Seeds Bring Success In Vegetable Gardening

by Bob Randall, Ph.D.

Originally published in the Houston Chronicle

In order to be similar to their parents, perennials like fruit trees need to be transplanted into the gardenmonths or years after someone grafted them or rooted cuttings. For annual plants that will die in a few months, this approach is too costly and inefficient. Vegetables that are transplanted for climate reasons are grown from seed. 

One big advantage of planting seeds is seeds rarely transmit diseases the parents had. Also, seeds take far less labor and cost less per plant to get started than do transplants. And third, it is practical for a seed company to market hundreds of varieties of lettuce, but would struggle to sell 10 kinds of peaches. So with annuals, you can try far more kinds at a lower price while paying little for failed experiments. 

Unlike perennials, annuals must be replanted from living seed, and young seedlings with their tiny roots can die more easily in summer heat. So how do you keep seed alive? The short answer is to start with the freshest seed possible. Either purchase from a supplier that sells a lot of the variety or do your own seed saving. Put a date on the package. Then keep them dry and cool - preferably in packages in one or more tightly closed jars in the refrigerator. Whatever you do, do not leave them sitting in the sun or in a vehicle. 

Purchased seeds come in many kinds - organic, chemically grown, chemically treated and hybrid. Open-pollinated (OP) seeds mostly will come true to type if you plant seeds from these plants. Hybrids mostly won't. If you purchase an OP seed or get some given to you, you can stop spending money on seed. In our climate, some types of plants are much easier to collect seed from than others. 

Generally, they are ones that produce seed within a half-year or so. 

Two places to buy excellent OP seed are Seed Savers Exchange ( and Baker Creek Heirloom ( You can buy the book Seed to Seed, second edition, by Susan Ashworth, that will tell you how to collect and save each type of seed. 

It is easy to collect your own OP arugula, basil, beans, carrots, cilantro, cutting celery, corn, cucumbers, peas, okra, peppers, parsley, peanuts, squash and tomato seeds. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yacon, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic and multiplying onions all are easy to grow from saved harvests. Lettuce, eggplant, collards, broccoli and most cabbage relatives are difficult, but not impossible. 

If you want to get started, next winter try the pepper Tolli's Sweet and the tomatoes Bloody Butcher, Jaune Flame, Martino's Roma or Marmande. 

Or if you can find a fully ripe vegetable, save the seed of a favorite bought at the farmers market or supermarket.

OHBA Presents Dr. Maya Klein on January 23

Reprinted from The New York Times, February 11, 2016


How the ‘Dirt Cure’ Can Make for Healthier Families



Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein has a message for the parents of small children: Don’t be afraid of dirt.


She is a firm believer in the idea that children in Westernized countries today grow up in a world that can be too sanitized. They spend less time outdoors exploring nature and more time in front of screens than they did two decades ago. They eat foods that are heavily processed. Many do not know what it’s like to taste fresh, seasonally grown foods plucked from a garden with nutrient-rich soil.


Dr. Shetreat-Klein, a pediatric neurologist in New York and an instructor at New York Medical College, explores these themes in a new book, “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids With Food Straight from Soil.” The book delves into research that suggests that spending time around farms, parks and other green spaces can benefit children in surprising ways, protecting against allergies, enhancing immune function and potentially even improving attention span and academic performance.


Dr. Shetreat-Klein wrote the book after a frightening experience with her youngest son, who started wheezing, breaking out in rashes and showing signs of delayed cognitive development after his first birthday. Various doctors suggested it was nothing to worry about.


Read more by clicking here.


Click here to purchase tickets for Dr. Klein’s talk on Tuesday, January 23, 5:30-8 PM at the United Way Greater Houston.  Dr. Klein is presented by OHBA.

Eastside Farmers Market Holiday Shopping Guide

Tis the season to shop local stocking stuffers for your friends and family.  You can find all these at our Eastside Farmers Market every Saturday!


Blue Heron Reaper & Ghost Pepper Salt, Cajeta and Goat Coffee Mugs (pictured above)

Garden Dreams Jams

Java Pura Coffee

Pampered Sisters Soaps

Tavola Pasta

Eat My Pralines

Bee Wilde Local Honey and beeswax candles

Cabrera Farm Bonsai & Flowers

Revolucion Juice Cleanses

Lavande Lavender Products

Texas Hill Country Olive Oil

Pat Greer's Soup in A Jar




Piggy Bank Now Accepting Applications


Together, Piggy Bank and The Butcher’s Ball collected monetary contributions for relief and recovery efforts in support of heritage breed pig ranchers in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Contributors will receive a receipt from Piggy Bank acknowledging their donation. Piggy Bank proudly operates as a project of the Trust for Conservation Innovation (T4CI), which helps environmental leaders fulfill their visions by providing nonprofit status and fiscal sponsorship services for innovative conservation projects. To learn more about T4CI, please visit:

One hundred percent of the funds received by Piggy Bank will be distributed to ranchers impacted by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. An application will be made available to all ranchers interested in being considered for a portion of the relief funds for ranching operations within the counties included in the Presidential Disaster Declaration for FEMA assistance. Membership in any association or parties is NOT necessary to be eligible and will not be considered in distributing funds.

The application will request information about losses and/or disaster related expenses to aid in distributing funds. Documentation of losses and/or expenses will be required. A committee comprised of local producers, Piggy Bank and local Texas leadership will review the applications and determine a method to equitably distribute the funds. Timing of distribution is unknown at this point. We will balance allowing enough time for contributions to be received with the desire for ranchers to receive the funds as soon as possible.

The committee will comprise of the following members:

Brady Lowe, Piggy Bank
Elaine Dillard, The Butchers Ball
Jonathan Beitler, The Butchers Ball
Joyce Hunter, Piggy Bank
James Carr, Cochon555
Tyler Horne, Urban Harvest
Felix Florez, Black Hill Meats
Jason Schimmels, 44Farms

For more information contact:

Brady Lowe - Project Director | Piggy Bank
Piggy Bank: 
Phone: (404) 849-3569

Elaine Dillard | Event Director
The Butchers Ball:
Phone: (713) 819-1423

Federally-declared disaster counties eligible for Relief Funds include: Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller, and Wharton.

Rebuilding The Challenger 7 Garden

A fully-functioning donation garden prior to Harvey, Challenger 7 was flooded out and completely devastated. The Challenger 7 Community Garden was started in the early '90s in the Challenger 7 Park near Webster as a donation garden. The garden now has 15 beds, and all of the vegetables are donated to food pantries in Clear Lake, League City and Pearland. Prior to Harvey, the garden was averaging about 2,700 pounds of donated vegetables each year.

On Saturday, November 18, the first workday began in the garden. All of the beds need to be cleared of weeds and dead plants that have established since the flooding, as well as rebuilding the soil health by adding ammendments of compost and MicroLife.

Additional workdays will begin in January. If you are interested in helping restore this garden, click here to volunteer.


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