Showing posts with label Lockhart Seeds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lockhart Seeds. Show all posts

Down the Stretch They Come...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Momotaro Tomatoes
Momotaro. That's the answer to the annual Bird Heirloom Tomato Contest of: Guess which variety of tomato seed germinates first? NeCole Brownwell Scott of Antelope, CA was on top of her game with her guess of Momotaro, which isn't all that surprising since she's a Tomato Maniac herself. For her brilliant perception and forecasting skills, NeCole wins her choice of two tomato plant starters from the Bird 2013 starter crop.

Yes indeed! It might be a bit chilly outside, but this is prime seed-starting season for backyard enthusiasts like the wife that is Venus and myself. Once again employing the seed-starting rack setup that we employed last year for the first time, Venus and I are growing many treasured favorites from the past plus quite a few new varieties this season.

Seed Starting Rack
One of those new varieties? Momotaro. While the variety certainly isn't new, it will be a new addition to the Bird Back 40 tomato crop later this spring. Momotaro, as you might have deduced, is a Japanese variety. It's one of the most popular varieties in Japan thanks to its legendary productive status. The fact that it's named after a legendary Japanese folk hero (it loosely translates into "Peach Boy" in English) also might help.

The story and legend of Momotaro was heavily promoted by the Imperial Japanese government during World War II. It should come as no surprise then that the "demons" that Momotaro was sent out to fight lived at a well-known United States naval base called Pearl Harbor.

Bingo Tomato: Impulse Purchase: Lockhart Seeds
I suppose this is one of the many reasons as to why I like growing as many varieties of heirloom tomatoes that I can get my greedy little hands on. Each one represents a little slice of international history. The story of Momotaro, the folk tale, and Momotaro the tomato, represents one of those interesting little discoveries.

How does the old saying go? Learn something new every day?

Venus and I set out on our planting adventure last Sunday, February 17th, just a day after this seed starting article appeared in the garden section of the Sacramento Bee. Some people start a week or two earlier than this. Still others start out a week or two later? Point is? The goal is to have starter plants ready to set out in the garden by May 1st, or Farmer Fred Hoffman's birthday if you will.

Germination after five days: Momotaro Tomato
Once again, we have outdone ourselves. 120 starter plants now sit under a collection six shop lights in a spare Bird bedroom. Believe it or not -- we have room for even more. We're not even using the bottom rack (yet), which would provide room for 40 more plants. And we haven't even considered using the top rack yet... Though I suppose that will come with time.

Point is? With a cheap metal rack and a few shop lights? You can do some serious garden damage. And that's just what we intend upon doing this year.

Of course -- not all of these are tomato plants. I WISH I had room for 120 tomato plants. I'd be in tomato heaven, as would every neighbor on the block. But our collection also includes a number of sweet and hot pepper varieties. These will come into use when it's time to can the legendary Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa. Venus also has about six different varieties of basil that have already germinated and are growing quite well.

Siam Queen Basil Seeds
Why have just one variety of basil when you can have all of them? Genovese Basil is a "must have" in any garden and one of the most popular starter plants you'll find at any garden store. But why limit yourself to Genovese -- when the hot variety of Siam Queen Thai purple basil beckons? Like a hint of lemon in your basil? There's always the popular Lemon Basil. Point is -- there's a basil for every dish.

Venus didn't just limit herself to vegetable garden selections with her seed starting efforts this year. Nope! With an excellent and hard-to-find selection of flower seeds purchased from Lockhart Seeds in Stockton, this year's indoor starting effort includes multiple flower offerings that you probably will not find at you local gardening store.

Love Lies Bleeding Seeds
Sure -- you can find your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, marigolds and petunias at your local Big Box Store. But if you've got your heart set on something called "Love Lies Bleeding," or "Oxford Blue Scabiosa," I hope you got it started early at home. The point is? We want our front and back flower beds to contain items that you just don't see in those everyday, mass planted gardens.

Seed starting is one of our favorite rituals. It's one of those "together" things that we both enjoy. The payoff is a fun afternoon and a summer's bounty of delicious tomatoes and flowers that bring a riot of color to the Bird Back 40. It's also a chance to share and trade with others who have been bitten with this gardening bug. One afternoon of seed planting brings out a season of beauty. Try and find a downfall to this. I've tried. I can't.

Afternoon of Fun
There is nothing quite like the joy and satisfaction that comes when the first seedling pops to the surface, or that first starter plant produces its first tomato, first pepper or first bite of fiery basil. I keep thinking of what the backyard flower gardens will look like when our Desert Bluebells or Penstamon Blue fire up into a riot of flower beauty.

Yes, I suppose this is a bug. Call it a twitch if you want. Disease works just as well. Just count me glad that I have it.

Bird 2013 Heirloom Tomato Garden

Agro 410
Arkansas Traveler
Believe It Or Not
Berkeley Tie Dye
Big Zac
Black Cherry
Chadwick Cherry
Cherokee Chocolate
Cherokee Purple
Costaluto Fiorentino
Dixie Golden Giant
Eva Purple Ball
Lemon Boy
Lush Queen
Martha Washington (last year’s top garden performer)
Mr. Underwood’s Pink
Polish Giant
Pruden’s Purple
San Marzano
Schilling Giant
Solar Fire
Sungold Cherry
X-Large Spanish

Heaven Comes in a Seed Packet

Monday, February 4, 2013

Seed Haul: Lockhart Seeds
Now that is a beautiful sight indeed isn't it? That little bundle of seed picture to your right comes from the "Best Little Seed House in California!" I am, of course, referring to Lockhart Seeds, located in the most romantic city in the world: Stockton, CA. Trust me on this: "Date Day" at Lockhart Seeds with the wife that is Venus is an event for the ages.

Sadly, we haven't had a chance to visit much. And the fine folks at Lockhart Seeds don't make it easy on us weekend warrior type garden punks (sorry, Katie). They're not open on weekends. They're closed on most major holidays as well, as we would rather unfortunately discover during a President's Day holiday two years ago. The doors were locked as tight as a drum.

The Most Romantic Spot in Stockton
If you happen to work full-time like the both of us -- there are only two options. One, duck out early at work. Two, take a vacation day. We opted for Choice #2. We figured that we could follow up a 49ers blowout victory in the Super Bowl with a celebratory trip to Lockhart Seeds the every next day!

Yeah, uh, unfortunately the 49ers didn't cooperate. But that's a story for another day. There's always next year.

As I've mentioned before in a previous post about Lockhart Seeds, this place hasn't changed much since the day it opened. This is as old as a storefront as you're going to find still standing anywhere in the San Joaquin Valley. It's a throwback to the day when major department stores were still located in old downtown buildings. Shopping malls? Never heard of em'!

Still in the same spot! Check!
From the heavy wood door that requires some effort to push open to wood floors that creak, you get the impression that generations of small farmers and gardeners have walked these aisles before you. And you just might be right. It's been quite some time since tomato seeds were sold in containers resembling V-8 juice cans. But you'll find them stashed in a corner here and there with gardening implements that are nearly as ancient. I've come to discover that Lockhart Seeds is half store and half museum.

If you're a nutcase gardener like me and the wife? You could spend hours in this place and never get tired. Store employees might get tired of you as you walk up each aisle again and again and again, but the Lockhart Seeds experience is one to be savored. This is truly one of Stockton's tiny treasures. Most seed stores in California up and vanished eons ago. But Lockhart Seeds not only survived the onslaught of the big box retailers, they've thrived in a niche market catering to nutcase gardeners and small farmers.

Lockhart Seed Bank
In a frantic pursuit for peppers? Fishing for some fennel? Hunting for Honey Dew melon? You get the idea. You're going to find it against this wall or in that row. A world of discovery awaits. Don't for a moment think, "you can't grow that here." Because, if they sell it at Lockhart Seeds? You can "grow that here."

Lockhart Seeds is also one of the few places that didn't rush headlong into the heirloom vegetable craze that's sweeping the country. It got its start with heirloom tomatoes, but has now branched out into heirloom melons, heirloom asparagus, heirloom radishes and, yes, even heirloom peach trees (See: Hale Peach). What Lockhart Seeds does offer is even more valuable: tried and true varieties that produce and produce well in our hot summer climates.

Franchi Sementi Spinacio (Spinach)
You'll also run into seed providers not often found anywhere in California, such as Franchi Sementi (Sementi is the Italian word for seeds). I've heard of this seed company, but never saw any of their offerings until I walked into the front door of Lockhart Seeds. Franchi is a rather big name in the seed business. Seems they've been around for a spell. How long you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked!

From the website: "In 1783 (the year the American Revolution ended) Giovanni Franchi started selling seeds around the market squares of Parma from his horse-drawn cart. The company is still in the same family 229 years later, with Giampiero Franchi at the helm and modern facilities in Bergamo, near Milan."

One of each please!
Remember! You asked!

Lockhart Seeds also offers another advantage not found in your local big box stores. Sometimes? It's more economical to "buy in bulk." Costco shoppers will understand this. Why purchase a small packet of cilantro seeds for $2.69 when a quarter-pound of the good stuff can be had for just thirty cents more?

It's safe to say that Venus and I departed Lockhart Seeds with enough vegetable seed to plant our spring and summer garden, plus the entire neighborhood's spring and summer gardens. Does 15 packets of green onion seed sound like a little too much?

Come to Papa...
Bill Bird loves his green onions more than anything else (other than a fat, vine-ripened tomato of course). So, to Bill Bird? 15 packets of green onion seed sounds just about right...

Lockhart Seeds is located on 3 North Wilson Way in Stockton. We always make sure to call ahead at (209) 446-4401 to make sure they're open. The company started building a website years ago, but never finished and I sometimes wonder if they ever will.

The Most Romantic City in the World!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lockhart Seeds, downtown Stockton
If you assume that I'm referring to the City of Love, Paris France, well please, perish the thought. Although the official motto of Rome, Italy is "you have never lived until you’ve loved in Rome," the motto-makers "missed the mark."

The most romatic spot in the world -- according to the wonderful wife that is Venus -- is just a hop, skip and a jump south on Interstate 5 or Highway 99 -- to Stockton, California. Yes -- Stockton is the most romantic city in the world because that's where I take the wife on the most romantic of dates: Seed shopping at Lockhart Seeds in downtown Stockton.

Honestly now -- think about it for a second. How can a business that features a GIANT heart lock as its logo not be the most romantic spot on earth? Since nobody has ever offered a valid explanation that would explain otherwise -- the wife's reasoning in this matter stands true.

This marked our third trip to the most romantic spot on Earth. I first learned about Lockhart Seeds from a Sacramento Bee article penned by garden writer Debbie Arrington about three years ago. At that time? Lockhart Seeds was the LAST store left in California dedicated to the sale of vegetable seeds of all shapes and sizes -- serving small growers and backyard gardeners alike (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has since opened another outlet dedicated to all things vegetable seed in Petaluma).

We have since visited every President's Day Holiday in the month of February -- because of one small quirk in the Lockhart Seeds service schedule: they're not open on weekends. They're not open at night. It's one of the few businesses left in business that operates on a strict Monday through Friday, 9-5 schedule.

Lockhart Seeds -- All Locked Up
But since we had last Monday off for the President's Day Holiday, that shouldn't be a problem, right? WRONG. Imagine our shock and chagrin when we wound up on the doorstep of Lockhart Seeds only to find the GIANT heart lock all locked up for the holiday.

What went wrong? This had never happened before. Lockhart Seeds? Take a holiday? Blasphemy! If you remember last year's post about Lockhart Seeds, then you know I had promised that the wife that is Venus that we would finally purchase those asparagas roots she had taken such an interest in.

A promise is a promise after all.

But the asparagas roots will have to wait for another day. The seed purchases will also have to wait, for who knows how long? It's not like we can just go galavanting off to the most Romantic Spot on Earth on any particular day and time. Like most people, we do work for a living.

I suppose it's safe to say that we're just a tad bit annoyed.

Fresh Tortillas! Fresh Tequila!
After finding our favorite store all locked up for the President's Day Holiday -- Venus and I could only think of one other option: visit the nearest Mexican restaurant closest to Lockhart Seeds and drown away our sorrows in fine tequila.

We did just that. We're quite good at that as a matter of fact. I'm pleased to report that at least our favorite restaurant was indeed open -- holiday or no holiday. The food was good. So were the margaritas (blended, with salt).

Despite the fine lunch I must admit that both the wife and I were a tad depressed as we drove back toward the location of Lockhart Seeds -- with every intention of jumping back on the Crosstown Freeway (Highway 4) -- for the trip back home to North Natomas.

But -- as we passed the storefront -- we saw another chagrined customer out in front of the store -- staring in disbelief as we did -- at the sign proclaiming "CLOSED FOR THE PRESIDENT'S DAY HOLIDAY." We pulled over to lend an encouraging word.

"We traveled all the way from Sacramento to visit and we're out of luck," the wife told the stranger. His response? "I'm from Sacramento too!" As we both shared a discouraging laugh -- our new friend shared some interesting and uplifting news. Not all was lost. Our trip to the most romantic city in the world would not be in vain after all.

Lockhart Seeds wasn't the only option for vegetable seeds in Stockton.

Port Stockton Nursery, Stockton
Intrigued, we followed our new friend out of the downtown area and down Main Street to a place called the Port Stockton Nursery. Was it like Lockhart Seeds in that it dealt with seeds and seeds only? Technically? No. It was -- in fact -- a nursery.

But -- unlike Lockhart Seeds -- it was open.

And it was there -- standing in the middle of a this nursery -- in the most Romantic City on Earth -- where Venus found her true love.

Venus with "Clarence the Lionhearted"
"Clarence the Lionhearted" announced his presence by rubbing up against the wife's legs. Clarence -- the wife would reveal -- was an exact copy of the cat she grew up with San Jose -- a cat named Tiggy Tom.

No -- we did not adopt another cat. We need another cat like we need another house payment. But after a month of heartbreak involving the death of her father and my father-in-law -- Clarence the Lionhearted brought a rare smile of joy to the wife's face.

Who could ask for more?