This is the first year I planted my entire garden with West Coast Seeds. Having a five-acre homestead, we maintain a very large garden with individual beds for each vegetable and 3 greenhouses for our warm season crops. As you can probably imagine, this requires a lot of seeds.   

West Coast Seeds has so many interesting varieties to choose from and I found it nearly impossible to narrow down my list, like a kid in a candy store. I don’t usually change things up in my garden. As a homesteader striving toward self-sufficiency, my main focus has always been on production and yield. For the most part, I’ve always stuck to the more common “tried & true” varieties in hopes it will guarantee a bountiful harvest. However, with so many options to choose from and a well-stocked pantry remaining from last year, I thought: “why not try a few new things?” So, this spring, I decided to plant multiple varieties of each vegetable. I have 13 different tomatoes, 10 kinds of peppers, 4 varieties of eggplants, 8 types of cucumbers and I lost count with the squash. In doing so, I came to the realization that I’ve been missing out on some very intriguing and productive veggies, and I now have a few new favourites.  

I absolutely fell in love with the Socrates F1 cucumber. It’s an extraordinary plant with unbeatable genetics. In all honesty, it’s not a variety I would have considered purchasing, as the cost of this seed is outside my annual seed budget, but after the incredible experience I had growing this plant it’s one I will definitely be putting in my hydroponic system this fall. Although I planted all my cucumber seeds at the same time, Socrates F1 emerged from the soil first — all 5 seeds sprouted within 48-hours. By the end of the first week, they were beginning to develop their first set of true leaves. 10-days later, tendrils and flowers appeared. By this point the plants were so large I had to carefully transplant them into 6-inch pots with bamboo stakes as a temporary trellis because they’re such aggressive climbers. Within days of transplanting, they began to develop uniform, long English cucumbers at every node. Being an indeterminate, self-pollinating hybrid, they will continue to grow and produce almost indefinitely if maintained well in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse or indoor hydroponic system. We were harvesting ready-to-eat cucumbers from the Socrates F1 before it even made it out of the 6 inch and into the garden.  

Socrates F1 wasn’t the only pleasant surprise, each variety of seed I planted germinated within a few days. I had nearly 100% germination with almost all the seeds, something I’ve never really experienced before; however, this posed a bit of a dilemma. I always plan my seed plantings around an 80% germination rate, it's an average estimate I use to determine how many seeds I need to plant my entire garden. As a rule of thumb, I generally sow up to 20% more seeds than needed to make up for the anticipated germination loss. This turned out to be a huge miscalculation on my part, as I quickly found myself inundated with an excess of seedlings. All my sweet peppers — King of the North, Twingo, Hungarian Cheese, California Wonders — and all the various hot pepper seeds I planted germinated. Every Swiss Chard, Kale and broccoli seed came up, there were so many eggplants, tomatoes and squash, my house was becoming a jungle. I had to add an additional 6-foot, 4-tier rack with lighting to accommodate all the extra seedlings. I donated as many plants as I could to a local market garden and various friends. The only seed I struggled with this season was Cucamelon. We lost power for 5 days after an ice storm late this spring, without heat mats to keep the soil warm, many of the Cucamelon seeds didn’t germinate, only 10 out of 30 sprouted. As you know, most seeds require a soil temperature of 20 degrees Celsius or higher, but cucumber seeds really need consistent warmth for successful germination. By the third day the temperature in the house had dropped to 14 degrees Celsius, some of my tomato seedlings started to damp off so I borrowed a friend’s generator just to run my grow lights and heat mats. 

As a professional horticulturalist with over 30 years in the industry, I began to wonder if my experience planting West Coast Seeds differed from the average home gardener. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with one of our retail partners and a local high school on a charitable garden initiative this spring. Using growing equipment donated by one of our retail partners, a group of local high school students planted some West Coast Seeds for a garden to grow vegetables that will help feed an animal sanctuary. Although the teacher and students were novice growers, they shared a similar experience when using West Coast Seeds, providing the basic necessities such as consistent heat, light and humidity, they also had nearly 100% germination and ended up with a surplus of plants. We all planted extra seeds as backup, including our retail partner, and we all shared the same experience — we found ourselves with more plants than we knew what to do with. Perhaps in the future, we can host a plant sale to help support the animal sanctuary by selling all our extra vegetable seedlings.   

Due to my overzealous seed purchases, I didn’t have enough garden space for all the varieties I had sown. Despite building 4 new raised beds and one in ground bed for Okra, I still didn’t have any room for my Pac Choi, so I gave those two flats of plants to the goats to enjoy. I’m really looking forward to growing West Coast Seeds’ 2024 selection and can’t wait to start planning the garden for this season. 

Rebecca Boyar, Homesteader & Retail Partner Representative, West Coast Seeds.