

Serrano  Heat Level 5+; 10,000 – 25,000 SHU  Serrano peppers originated in the mountainous regions of Mexico. They will grow from 1.5’ to 5’ tall, with each plant bearing up to fifty fruits. Ripen from green to red, and usable at all stages. Popular for cooking, salsas, pico de gallo.. Hotter than a jalapeno, not a “super hot”.

Seven Pot Yellow  Heat Level 9+; 500,000 – 600,000 SHU  In Caribbean regions it is said that one pod is said to provide enough heat to spice up 7 pots of stew. Pods are habanero like in shape but have the characteristic ‘pimpling’ as found on another fearsome variety – the Naga Morich. The proportion of placental tissue is very high, which is why this pepper is so hot.

Thai Chilis ready to pick

Thai Chilis ready to pick

Thai  Heat Level 7; 100,000 SHU The hot heirloom chili from Thailand, these peppers are used in almost every dish in old Siam. Small pointed fruit are easy to dry and bright red in color. Ornamental plants are loaded with fruit. Great for sauces, cooking, drying. 90 days to maturity.

Tiburon Heat Level 4; 2,000 SHU  Sweet, thick flesh. 4 1/2-5″ x 3″ fruits are moderately hot and traditionally used for chile rellenos. Big sturdy plant holds abundant, uniform, heavy fruit well off the ground. Hybrid.

Tomato Varieties Available Week of May 4th


German Striped heirloom tomatoes


Abe Lincoln:  HEIRLOOM  Beautiful dark red fruits, sweet, solid and meaty. Fruits are smooth, free from cracks and seams, and – although large – ripen all the way through. Ideal for ketchup, juice or slicing. Sturdy plants, frequently have bronzy-green foliage.

Amish Paste Tomato:  HEIRLOOM 80 days. Many seeds savers believe this is the ultimate paste tomato. Giant, blocky Roma-type tomatoes have delicious red flesh that is perfect for paste and canning. World class flavor and comes from an Amish community in Wisconsin.

Belgium Giant:  HEIRLOOM  Huge, sweet fruits average 1 to 2 lbs. and have weighed in at nearly 5 lbs. Dark pink fruits have smooth blossom ends and a low-acid, mild flavor, so sweet that some growers use them to make wine. Solid meat and size means one slice per sandwich!

Black Krim:  HEIRLOOM  This medium-sized, very dark maroon beefsteak, with wonderfully rich flavor, originated in Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea with perfect “tomato summers”. Extremely tasty.

Boxcar Willie:  HEIRLOOM  This 10-16 oz, smooth red Tomato evokes memories of a bygone age. A true American heirloom, ‘Box Car Willie’ is most likely named after the famous 1950s singer, and makes an excellent staple or “main crop” Tomato due to its prolific production over a long season. Reliable, tasty, and juicy, this slightly flattened Jersey-type Tomato can grace your table for an entire summer. An indeterminate variety with good disease and cracking resistance. Fruits ripen 80 days from transplant.

Brandywine:  HEIRLOOM  Brandywine, which dates back to 1885, is the heirloom tomato standard. One taste and you’ll be enchanted by its superb flavor and luscious shade of red-pink. The large, beefsteak-shaped fruits grow on unusually upright, potato-leaved plants. The fruits set one or two per cluster and ripen late—and are worth the wait. Brandywine’s qualities really shine when it develops an incredible fine, sweet flavor.

Celebrity:  HYBRID  All-purpose variety with superb flavor, disease resistance and heavy yield on determinate plants. Crack-resistant fruits average 7 oz.

Cherokee Purple:  HEIRLOOM  This large dark purple heirloom tomato from Tennessee is rumored to have come from Cherokee gardeners. With its rich, full flavor, it’s often compared with Brandywine. The flesh is brick-red and very attractive sliced on a plate. Plants produce large vines that yield tomatoes fully 5″ across and 3½” deep.

Giant Tree:  HEIRLOOM Vigorous 10 to 18 ft. vines have strong stems and heavy thick leaves. Globe- shaped, pinkish-red fruits, with few seeds, are smooth, tender and weigh 1 to 2 lbs.

Mortgage Lifter:  HEIRLOOM 5 days. Large, smooth, 1-lb. pink fruit have a delicious, rich, sweet taste. This variety has become very popular in recent years, after being developed by M.C. Byles of Logan, West Virginia. After crossing varieties for 6 years and selecting the best, he introduced this beauty that he named Mortgage Lifter in the 1940’s after he sold plants for $1 each and paid off the $6,000 mortgage on his house.

sun gold

Sun Gold cherry tomatoes

 Omar’s Lebanese:  HEIRLOOM 80 days. Huge, pink fruit can grow as large as 3-4 lbs! One of the largest tomatoes you can grow. The mammoth fruit have a superb flavor: sweet, perfect tomato taste. Good yields on vigorous plants, good tolerance to disease; a rare family heirloom from Lebanon. Perfect for anyone who wants to grow huge, tasty tomatoes

Oxheart:  HEIRLOOM  85 days. Beautiful big, oval, pointed fruit with a fine sweet old time flavor! Popular with old timers, a good all-purpose variety

Ponderosa Pink:  HEIRLOOM   87 days. Huge size, some over 2 lbs., a meaty pink-red beefsteak introduced by Peter Henderson & Co. in 1891, and the most famous of their varieties. Their 1903 catalog said “Quality Beyond Praise, Rich and meaty-sliced. Thick and delicious canned.” Still popular with gardeners.

Rutgers:  HEIRLOOM 60-100 days. Determinate. Good for canning; also good fresh; large red 8-oz. globes. Good yields and flavor on large vines. A fine New Jersey heirloom.

San Marzano Paste:  HEIRLOOM. Almost no seed cavities—all meat.
The long, blocky fruits mature with a small, discreet seed cavity that can be scooped out, leaving all meat. This means much less boiling to get a first class paste. The shape is also good for canning, and excellent for drying.

Striped German: HEIRLOOM 78 days. Indeterminate plant needs stakes. Huge 2 lb/907 g red and yellow bicolor beefsteak fruit have unique ribbed shoulders and flat globe shape. Complex fruity flavor. Interiors are marbled in gold, red and rose.

Sungold:  HYBRID  One taste and you’ll know why this gold gem gets such highs marks. The sweet-tart flavor is simply amazing. The beautiful golden-orange fruits are borne in large clusters. The flavor develops early, so this little tomato is great for snacking a week before full maturity, when it becomes very sweet and delicious.

Yellow Pear:  HEIRLOOM 78 days. Very sweet, 1 1/2″ yellow, pear-shaped fruit have a mild flavor, and are great for fresh eating or for making tomato preserves. Very productive plants are easy to grow.

The Organic Life

What does organic living mean to you?

As a first generation, organic lifestyle family, we have found that we–and our property–are works in progress. This is not an “all or nothing” journey, and each year we find we have progressed along the organic, sustainable, path. We own about seven acres outside of Louisville, and each year we try to add something to our property. One year it was blueberries. Another, fruit trees. A raised bed–or two–gets built and added annually. Last year we brought in chickens. This year we gave away our chickens! We enjoyed them, but discovered they were not a good time/work value for our family.

Wherever you may land in your path to sustainable living, you have probably discovered that it all takes a lot of time. The blogs and books inspire us to “do it all”, but we quickly realize that we all must pick and choose where we want to prioritize our hours.

This year we are cutting back on our growing endeavors to focus on some long-neglected home repairs. We also want to slow down and enjoy what we have already worked so hard on in years past. Our focus this season will be on already-established berry patches and raised beds. Rather than spending time growing corn, we will finally plant our cool, pole bean “hideout” before our sons are too old to enjoy it. (That will be made from a repurposed, never used, chicken run.) Rather than growing quantity, we will grow what we love and share our extra gardening space with neighbors.

This morning we slowed down and were able to see our “pet” robin’s eggs hatch. She nests on our front porch.

Thanks for joinibabybirdsng us on our journey.