The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Mid-winter gardening for the photo-period sensitive

Seed-sprouting test

Around the first of the year, the days start getting noticeably longer. As a photoperiod-sensitive gardener, that means I suddenly crave earth beneath my fingertips and green leaves in front of my nose.

For the first week, I tide myself over by doing a seed-starting test on old seeds and browsing online seed offerings to round out this year's stash. In case you're curious, I've settled on Johnny's as my favorite seed company --- their prices are about twice what you'd find elsewhere, but the varieties nearly all make the cut, while my experience with other companies suggests that many of their varieties are geared toward the hobbyist rather than the serious food producer. Although my skinflint-nature tries to tell me otherwise, I'm positive we make that $100 back many times over during the course of the growing season in the form of bountiful produce.

Soaking grape cuttings

Hardwood cuttingsSeeds sprouted and ordered, the next order of business is hardwood cuttings. In my early days on the farm, I've started hardwood cuttings out in the garden --- and that definitely works. But I get higher success rates indoors...and being able to check on a plant (even if it is just a stick in a pot) soothes my gardening itch for a little while longer. This year, I'm rooting grape cuttings to expand our sun-shielding vines around the trailer.

Next on the agenda? Hunting down scionwood for the spring-grafting extravaganza. If you're interested in swapping, I've got scads of interesting things to trade and am looking for named American persimmon varieties (especially Szukis and Mohler) and fire-blight-resistant pears (specifically Blake's Pride, Magness, Moonglow, and Potomac). Want to trade? Email me at and we'll talk!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Tried the seed exchange?
Comment by Errol Sun Jan 4 09:17:38 2015

Hi, Anna. I just ran across your blog yesterday for the first time, and am enjoying reading some of your articles.

I really like R.H. Shumway's for open pollinated and heirloom seeds. Their prices are much better than most other seed companies, and they offer good quality products that I have used for the last 4 or 5 years. Just thought I would share another resource.


Comment by Fern Thu Feb 12 09:54:23 2015

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