We did a video in partnership with our local hospital about growing and cooking with herbs. Yavapai Regional Medical Center has created “Your Healthy Kitchen” recognizing and promoting the idea of eating and staying healthy makes a lot of sense.

We talk about some of the easier to grow fresh herbs that do well almost anywhere and in any size container, then use some of those same herbs in making a delicious tapenade or appetizer of olives, capers and herbs to finish the show.

Here’s what herbs and vegetables you could grow in your garden for this recipe – Dill, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme & Onions

Peel Garlic in 10 Seconds

Can you peel garlic in 10 seconds? Not just one clove, but a handful or even a whole head? Can you do 5 or 10 in a row?

Sure you can, we show you how in our very short video! Extremely simple, works every time and completely eliminates the mess, fuss and frustration of peeling garlic.

A couple of tips- if the garlic isn’t quite as peeled as you need, simply shake it a little bit more. If it comes out looking a little crushed, just shake a little less next time. With just a couple of minutes of practice, you’ll be peeling garlic like a pro and will never hesitate to use fresh garlic in your cooking again.

White Sonora Wheat Head


White Sonora Wheat is enjoying a resurgence of popularity today all across the country, thanks to restoration efforts in Arizona and South Carolina. Introduced in the early 1700s by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino to the Sonoran region of Mexico and Southern Arizona, White Sonora Wheat was the staple wheat for the western United States for almost 200 years, from the early 1700s to the 1900s. Starting in the early 1800s, California planted Sonoran wheat almost exclusively.

Its popularity was partly due to its resistance to Fusarium fungus, drought tolerance and its exceptionally sweet flavor for baking. It was also prized as a brewing grain, again for its flavor it gave the beer. During the Civil War, much Sonoran wheat was exported from Arizona and California to the eastern states making up for lost production due to the war.

Young White Sonora Wheat

Several factors contributed to its demise as the staple variety of wheat, from expanded cattle ranching in Mexico, the droughts and loss of water as a power source in the 1950s, the closing of many flour mills in Sonora in the mid-1960s, the Green Revolution with its hybridized wheat varieties and the switch from wheat production to vegetables as dams closed off the rivers in northern Mexico. By about 1975, there were no more commercial sources of White Sonora Wheat available.

Modern Interest

A lot of attention is being paid to wheat today, mainly due to the rise of gluten intolerance or celiac disease in which a person cannot digest the gluten part of wheat in their diet. For a more in-depth look at this issue, read my article “What’s Wrong with Our Wheat?”.

This is one of several areas where White Sonora Wheat really shines, as it is lower in gluten and higher in protein than today’s super-hybridized dwarf varieties. White Sonora Wheat is an extremely flavorful semi-hard white spring wheat that can be used for whole wheat flour in breads, cakes, pancakes, tortillas, and more. By many accounts this is the best flour for cakes, breads and tortillas ever. Because it is a white wheat, not a hard red wheat, it makes lighter products that have a sweeter and lighter flavor than those typically associated with whole wheat. The berries can also be boiled and used like rice or sprouted for wheat grass.

White Sonora Wheat Husk


Another advantage the White Sonora Wheat has is a thinner, more paper-like husk, unlike other ancient cereal grains that require a mill to remove the husk and then can be ground. When we recently visited our grower, we were shown a large bag of the wheat that had just been harvested, with no other cleaning or sorting. You can see the video below, and see the weed seeds among the wheat, but also the very few seed heads that have any husks on them. The husks are removed by the mechanical action of the harvester, with the remaining ones rubbed off easily with a couple of fingers.

Processing and Cleaning

For the home gardener or small scale grower, this can be done fairly easily with some hand or kitchen tools. Depending on how much wheat you have to process, a kitchen food processor such as a Cuisinart fitted with the plastic dough blade can separate the husks from the grains. Pulse the blade to prevent from breaking too many of the grains and making it harder to separate the wheat from the husks or chaff. Fill the bowl up about 1/2 to 2/3 full and work in batches.

White Sonora Wheat in Cuisinart


Another method is to use a 5 gallon bucket with a paint mixer attachment on a hand power drill, either the spiral or traditional cross or paddle type. Use a moderate speed and move the mixer around the bucket to create the friction that loosens the husks. You will need to stop and check the progress, but will quickly get a feel for how long to use the mixer.

White Sonora Wheat has a root structure much like a perennial prairie grass with long taproots and a web of smaller feeder roots, unlike the simple and shallow hybrid roots of today’s wheat. These longer taproots bring water and nutrients from deeper in the soils, making the plant less susceptible to moisture fluctuations. It also helps to open up the soil when the wheat is harvested as the root system decays, leaving behind a network of air and water passages. The wheat can thrive on marginal soils and actually produces better flavor on these soils, though production volume is lower than modern ones.

With all of its advantages, flavor and nutrition, ease of growth and harvest, along with being adapted to dry climates and improving the soil, it is easy to see why White Sonora Wheat is regaining its rightful popularity! It is usually planted as winter wheat in areas with mild winters and as spring wheat everywhere else.

Customer Processing Method

One of our customers graciously sent some photos showing how he processed the wheat after harvesting it. He started with 3 oz. and the end results are pretty impressive! Thanks to Paul from California for sharing these with us!

Processing White Sonora Wheat

He starts with dumping the uncleaned wheat into a sack or heavy pillowcase – heads, chaff and remainder of stems – all of it.

Processing White Sonora Wheat

Then using a large, lightweight wooden mallet, he applies physical friction to the bag and wheat, loosening the hulls. This isn’t a pounding action, and he tries not to hit through to the bottom of the sack, only gently thumping the top and going down about halfway into the wheat.

Processing White Sonora Wheat

After a few minutes of friction, this is what the wheat berries look like – very much the same as what comes out of the combine, but with some stalks and stems in the mix.

Processing White Sonora Wheat

Next is winnowing the wheat, or separating it from the husks or chaff. The basics of this process haven’t changed since it was written about in the Bible – use a breeze to blow the lighter chaff off of the heavier wheat berries. Paul said he had to repeat this step a couple of times, but got a really clean batch of wheat.

Finished White Sonora Wheat

Here are the results! Pretty good harvest from a 3 oz. start. This is fairly typical return with wheat, it should be in the range of about 40:1, meaning if you plant 1 oz. your harvest should be around 40 oz. 

Slow Food Southwest Regional Meeting

The Slow Food Southwest regional meeting was held in Chino Valley, AZ on June 8 and 9, 2013 with members from several Slow Food chapters including Phoenix, Prescott, Santa Fe, Southern Arizona and the Navajo Churro Lamb Presidia. In addition, Slow Food USA was present with Richard McCarthy, Executive Director and Aimee Thunberg, Associate Director of Communications.

The meeting was held at the Prescott chapter leader’s house, Molly Beverly. Regional and seasonal dishes were prepared and brought to the meeting, or cooked at the event. Several fermented salsas were offered as starters, with a wide range of dishes for the dinner and next day’s Sunday brunch.

Richard McCarthy, the new Executive Director for Slow Food USA opened the meeting with a thoughtful and honest overview of Slow Food’s successes and challenges that have come from its growth in the past several years. He then turned to look at the future and what he and the board have for the vision of Slow Food in the United States. There are some great things that are set to appear on the horizon in the next few months!

After the meeting finished, dinner was prepared by the Prescott chapter while everyone enjoyed getting to know each other. New friendships and partnerships were formed over some incredibly tasty food, along with a lot of laughter and joking. At our table the two Navajo representatives demonstrated that they have a seriously funny side to them that is both creative and has stamina as we were hooting and hollering for well over an hour! Several people from the other table came over to see what all the noise was about, and wound up staying to enjoy the good times.

The next morning started with an indescribably delicious Sunday brunch, after which we finished up the meeting. A lot of networking happened both days, with a result that the Southwest chapters are looking forward to working much more closely together to share and spread the word of how wonderful Slow Food is.

Enjoy the video and overview of the Southwest Regional meeting!

From New York to Africa, Why Food is Saving the World

Brian Halweil shares an important message about how food can and does change the world for the better. This short TED talk reminded me of my days in college and reading the same Paul Ehrlich title. Sometimes as individuals we can be overwhelmed with facts and figures, doom and gloom. In order to make positive changes in the world and home, we each need to take one step at a time. We hope this video inspires you to do just that!

Have you ever wondered what goes into the packets of heirloom seeds that you get in the mail? Those little paper envelopes have a lot of work, care, love and attention in them. We wanted to show you a little peek behind the scenes on how we pack our seeds here at Terroir Seeds.

Some people don’t know that we hand pack each and every one of our heirloom seeds packets, while others don’t understand why we don’t use a machine to pack them. To answer the second point first, the seed packing machines that are used in larger seed companies are prohibitively expensive, even when available used. They are fast, but require cleaning and recalibration to the new seed for each and every seed variety packed. In our company, this would mean we would spend about two thirds of our time cleaning and calibrating the machine and less than a third in packing seeds. It doesn’t make sense for us quite yet! And yes, we actually do hand pack each and every seed packet that we ship!

For quality control, we only work with one type of seed at a time. This avoids mix-ups, as all tomato or pepper seeds look the same! When a new batch of seed arrives for the season, we count the number of seeds that are supposed to be in each packet, then find the correct measure that will consistently give us the number we are looking for. This may mean we count the same seeds several times, to make sure we are putting the correct number in a packet. We try to err on the generous side. Sometimes that is the same measure as the year before, but not always. Differing weather conditions, nutrient availability, pest and disease pressures all play a part on the physical size of the seeds from year to year.

As you probably imagine, this part of our business is very important to our continued growth. It is a detail oriented, behind-the-scenes type of job that requires high levels of concentration. With our growth, keeping up with the seed packing is requiring more time and will soon be a full time job.

We hope you enjoy the video and learn a bit more about why we put so much effort and love into our seeds!

What’s Up with Our Seeds? Heirloom Seeds vs GMO Seeds

Stephen did a presentation for the GMO Free Prescott group at One Root, a local apothecary and herbothecary on the state of our seeds and what the benefits are for the home gardener. After introductions and going over some foundational definitions, the main topic was GMO seeds, what they are, where they came from and what the concern is. Once the facts, figures and issues had been introduced and briefly discussed the focus shifted to education for the home gardener and what a single person could do in their own garden and why heirloom seeds play such a critical role for them.

As a point of clarification, Wendell Berry’s excellent passage from “The Idea of a Local Economy” was read –

“What has happened is that most people in our country, and apparently most people in the “developed” world, have given proxies to the corporations to produce and provide all of their food, clothing and shelter. Moreover, they are rapidly giving proxies to corporations or governments to provide entertainment, education, child care, care of the sick and elderly, and many other kinds of “service” that once were carried on informally and inexpensively by individuals or households or communities. Our major economic practice, in short, is to delegate the practice to others.”

The point was made that we as individuals must make our own decisions for our own lives, starting with the decision to determine the quality and source of our food that we want. From there, the opportunities that are open to the individual were explored, as well as the responsibility to learn more about our food that we eat and to take action based on this new-found knowledge.

Watch the presentation to see why we believe that every person growing a garden makes the world better, one garden at a time!

GMO and Glyphosate Presentation

Stephen Scott: GMOs and Round Up – Genetic Hazards to Our Children? from The Healing Grapevine Network on Vimeo.

Here is a video presentation that I did for our local Non-GMO group that shows the dangers of not only GMO seeds but how they work with Roundup (glyphosate).

I wanted to explore the implications and relationships of Genetically Modified seeds and Roundup (glyphosate) to the health of people, animals, soil and waterways.

Show how GMOs are developed to be glyphosate tolerant, able to absorb the poison without dying. They then pass this glyphosate up the food chain, creating a multitude of chronic and acute health concerns in domestic animals as well as people.

Then, taking a larger view and examining the lifecycle of glyphosate in the soil, show how it chelates minerals and nutrients needed for life, and its effects on the lifecycles in waterways it contaminates. Explore ways to tie up glyphosate in the soil through mineralization and soil building techniques.

This is a serious concern for many, and here is some knowledge to give you an edge in dealing with it!

Simran Sethi on Seeds

Seeds – The Buried Beginnings of Food

“Seeds hold the potential for everything, the beginning and the end and the beginning all over again. Seeds are the building blocks of every meal we eat; all our fruits and vegetables, all our grains, plus the meat and milk that’s raised on grass and grain.”

Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist, strategist & educator who teaches & reports on sustainability, environmentalism & social media for social change. Simran is dedicated to a redefinition of environmentalism that uses innovative forms of engagement & includes voices from the prairie, urban core & global community. She recently gave an inspiring presentation at TEDx Manhattan on Seeds – The Buried Beginnings of Food where she shared how much seeds really do matter to all of us, no matter where we live or what we do as a profession.

After showing how few varieties of edible plants we cultivate for our food – about 150 out of more than 80,000 – she goes on to explain the vast majority of humankinds food comes from just about 30 species. In America, over half of our daily calories come from just 4 foods – rice, corn, wheat and potatoes! We are seeing the results of a gradual shrinking in the variety of our food supply over the past 50 years, what is known as a loss of agricultural biodiversity. This is the unintended consequence of a system that was originally intended to increase productivity and feed the world – large-scale industrialized agriculture.

Moving on, she shows the staggering loss of the cultivated foods we used to depend on – by some estimations a 75% loss of food varieties that have disappeared since 1900. Combined with this is the alarming consolidations in the ownership of seeds, essentially seed monopolies. Three corporations now account for over half of the global commercial seeds market today. This includes hybrids and GMOs, both of which can’t be saved and re-planted for the next year. With this model, seeds have become non-renewable resources, inventions created by companies that farmers are required to buy from year after year.

One company now controls the genetics of nearly 90% of the corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the United States. That same company bought the world’s largest developer and grower of vegetable seeds in 2005. As she so emphatically states,

“Monopolies are hideous with our cellphones, we know this! They are disastrous with food, because food and seeds aren’t just any other commodity.”

Watch her powerful presentation, learn a few things and become inspired to take a more active part in your food!

“You have to live a life without fear; and to be fearless, you have to have a very clear conscience that guides you on a daily basis. If you are fully aware of doing the right thing everyday, there is no power on earth that can make you afraid.” ~ Vandana Shiva, Mt. Allison University, New Brunswick Feb. 26, 2012

“We live today where creating fear is the political governing style today. Cultivating fearlessness I think is one of the most important trainings of democracy and citizen freedom.”

We share this short video of Vandana Shiva telling her story of the struggle to preserve heirloom seeds in her native India from the wonderful folks at The Perennial Plate.

The Slow Food Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto events are world-famous for their sights, tastes and smells of top-shelf quality foods made in a traditional way. It is exciting to see, taste and contrast flavors from different regions of Italy and across the world with just a few steps and a couple of minutes of your time. Much of this is serious business as artisanal food producers showcase their hard work and experience in creating classical foods.

Not everything and everyone is all about work with no play, however. There is much to see and hear that is fun, unusual and surprising to see amongst the booths that is light hearted and enjoys a laugh with friends, new and old. There were an abundance of children soaking up the sights, aromas and flavors of the Salone with their parents or in groups doing tastings, cooking or creating spice mixes.

Our presentation showcases some of the fun sights we came across during our visit to Slow Food Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto. Enjoy!


We are pleased to present our experiences of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Slow Food Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy. It was held the evening of October 24 at the Palasport Olimpico, also known as the Palaisozaki, after the Japanese architect’s name – Arata Isozaki. This is in the Santa Rita district of Turin, just east of the Olympic stadium. It was built for the 2006 Olympics and hosted the ice hockey events. With seating for over 12,000, it is an impressive venue!

We arrived early after registering at the main Slow Food event center and waited for the gates to open. We quickly learned to make use of these periods of waiting and not be impatient that things didn’t run on an American schedule. Introducing ourselves, we quickly made some new friends and were once again impressed with the dedication, creativity and just plain genius with which so many people were applying themselves in their search of how to answer Slow Food’s directive of “Good, clean and fair” food for all. This opening ceremony was for and about the international delegates but was open to the public.
Once the gates opened, we checked our luggage into the baggage claim area and made a line for the latest in a long line of cappuccinos (cappuccini in Italian!), as we had been awake for the better part of 30 hours at this point. We had arrived in Milan at 7:30am that day after a combined flight of almost 13 hours, and wouldn’t check into our hotel until after the opening ceremony. A long but exhilarating day!

People were encouraged to dress in their native clothing, and it was a grand sight to see, with the entrance being made coming down the long stairs into the delegates seating area. The surrounding stands were soon filled almost to capacity with the public, who was very enthusiastic. The energy and excitement was contagious and had the whole arena buzzing.

After the opening welcome speech by the Mayor of Turin, the parade of flags commenced. A delegate from each nation present presented their native flag and was seated in honor above the podium. 95 countries were present this year! Afterwards there were many presentations and speeches about the different directions Slow Food has moved, as well as live poetry acted out by Nobel literature prizewinner and playwright Dario Fo, live music by Italian trumpeter, singer, composer and arranger Roy Paci. Both Vandana Shiva and Alice Waters presented their thoughts to thunderous acclaim. The United Nation’s FAO Director-General José Graziano Da Silva gave praise and strength to the Slow Food movement, acknowledging the impact it has had worldwide and noting that governments and advocates for sustainable food are turning to Slow Food for help in writing proposals and drafting legislation.

This was a fine promise of things to come, that was more than fulfilled in the next 4 days!

Our local Slow Food Prescott chapter held its almost-monthly meeting and potluck, along with a fermentation workshop hosted by Allison Jack, Agroecology faculty at Prescott College and Molly Beverly, Chef at Crossroads Café of Prescott College. This workshop was a reprisal of the fermentation workshop and book-signing that Sandor Katz presented on October 24th. Unfortunately, we were in Italy, tasting our way through Turin and missed his presentation and workshop.

The evening got its usual tasty Slow Food start with a potluck of home-made, home-grown or locally sourced dishes. It has been remarkable to see the growth of this chapter in the past couple of years in respect to its palate, understanding of quality ingredients and love for truly locally made foods. It is pretty common to hear of someone describing their dish as having the majority of the ingredients from their own garden, or proudly naming who grew or raised them from the area. The array of dishes from almost 40 people was inspiring! Not only was the number of people attending impressive, the quality and flavor of the dishes would be at home in a high-end restaurant or supper club. There was a fermented section, with fermented tomato paste, beets, carrots and sourdough bread all adding their unique flavors to the dining.

After dinner was finished the main event was then opened, with Allison presenting some tried and true recipes for a quick kim chee and Hungarian sauerkraut. Everyone brought assorted vegetables that they wanted to ferment, and the fun began! After a short presentation by Allison, everyone got to grating, chopping and slicing their veggies and putting them into jars to start the fermentation. People got to see some new techniques of vegetable processing, new combinations to ferment and generally had a lot of fun learning from each other.

We recorded a short video to help bring the experience and flavors to you. Enjoy!

Slow Food International’s premier worldwide event – Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto – happens every two years in Turin, Italy. Terra Madre is educational workshops, culinary tastings, speeches and panel discussions with 130 countries represented this year. Salone del Gusto is a world’s fair of food, with 4 huge halls devoted entirely to food of all kinds from around the world. We were fortunate enough to be chosen as US delegates, along with about 230 other people. We had been somewhat prepared by others that had attended before so the scale didn’t overwhelm us. The quality and diversity of what was presented, both edible and educational, was astounding. At some points in the day, there were over 15 different workshops, panel discussions, regional tasting events and special culinary projects showcasing a specific regional treasure all happening at the same time! This was in addition to the Salone which occupied more than double the space of both buildings of the Las Vegas convention center. One of our delegates responded to the question of what it was like with “Tasty and tiring.”

It will take several other articles and videos to give a more rounded overview of the event, as it is really several events all rolled up into one. We were chosen as International Congress delegates, which was a completely separate event that is held only once every four years and is attended by those chosen for their work in advancing the core tenants of Slow Food – “Good, clean and fair.” To say we were honored to be among the likes of Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva, Carlo Petrini and 650 others is a monumental understatement. On two separate occasions we felt we were in hallowed company. The first was the opening ceremony for the 230 Slow Food USA delegates where Carlo had some remarks that were amazing. I walked up to the front of the room just before the opening ceremony started to get a photo and stood there for a minute looking at everyone getting settled and chatting with their new neighbors. It was both humbling and inspiring to be in the same room with so many talented, dedicated, passionate and brilliant people who are all working at the same goal from so many different angles – good food that is real and honors all who are involved with it. The second time was in the gorgeous theatre that housed the opening ceremony for the International Congress. This theatre was in the renovated Fiat factory that has its own test track on the roof, a huge building in itself. The theatre was red velvet and oak, with all 650 delegates sprinkled throughout. It was the same feelings as with the USA delegates, but on a larger scale; especially when we heard several of the speeches of what other countries were working on or had accomplished.

With that teaser, we present for your enjoyment “A World of Taste – Slow Food Terra Madre/ Salone del Gusto 2012.” This is a short overview of photos and some short video we took while attending the event. This is only a small sampling, so stay tuned for more to come!

Carlo Petrini Slow Food

The co-founder of Slow Food International, Carlo Petrini took the stage after the opening ceremonies at the Slow Food USA delegate meeting during the 2012 Slow Food Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto conference in Turin, Italy this past October. He gave his remarks to about 230 delegates from all across the USA who are working daily on the core tenants of “Good, clean and fair” food for everyone. It was impressive to see the amount of passion, dedication, talent and genius gathered together in that room, all for the sake of one of our most important yet overlooked foundations of life; food.

Carlo seemed to be impressed as well, with comments like “What you’ve done in America is extraordinary, not just for the USA but for the rest of the world. A Slow Revolution toward respecting food, a deeper appreciation of food that serves as an example for the entire world.” He went on to say that we’ve helped “Achieve the most important thing that Slow Food needs to achieve – given back a holistic sense of food.” We’ve started to show that food is not and never can be a commodity, merchandise, just a price point.

Its story is important – the memory, the people and its history. By reducing food and everything about it to its commodity values of productivity and profit, we are approaching a brink. That brink is the loss of diversity, not only of the varieties of foods that have nourished us for thousands of years, but the loss of human and cultural diversity as well. Those different types of diversities have enabled us to withstand and overcome many different challenges over the millennia, adapting and growing stronger in the process. Without all of those diversities, we are all weakened and more vulnerable to changes, whether expected or unexpected, human or natural caused.

Carlo closed by saying that the people of Slow Food have the holistic vision of the path back to the healthy diversity that will make our food and our communities whole again. Slow Food delegates practice that vision daily, working to strengthen our food connection everywhere we are, every day. Watch the video and see Carlo’s thoughts for yourself!

“You do not measure the fruit of your action. You have to measure your obligation of action. You have to find out what’s the right thing to do. That is your duty. Whether you win or lose is not the issue. The obligation (is) to do the right thing…”

An intimate and very telling interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva, a scientist, philosopher and champion of food and seed sovereignty. She recounts the history of genetically modified seeds, lies told to the Indian farmers, why there have been over 250,000 documented farmer suicides, the truth about actual GMO production versus what was promised, and why there is such a battle between the Indian government and corporations seeking a greater foothold, mainly by economic force. Dr. Shiva goes into some detail on how wrong it is to institute “intellectual property” rights on seeds, but how it makes absolute perfect corporate sense economically in moving into a monopolization on seed and food on a global scale.

Well worth the next 25 minutes of your time to watch – rewind, read the transcript and take notes!

Vandana Shiva on the Problem with Genetically-Modified Seeds

Home gardeners are starting to get the itch to get their yearly heirloom seed starting tradition under way about now. In some parts of the country it is warm enough that folks are able to direct sow cool season crops into their gardens, while in others it is time to start seeds inside to get them big and sturdy enough to transplant once the frosts have passed.

This leads to something of an eternal question- how do I start my seeds and what is the best method? If you are new to this series of articles, you might want to read Successful Heirloom Seed Starting for the Home Gardener where we show the equipment and space needed to be successful in starting your seeds at home, and Seed Starting Media for the Home Gardener, which examines the different materials used in making up a great seed starting media, and why you should use them. This will bring you up to speed on everything that brings us to this article and video.

Heirloom seed starting is actually pretty easy and straight forward, once a couple of basics are understood. The whole reason for starting seeds inside is to get a jump-start on the season by growing vegetable plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant inside to a stage where they are able to produce much earlier than if their seeds were directly sown into the garden soil once the frosts have passed. For example- it is common to start tomatoes 6-8 weeks or up to 2 months early inside, then transplant them into the garden. This means for many parts of the country that tomatoes will be ripe in late June or early July instead of September, as they would be if planted directly.

You can use this technique to your advantage and start a few select plants much earlier and have a small harvest within a couple of weeks of transplanting, then stagger some starts every couple of weeks for a month. What this will accomplish is the same as succession planting in the garden with carrots, beets, radishes, etc.- it gives you a continuous harvest of the vegetables that are in demand over a longer season without flooding you with too much at once, then having it all run out later. This is exactly the technique that highly successful market growers use to have a full stand for the first Farmer’s Market, as well as having produce for the year-round CSA. They will start everything– lettuce, beets, tomatoes, peppers, kale, Swiss chard, mustard, spinach- inside and transplant to the hoop-house or high tunnel once they are big enough to handle whatever season they are being planted into. Eliot Coleman has been perfecting this method for 30 years in Maine where he grows year-round without heating the growing houses.

We have prepared a new video showing how we do seed starting for our trial garden and food production here at Terroir Seeds. There are several methods that we share with you, as there are many ways to reach the same goal. Please enjoy and as always let us know your questions and thoughts!

Tomato Seedling

When it comes to starting their own heirloom seeds, home gardeners seem to be in two distinct camps- those that are really positive about the process and results, and those that aren’t. The folks that aren’t too excited about starting their own seeds usually have a good reason- they’ve had some failures with die-off and had to scramble to buy starts at the local garden center and wound up with something that they didn’t really want. Others haven’t tried their own starts, but feel that it is complicated or difficult. There are some very compelling reasons to start your own seedlings, but there are some challenges to overcome as well. We will look at several items to consider in making the decision of whether or not to do your own starts, along with some tips to get you started successfully.

Why start your own seeds? What advantages/disadvantages are there?

  • You have a much greater range of choice on what to grow as you are not limited to what’s available at the local garden center, hardware store or Farmer’s Market.
  • Gives a great creative outlet to “cabin fever” that sets in before the garden can be worked, allows you to be “growing something” early on.
  • There is greater flexibility on timing to get them started. You can start them to work with your schedule, or to take advantage of getting bigger, earlier producing plants in the garden sooner.
  • Starting your own seeds gives earlier veggies from the garden, as you start on your schedule, not depending on a regional greenhouse schedule.  For example- here in AZ, most starts come from the central valley of CA, where timing is completely different, sometimes by a factor of several weeks.
  • Home gardeners can usually  grow bigger, healthier plants than a commercial greenhouse, as there is more attention per plant. Less diseases/issues than from large scale grower.
  • Seed starting does require some planning and effort, not as easy as going down and picking out what seedling to buy.
  • Does require some set up and equipment, but not much to get started. Will require some space, but not much on start-up.
  • Transplants give you a head start on weeds and the weather. A tomato or pepper that is 2 feet tall will have little to no competition from weeds that are just getting started.

Now that you know the pro’s and con’s of starting your own seeds, how does one go about actually doing it? As with just about anything, there is some planning and preparation involved, but not too much. Remember how we talk about getting started in the garden- start small, start simply, but get started? The same thought process applies here as well. Set yourself up for success, not frustration, headaches and failure. Take the time to do some initial planning  and set up and you’ll be off to a great start.

Plan and arrange the seed starting area

  • Start simply and easily, you may have most of the items on hand.
  • A key factor for successful germination is a warm area to sprout seeds- can be the top of a refrigerator, freezer, window sill in south-facing room. etc. Most of the calls we receive about seeds not germinating is traced to this factor. When the temperature of the soil is optimum- seeds can and will “pop” in 5 days, no matter if they are tomatoes, peppers or eggplant! When the soil temperature is less than 70F, it can take 2 weeks to sprout- there is that much of a difference!
  • Supplemental heat may be needed. Soil temperatures need to be above 80F for faster germination. The ideal soil temperature for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant is 85F. Rarely are people comfortable at that temperature!  Air temperature may be 5-10F different than soil temperature due to evaporative effects of moist soil. Heating pads, germination heat mats, old electric blankets, etc can work to raise soil temperature to where it needs to be. Monitor soil temperatures to avoid over-heating. A heat mat will work even if the air temperature is 60-65F.
  • Supplemental lighting may be needed after seeds sprout and develop true leaves. This can range from specific grow lights to common fluorescent fixtures with grow bulbs. Lights need to be moveable to keep about 2-4 inches above plants. Seedlings need 14-18 hours of light per day.
  • Humidity levels need to be high when seeds are sprouting, then less so as they develop and continue to grow. Domed lids on grow trays are great and have adjustable vents to maintain humidity levels. Plastic sheeting, such as painter’s drop cloth, will work just as well. Make sure to inspect the seedlings for mold or fungus growth on top of the soil, which is an indication of too much humidity and too little air circulation. After the seedlings grow their second set of true leaves, humidity is less important.  Of course, in areas of high humidity, often nothing else is needed.

Once the area is planned and prepared, the equipment is all that is left and you’re ready to start some seedlings! The equipment can be very basic of pretty involved, but again- start small and simple. It is amazing how well seeds sprout in a soil block that is free or paper pot that is next to free! Sometimes they sprout better than in much more expensive and complex equipment.

Gather the equipment needed

See our Seed Starting Department for books and tools to help you be more successful in starting your seeds.

  • Plastic trays for seedling sets and containers for individual seedlings. Domed lids or plastic sheeting may be needed in low humidity areas.
  • Seed cups or containers. These can range from peat pots to homemade paper pots to handmade soil blocks to recycled yogurt/dixie cups. What is needed is something that will support the individual seedlings and feed them until they are ready for transplanting.
  • Soil or seed starting mix. These range from several readily available commercial ready to use seed starting mixes that have no soil and are sterile to lessen the chance of fungus and diseases, to a number of ingredients that make for a great homemade seed starting mix.  We will cover some of these in more depth in another article.
  • Misters or sprayers. A small squirt bottle sprayer or mister works great to apply very small amounts of water to the seedlings. A small hand pump sprayer can be valuable as well to give a bit more water without having to pump constantly, especially for larger amounts of seed trays.
  • Soil thermometer. This gives you an accurate indication of what the soil temperature is, regardless of the air temperature.

Introduction to Seed Starting video with Terroir Seeds

We have created a short video showing how we have started seeds for several years now. This is the result of many experiments and really works well for us. By no means is this is the only way to do it, as we know of several different but equally effective ways to get seedlings started at home. This is just what works for us, and the expense didn’t break the bank. We constructed this in stages after experience and experiments taught us what works in our situation. This takes up little space and produces a lot of seedlings for our trial garden. Take a look and please let us know your thoughts, ideas and experiences that we can share with everyone else!

The snows have melted off, but the clouds are gathering for more rain or possibly snow showers on Monday. We have gotten some prep work done in the garden, and are ready to broadfork the raised beds, apply the Azomite and lay in some compost. First, though, we will need a less windy day.

After the first week, we have some seedlings up! Here are a partial listing of what is up-

Principe Borghese tomato

Goldman’s Italian-American tomato

Wild Galapagos tomato

Silvery Fir Tree tomato

There are a few more that we are trialing this year, so we can’t say quite yet what they are. After we get some good indication, we will let you in on what might be a new offering in the next year or so!


This video is from March 6,2011.


Let us know if you have questions, or want something covered in more detail.

Tomato Seedling

This year, we will show you how our garden grows!

Through a series of videos, you can watch how we start seeds, what equipment and techniques we use, and see the growth of our trial garden. We will share our successes as well as the challenges and failures. At this point, we are planning to update this post once a week, so check back often to see the latest. We will post updates on FaceBook as well as our eNewsletter.

The first video is from February 27, 2011.


Please ask us your questions, or if you want details on something that we cover, please ask about it!