The Sweetest Beet: Basics of Soil Nutrition

To grow well, beets need neutral to slightly alkaline soil and proper thinning (since in most cases, each beet seed is actually a capsule containing 2-4 seeds).

But beets are also a little pickier in how they absorb and utilize soil minerals, and they have a hard time producing if the ones they need aren’t available. To avoid common pitfalls and grow high quality, truly delicious beets, make sure they’re getting these specific minerals.


Beet cratered with black heart. Photo:

Boron deficiency, the most common beet problem, is known as black heart and is caused by a shortage of available boron. Boron is less available to plants in strongly alkaline and very fertile soils, which may need to be amended.

  • Symptoms include: Distorted young leaves, scorched-looking older leaves and black, corky spots on the roots.
  • To treat: Foliar feed with liquid seaweed fertilizer for immediate results or add 1 teaspoon Borax per gallon of water per 100 square feet.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms (chlorosis and necrosis around leaf margins) Photo:

Magnesium strengthens cell walls, increases sweetness and yields, and improves uptake of other nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. This can make magnesium-deficiency a little trickier to diagnose, since a shortage of magnesium may result in lack of available phosphorous, and appear to be a phosphorous deficiency.

  • Symptoms include: Stunted growth, flavorless roots, and leaf yellowing in the tissue between veins, progressing to dark spots on the leaf margins.
  • To treat: Water with 1 Tablespoon Epsom salts per gallon of water, or amend with dolomitic limestone or Sul-Po-Mag for a longer-term solution.

Potassium deficiency. Note the necrotic lesions along leaf margins and distortion of youngest leaves. Photo: IPNI

Potassium, one of the three macronutrients denoted by a “K” on most fertilizers, supports strong, vigorous growth, is essential to sugar production, and regulates transpiration, making the plants better able to tolerate heat, cold, shade and drought.

  • Symptoms include: lesions along midribs, older leaves wither and collapse around the plant, young leaves curl and turn yellow or brown along the edges, undersized roots, “off” flavor
  • To Treat: If a soil test indicates that the soil is acidic, foliar feed with fish emulsion or seaweed extract, mix one cup of wood ash per 100 square feet, or fertilize with cottonseed meal, greensand or poultry manure.

Calcium deficiency is quite distinctive – leaves curl into a hook shape and the growing point dies. Photo:

Calcium, while considered a micronutrient, is just as essential as N, P or K. It is a building block of plants’ cell walls, and also regulates acidity and magnesium uptake. It’s more common to find high levels of calcium than low ones, but in areas with acid soils calcium deficiency is common.

  • Symptoms include: Youngest leaves yellow and curl downwards at the ends, forming a hook shape, while older leaves wither.
  • To treat: Spread lime, bonemeal or wood ash on acid soils.
  • Keep in mind that high levels of calcium are more common, and inhibit magnesium uptake.
Posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Commercial Growing, Growing Tips, Plant Diseases, Variety Highlights | 7 Comments

Crop Talk: A Year of Potatoes at High Ledge Farm

Paul Betz, Farmer and Commercial Grower Sales Rep

It’s that time again – I’m planning for this year’s potato crop and wanted to share some of my excitement for the season ahead. High Mowing has built a comprehensive collection of seed potatoes that brings value to the commercial grower (or gardener) over the whole harvest season.

We offer varieties for all the main seasonal slots that also have good yields, good flavor, and are reliably going to succeed on your farm. After growing potatoes at High Ledge Farm for 16 years, I know that it’s important to capture value with varieties that really work.

This is how a season works for me:

If the season is off to a cool, wet start (as it often is here in VT), I’ll get a head start by greensprouting my potatoes, transforming them into verdant transplants before planting. If it warms up early, I’ll usually plant unsprouted (dormant) seed potatoes.

I start the season with Dark Red Norland as a new potato, digging them early when the price is high and the eating quality is off the charts.

Purple Viking

This year I’ll be following them with Purple Viking, which is another great early variety that brings lots of color to the farmers market stand.

All Red is a real workhorse for me; it gets big early in the season, and they just glow as a new potato. The plant is also more compact, so it’s easier to get over it with the tractor, and you can keep the edges cleaner.

After that I move into German Butterball, which has exceptional flavor, especially as a new potato, and puts on production at an early stage. It’s great for potato salad or roasting, and my customers are always asking when I’ll have some at my stand.

Red Chieftain

Red Chieftain I like for a main season; it has a bigger yield potential for me than the Norlands, so I like to let that one go full season and not rob it for new potatoes. They store well, and I like the flavor of them.

Of the late fingerlings I like Russian Banana. It’s more approachable in its size uniformity, isn’t too knobby and you can harvest it mechanically without it getting banged up. It does spread outwards, so when you’re hilling you need to be attentive.


Elba is one of my storage workhorses. The disease resistance is nice and I like its pubescent leaves, since the potato beetles aren’t interested in eating them. The plants are super vigorous and make a lot of potatoes, they’re great for Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, and they store well so I’m able to supply my CSA with potatoes for the whole season.

That’s my potato season - I hope it gives you a sense of how our collection can meet your needs and engage your customers. For more information, check out our Potato Comparison Chart.

- Paul Betz, Farmer & Commercial Grower Sales Rep

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Articles by Farmer Paul Betz, Commercial Growing, Growing Tips, Variety Highlights | 2 Comments

Potatoes 101: How to Get Great Yields with Successful Techniques

Sara harvesting early new potatoes from her hoophouse at Sandiwood Farm

Potatoes are a simple, fun crop to grow and can help you eat local year-round thanks to their impressive shelf life. In addition to choosing the right varieties for your needs, it’s also important to choose a successful growing method.

You can find information about all sorts of different techniques on the internet these days, from growing in stacked wooden boxes to wire cages filled with straw. But a lot of these methods just aren’t worth their salt and can result in disappointing yields, even with extra love and care. We’re all about helping you succeed, so in this article we’re just going to focus on methods that really work.

Monique hilling potatoes in the High Mowing Trials field

Hills. This is the traditional method that our parents and grandparents used, and it’s the most practical for large plantings. To succeed, you need to prepare an area by tilling or turning and raking the soil so that it’s soft and loose. If your soil hasn’t been amended recently, you’ll want to mix in some compost as well. Once the soil is prepared, dig long, straight trenches 3-5 feet apart (more space means more potatoes), then space your seed potato pieces about 12” apart in the trenches. Cover the seed potatoes with about 4” of soil, then water in well. When the potatoes have sprouted and grown foliage about 8” tall, you should begin “hilling” the plants by mounding the fluffy soil on either side of the trenches up around the stems of the plants. As long as there is some foliage sticking out they’ll keep growing, and the more you hill, the more potatoes you’ll get. It’s important to keep hilling throughout the season, since any tubers lying close to the soil surface will turn green if they become exposed to sunlight.

You can mulch your hills with straw if you like, which conserves water and makes it harder for potato beetles to move around, but it does get in the way when hilling. If you use straw, leave it in flakes rather than fluffing it up—this way it makes a solid weed barrier and can be gathered and stacked in a neat pile while you’re hilling.

Potatoes grown in raised beds produce the highest yields thanks to the large amount of soil held around the roots

Raised Beds. Growing potatoes in raised beds, whether they’re simply mounded or have actual frames, is one of the easiest and most productive methods. You don’t need to till every year, which is better for maintaining soil structure and health, and you can plant earlier since you don’t need to wait to till before planting. Since potatoes produce best in cool soil that is 40-60°F, most people will have better results with crops planted early in the season, though this is more flexible in cool climates.

To succeed, start by mixing some compost into the soil, then dig shallow trenches about 6” deep and 2-3 feet apart in your raised beds, plant your seed potatoes in the trenches about 10” apart, then cover with 4” of soil. Just like with planting in the ground, you should begin hilling the plants when they get about 8” tall, and continue hilling as the plants grow to give the tubers plenty of room to size up.

To harvest from hills or raised beds, wait until about one week after the plants have completely died back, then pull them up by the stems and remove any potatoes that are attached to the roots. Once the plants have been removed from the bed, you can use a spade or garden fork to dig up the rest of the potatoes. Alternatively, you’re less likely to accidentally spear your spuds if you invite some friends over to help you sift through the soil by hand. It’s a dirty job, but if you feed your helpers in return (or remind them that soil microbes are natural anti-depressants), they won’t mind so much.

Potatoes in GrowBags

Containers, Stacking Boxes or GrowBags.

One of the biggest advantages of growing in pots, boxes or bags is the ease of harvest – you just dump out the container and collect your potatoes. The yields from containers can be as good or better than from hills or raised beds, since there’s a large volume of soil held around the plants, and they grow vertically in this system, which also takes up less space. To succeed, select a large container (3-10+ gallons) with plenty of drainage holes, and add about 3” of potting soil. Place your seed potatoes in the bottom of the container, then cover with 4” more soil and water in. Add more soil to the container as the plants grow, until the soil is 1” below the top rim of the container. You can alternate “hilling” with potting soil and garden soil to keep cost down, just don’t use only garden soil (see below), and be sure to water your containers every morning that it isn’t raining.

Methods I Do Not Recommend Because They Stress the Plants & Reduce Yields:

  • Planting in straw (I find that the plants dry out, but this may work in high-rainfall areas)
  • Planting in wire cylinders full of straw, compost or soil (there is too much airflow so the plants dry out, resulting in undersized tubers)
  • Planting in plastic bags or other containers with poor drainage and airflow. Food-grade plastic tubs with drainage holes can be used, but clear and dark-colored tubs tend to heat the soil too much and can reduce yields
  • Planting upside down, grafted to tomato plants or other boutique methods that are more like fun science experiments than successful production techniques

It’s important to control Colorado Potato Beetle larvae as soon as you see them. Just drop them into a bucket of soapy water (or squash them).

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid:

Starting Too Late. If you’re located anywhere except the cool North or mountain states, there’s not much point in planting potatoes in June. The soil is already too warm and yields will be disappointing. However, you may still be able to produce a fall crop by planting in an area with afternoon shade, where the soil stays cooler, and fall crops may avoid the worst damage from Colorado Potato Beetles.

Letting Plants Dry Out. This is an issue in areas with sandy soil and in hot environments like containers, rooftops and urban heat islands. Water thoroughly every morning in these situations, and hire a plant-sitter if you’ll be going away. Plants that have wilted will have reduced yields.

Using the Wrong Soil. Generally potatoes grow best in deep, loose, loamy soil that is not too rich – 2 parts garden soil to 1 part compost is a good mix for hills and raised beds. If your soil is compacted or you till too shallowly, your plants won’t have enough soil to grow in and yields will be low. If you plant in containers, you need to use potting soil because garden soil hardens in pots, making it harder for tubers to form.

Not Enough Drainage. All potatoes prefer good drainage, so it’s best to choose a spot that doesn’t flood, even in rainy seasons. This is unavoidable in some years, but drainage ditches, raised beds, containers or aggressive hilling can keep the plants above water in extreme situations.

Too Many Seed Potatoes. The amount of loose soil you provide, not the number of seed potatoes you plant, is the main factor that will limit yields. Crowding the plants will generally result in lower yields, not higher ones, so give each potato piece the space and soil it needs to thrive.

Posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Growing Tips | 14 Comments

The Perfect Potato GIVEAWAY!

You’ll love growing potatoes in GrowBags—they’ve made hilling and digging a thing of the past. Thanks to their sturdy handles these lightweight, reusable fabric bags can be moved even after they’re full of soil, and planting in them is easy:

Just plant your seed potatoes in the bottom, then add soil as the plants grow. When it comes time to harvest, all you need to do is dump out the bag and collect your potatoes.

This month we’re giving away a collection of goodies for growing potatoes – one lucky winner will receive:

It’s easy: just click “Log In” below if you have a Facebook account (if you don’t have Facebook, just click “Use Your Email” to create a Rafflecopter account). Then click any of the dropdown options (below) to enter for more chances to win!

Occasionally certain browsers don’t play nice with Rafflecopter – if you have any trouble entering the giveaway, please email

Contest starts Wednesday, February 10th at 3pm and ends Wednesday, February 24th at 11pm EST.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Contests | 352 Comments

Sweetheart Seeds GIVEAWAY!

We know you LOVE seeds, so in honor of Valentine’s day, we’re giving three lucky winners seeds that celebrate your passion (for growing)! Enter to win a chance at winning some of our favorite seed varieties with Valentine’s-related names. Each of our three lucky winners will receive a romantic collection of seeds, including one packet each of:

Each packet comes with planting tips right on the packet!

It’s easy: just click “Log In” below if you have a Facebook account (if you don’t have Facebook, just click “Use Your Email” to create a Rafflecopter account). Then click any of the dropdown options (below) to enter for more chances to win!

Occasionally certain browsers don’t play nice with Rafflecopter – if you have any trouble entering the giveaway, please email

Contest starts Monday, February 8th at 3pm and ends Sunday, February 14th at 11pm EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Uncategorized | 205 Comments

Plentiful Potatoes: Selecting the Right Varieties for Your Needs

Potatoes are versatile for a wide variety of culinary uses, make a great storage crop and are generally simple to grow. That being said, you’ll have by far the best success when you think carefully about your needs and select varieties for your climate and situation, because each variety has unique qualities that make it well-suited to a certain place or purpose. Here are some tips and suggestions for each situation.

Varieties for Specific Conditions

Cool, Wet or Clay Soil. Some regions, such as the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Pacific Northwest, can experience consistently wet spring conditions that make growing potatoes challenging. Because most people plant potatoes that are still dormant (the eyes have not yet sprouted), they are at a higher risk of rotting in cold, wet spring soil. There are a number of ways to prevent this from happening – you can plant later, choose a location with good drainage, plant in containers or GrowBags, or greensprout your seed potatoes. But one of the best lines of defense is to select varieties that can handle these conditions in stride, so you’ll get a good crop even if the weather isn’t cooperating. We recommend: Dark Red Norland, Red Chieftain and Yukon Gem

All Blue is one of the most drought-tolerant potato varieties

Drought-Prone or Sandy Soil. Some regions of the country, especially the West and Southwest, are experiencing severe drought. Areas such as the Sandhill region of North and South Carolina, the Sandhills of Nebraska and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are characterized by naturally sandy, droughty soil that drains water very rapidly. No matter which area you’re in, early planting, keeping the soil covered and undisturbed as much as possible, adding organic matter and selecting drought-tolerant varieties can allow you to grow a successful crop even in dry conditions. We recommend: All Red, Elba, Katahdin & All Blue


Elba is the most blight-resistant variety available

Blight-Prone Areas. Anyone who’s grown potatoes in the East (or any other high-rainfall area) will be all-too-familiar with late blight, the late summer fungus that sweeps up the coast, taking out our beloved tomato and potato plants along the way. Its water-soaked appearance is distinctive and hard-to-miss, but its speed and destructiveness spell doom for most crops, even with early detection and treatment. (And sadly, infected tubers tend to liquefy in storage, as was discovered during the Irish Potato Famine). Fortunately for all of us, a few resistant varieties have sprung up in recent years, and combined with helpful techniques like planting in well-drained areas and away from other nightshades, we can still produce a crop that will store through winter. We recommend: Elba (the most blight-resistant commercial variety available), German Butterball, Burbank Russet and Yukon Gem (which offer moderate resistance)

Scab-resistant ‘Red Chieftain’ Potato

Scab-Prone Areas. Some areas or fields are prone to a common condition called Scab, which causes brown scarring on the surface of the tubers and may reduce yields or the aesthetic appeal of the crop. While not nearly as destructive as late blight (since it may have no impact on yield), scab certainly makes peeling potatoes less fun, and can make them unmarketable for commercial growers. While the responsible pathogen, Streptomyces scabies, is naturally occurring in most soil, it only tends to become a problem in particular conditions – alkaline soil, lack of water during tuber formation, very high levels of organic matter, poor crop rotation, and light, sandy or weathered soils all support its development. The best tactics for reducing scab include lowering soil pH to below 5.2, re-building healthy soil with appropriate amendments, rotating potatoes with corn or small grains, and most importantly, using resistant varieties. We recommend: Dark Red Norland, Purple Viking, Elba, Red Chieftain, German Butterball, Rose Finn Apple Fingerling and Russian Banana Fingerling.

Beautiful, gourmet AmaRosa Potatoes

Containers or GrowBags. While many different varieties can be successfully grown in containers or GrowBags, it’s a good idea to select varieties with a compact growth habit to make the most efficient use of space. It’s also a good idea to select varieties with different maturity dates, to extend the harvest throughout the season and be able to harvest new potatoes, mid-season varieties, and storage potatoes. As a general rule of thumb, you only need about 3-5 potato pieces (about 1 lb) for a standard size Potato GrowBag (which holds about 50 quarts of soil and is roughly a foot wide and tall), or about 7-10 pieces (about 2.5 lbs) for a Jumbo GrowBag (which holds about 120 quarts of soil and is roughly 24″ wide by 14″ tall). We recommend: Purple Viking (for early or new potatoes), AmaRosa or Russian Banana (for a mid-season fingerling), and Yukon Gem (for a late season storage potato).


Varieties for Specific Uses

Fresh Market. Some varieties are especially good for consuming as “fresh market” or tender, miniature “new” potatoes (and these varieties often don’t store as well as others). These include: All Red, Purple Viking, AmaRosa, Dark Red Norland and All Blue.

Yukon Gem is a long-storing, disease resistant variety with pink eyes like its parent Yukon Gold

Long Storage. Most of our varieties will easily last 6 months or more under proper storage conditions, such as in a cool, dark basement. For the longest storage, we recommend: Elba, Katahdin, Red Chieftain, Yukon Gold, Burbank Russet, German Butterball, Yukon Gem, Rose Finn Apple Fingerling and Russian Banana Fingerling.

Specialty Appeal. Many people increasingly prefer the unusual, eye-catching colors and high antioxidant content of specialty potatoes such as All Red, All Blue, Purple Viking and AmaRosa Fingerling, as well as the uniquely-delectable flavor of gourmet Rose Finn Apple and Russian Banana fingerlings.

For varieties for specific culinary uses, check out our article The Perfect Potato!

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Growing Tips, Variety Highlights | 21 Comments

Free the Seed! Introducing the Open Source Seed Collection


Inspired by the free and open source software movement that has provided alternatives to proprietary software, the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) was created to “free the seed”–to make sure that the genes in at least some seeds can never be locked away from use by intellectual property rights. In other words, Open Source varieties and any varieties bred from them are part of a protected public commons, free for all to grow and breed with as they see fit. Since so many varieties nowadays have been patented or otherwise protected by intellectual property rights (removing them from the pool of breeding stock), Open Source seed has become a critical tool for ensuring that public plant breeders have the genetic resources to continue developing new varieties.

To this end, the OSSI Pledge asks breeders and stewards of crop varieties to pledge to make their seeds available without restrictions on use, and to ask recipients of those seeds to make the same commitment. High Mowing has been a proud partner of OSSI in developing the framework for Open Source seed. We strongly support the work they’re doing to create a pool of Open Source varieties, to connect farmers and gardeners to suppliers of Open Source seed, and to inform and educate citizens about seed issues.

To support OSSI, High Mowing is proud to launch our NEW Open Source Seed Collection!

By purchasing these or any other Open Source seeds, you are agreeing to the OSSI Pledge:

You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.

* * *

The High Mowing Open Source Seed Collection includes:

Stocky Red Roaster Sweet Pepper - OPEN-POLLINATED
Open Source Seed · Italian-type · 4-6″ long fruits
Outstanding variety with juicy, sweet fruit; competes well with hybrids. Among the best-tasting peppers in our trials! Attractive, smooth-skinned fruits with thick walls. Tall plants with upright habit are covered in fruit. Italian peppers are delicious traditionally fried in olive oil and sprinkled with shredded parmesan cheese. Open Source variety bred by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds in Philomath, OR.

Days to maturity: 65 days green, 85 red

Abundant Bloomsdale Spinach - OPEN-POLLINATED
Open Source Seed · Spring/fall crop · Ideal for full-sized leaves
Delicious glossy, dark green leaves with the most savoyed texture we’ve seen! Thick, sweet-tasting leaves with rounded shape and juicy, succulent texture. Slow growing with very large, upright leaves in the mild Pacific Northwest and slightly more compact habit in our Northeast trials. Ideal for spring plantings and overwintering for full-sized leaves. Started at the Abundant Life Seed Foundation in 2002; breeding finished by a team of organic farmers with support from Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and released under the Open Source Seed Initiative. A portion of sales from this variety supports OSA’s breeding program.

Days to maturity: 45 days

Emerald Oak Lettuce - OPEN-POLLINATED
Open Source Seed · Compact
An all-time favorite in our trials thanks to its crisp, buttery heart and sweet flavor! Rounded leaves are thick and tighten to form compact, striking dark green heads. From a cross between Blushed Butter Oak and Deer Tongue bred by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds and released under the Open Source Seed Initiative. Tom Stearns’ mother loves this little lettuce!

Days to maturity: 60 days
Disease Resistance: Tip Burn

Siber-Frill Kale - OPEN-POLLINATED
Open Source Seed · Specialty variety · Cold-hardy · 24″ tall
Intensely cut and curled, lacy blue green leaves with tender texture. A standout in our extensive 2015 kale trials, with stunning leaves so frilly they barely require chopping. Sweet flavor; delicious cooked, as a beautiful garnish or for adding loft to raw salads. Eye-catching frills increase with age; use row cover to reduce flea beetle feeding. Bred by Jonathan Spero at Lupine Knoll Farm in Oregon and released under the Open Source Seed Initiative.

Days to maturity: 60-70 days

Midnight Lightning Zucchini - OPEN-POLLINATED
Open Source Seed · PM tolerant · Harvest at 7-8″
Extra long and slender zucchini with dark green, almost-black coloring. Single-stemmed plants are sturdy and stems have few spines. Plants produce quickly and have good field resistance to disease. Midnight Lightning is the first variety bred by High Mowing on our organic seed farm in Wolcott, Vermont and was released through the Open Source Seed Initiative.

Days to maturity: 55 days

To learn more visit

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Breeding / Research Program, Farm Ethics, Philosophy, Variety Highlights | 3 Comments

Sweet Success: How to Choose [and Grow] Tomatoes & Peppers

Choose your own adventure! No matter where you grow, it’s important to select tomato and pepper varieties that are well-adapted to your region and conditions. If you grow in Alaska, you’ll need to choose short season varieties that will mature and produce quickly. If you’re a Floridian, you need the opposite—varieties that produce over a long season even when temperatures climb over 90°F. Whether you grow in the cool North, the dry Southwest, the temperate Northwest or in containers or your patio, we’re proud to offer a selection of organic varieties that meet your unique needs.


Moskvich Tomato

Short, Cool Seasons (North & Mountain States) Look for varieties that produce early, perform well in cool, wet conditions and offer resistance to fungal diseases like blight.

Tomatoes: Moskvich, Crimson Sprinter, Cosmonaut Volkov, Mountain Princess, Iron Lady F1, Green Zebra, Sunkist F1, Glacier, Yellow Perfection, Matt’s Wild, Montesino F1, Merlot F1, Black Cherry, Bing, Sweetie, Red Pear, Bellstar, Roma VF, Fortamino F1 Rootstock

Peppers: King of the North, King Crimson, Purple Beauty, Sweet Chocolate, Golden California Wonder, Oranos F1, Hungarian Hot Wax, Early Jalapeno, Ancho Poblano, Maya Habanero, Magnum Habanero


Lively Italian Yellow Sweet Pepper

Long, Warm to Hot Seasons (Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South) Look for varieties that can set fruit in sustained hot temperatures over 90°F, have good leaf cover and offer strong resistance to local diseases. In the Southeast select varieties that tolerate heavy soil and offer nematode or bacterial leaf spot resistance; in the West look for short season varieties with exceptional drought-tolerance.

Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Pruden’s Purple, German Johnson, Brandywine, Copia, Caiman F1, Skyway 687 F1, Merlot F1, Sakura F1, Granadero F1, Estamino F1 Rootstock

Peppers: Sprinter F1, Olympus F1, Catriona F1, Milena F1, Iko Iko, Abay F1, Xanthi F1, Belcanto F1, Corno di Toro, Lively Italian Orange, Lively Italian Yellow, Bastan F1 Poblano, Shishito, Ring-O-Fire, NuMex Joe E. Parker


Merlot F1 Tomato

Disease-Resistant In climates where diseases are prevalent, such as the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and parts of the Northwest, look for varieties with suitable resistances.

Tomatoes: Skyway 687 F1, Caiman F1, Roni F1, Iron Lady F1, Rutgers, Lola F1, Sunkist F1, Arbason F1, Medford, Matt’s Wild, Montesino F1, Toronjina F1, Merlot F1, Bartelly F1, Esterina F1, Sakura F1, Roma VF, Granadero F1

Peppers: Olympus F1, Catriona F1, Milena F1, Madonna F1, Abay F1


Madonna F1 Bell Pepper

Heated Greenhouse Crops Many of our varieties have been specifically bred for heated greenhouse culture. Look for crack-resistant indeterminate tomato varieties with disease resistance, and long season peppers with strong fruit set in hot conditions.

Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Caiman F1, Roni F1, Green Zebra, Lola F1, Sunkist F1, Arbason F1, Montesino F1, Toronjina F1, Bartelly F1, Pink Bumblebee, Purple Bumblebee, Sunrise Bumblebee, Sakura F1, Granadero F1

Peppers: Sprinter F1, Milena F1, Madonna F1


Bartelly F1 Cherry Tomato

Unheated High Tunnel Crops Look for vigorous, productive varieties that can tolerate a wide range of conditions, particularly heat, cold, humidity and fungal diseases.

Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Caiman F1, Moskvich, Cosmonaut Volkov, Rose de Berne, Green Zebra, Arbason F1, Montesino F1, Toronjina F1, Bartelly F1, Bing, Pink Bumblebee, Purple Bumblebee, Sunrise Bumblebee, Sakura F1, Granadero F1, Fortamino F1 Rootstock

Peppers: Olympus F1, Catriona F1, Milena F1, Madonna F1, Belcanto F1, Lively Italian Orange, Lively Italian Yellow


Bangles Blend Sweet Pepper

Ornamental/Container Varieties Look for productive, compact or determinate varieties with good flavor and disease resistance.

Tomatoes: Skyway 687 F1, Moskvich, Crimson Sprinter, Mountain Princess, Iron Lady F1, Rutgers, Medford, Glacier, Indigo Rose, Merlot F1, Bellstar, Roma VF, Gold Nugget

Peppers: Sprinter F1, Purple Beauty, Catriona F1, Bangles Blend, Belcanto F1, Feher Ozon, Ring-O-Fire, Early Jalapeno, Black Hungarian, Dwarf Little Blue, Candlelight, Hot Purira


Gilbertie Paste Tomato

Processing for Sauce, Pickling, Powder or Freezing Look for drier, meatier varieties for sauces, drying and powder, and choose versatile classics with few seeds for pickling and freezing. Often varieties with short harvest windows (or concentrated fruit set) are preferred when growing for processing.

Tomatoes: Rutgers, Bellstar, Roma VF, Granadero F1, Amish Paste, San Marzano, Gilbertie

Peppers: Jupiter, California Wonder, Bangles Blend, Belcanto F1, Feher Ozon, Hungarian Hot Wax, Early Jalapeno, Ancho Poblano, NuMex Joe E. Parker, Hot Purira


How to Start Tomato & Pepper Plants from Seed

Trials Tomato Seedlings in a High Mowing Greenhouse

1) Moisten your potting soil by adding a little water and mixing with your hand until it feels just barely moist (but not wet or soggy).

2) Fill your tray or pots with the moist soil to within 1/2″ of the rim, tamping down lightly as you go.

3) Sow your tomato or pepper seeds on the surface of the soil using about 2-5 seeds per cell or square inch.

4) Cover the seeds by sprinkling about 1/4” of potting soil over them, then gently water in. If you have one, cover your tray with a propagation dome to hold in moisture and place the tray on top of a seedling heat mat for strong germination.

5) Once the seeds have germinated, move the tray from the heat mat and place under lights. Water gently when the surface of the soil becomes dry to the touch.

Transplanting a Tomato Seedling

6) As the plants grow, gradually raise the lights so they are 1-3” from the top of the plants (depending on the type of grow light you’re using).

7) When the plants have grown their first set of “true” leaves, it’s time to pot them up. Fill 4” pots (or solo cups with holes poked in the bottom) with moist potting soil to within ½” of the rim. Water your seedlings thoroughly, then use a butter knife to gently remove cells or clumps from their tray. Using your finger, make a depression in each 4” pot, then tuck one seedling in each depression, firming the soil around the plant.

8) Water in your transplants, then place under lights until about two weeks before planting out. At this point it’s time to start “hardening off” your seedlings by placing them in a protected area outdoors, increasing the time they spend outside each day until it’s time to transplant into the ground.

Posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Greenhouses, Variety Highlights | 5 Comments

Windowsill Salad GIVEAWAY!

We know you’re excited to start growing greens indoors, so this month we’re giving one lucky winner all the tools to get started! To celebrate the New Year, we’re giving you the chance to turn over a new leaf – shoots and microgreens are simple to grow year round, no matter where you live, and provide unbeatable freshness and flavor at a time when local foods are scarce. One lucky winner will receive:

All you need is a bright sunny window (or a grow light) and a pair of scissors when you’re ready to harvest! Check out our Windowsill Salad blog to learn how it’s done.

It’s easy: just click “Log In” below if you have a Facebook account (if you don’t have Facebook, just click “Use Your Email” to create a Rafflecopter account). Then click any of the dropdown options (below) to enter for more chances to win!

Occasionally certain browsers don’t play nice with Rafflecopter – if you have any trouble entering the giveaway, please email

Contest starts Wednesday, January 13th at 4pm and ends Wednesday, January 20th at 11pm EST. Good luck, have fun and happy indoor gardening!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Contests, Growing Tips, Winter Growing | 175 Comments

Windowsill Salad: 5 Greens You Can Grow Anywhere

Pea and sunflower shoots growing on the windowsill

For years I bemoaned the arrival of winter, as much for the shortage of local vegetables as for the long months of cold and darkness we have here in Northern Vermont. But two years ago I had an epiphany that changed all that, and suddenly winter was a season I (almost) looked forward to.

My discovery? Growing food is almost effortless indoors. I could still eat homegrown greens and feel the joy of watching seeds germinate, but gone were the sunburns and backaches, the late frosts and surprise storms. Planting in warmth and comfort, harvest meaning a quick trip upstairs with a pair of scissors, not to mention the incredible freshness of the greens—it seemed too good to be true. Now windowsill salads are so much a part of my life and diet, it hardly seems a novelty any more. But I still get an electric jolt of excitement every day that another tray germinates, when green life springs from black dirt as if every day were springtime.

A Microgreens Trial at High Mowing

What are Shoots & Microgreens?

The small greens I grow indoors are called shoots and microgreens. They are grown almost identically—shoots just refers to pea shoots, sunflower shoots and wheatgrass, whereas microgreens include a broad array of varieties. Because shoots are grown from larger seeds, they benefit from soaking before planting, need a little more soil to grow in, and there is more variation in when they are harvested. With shoots I fill the tray about ¾” deep with potting soil, but for microgreens I use only a ½” or so, since the small plants don’t need much soil in their short lives. Microgreens can be harvested when just the first true leaf has just appeared, or can be allowed to grow longer while retaining quality and tenderness, to what I call the “teen green” stage, when the plants have two true leaves.

5 Easy Greens

Now that I’ve been growing shoots and microgreens for a while, I like to experiment with a lot of different varieties—in particular I like to grow basil, cilantro and arugula so that I always have these versatile flavors on hand. Some microgreens, like basil, require extra warmth for strong germination, so I use a seedling heat mat when starting them. But most of them don’t need any extra heat, and the only equipment to get started is a sunny window (or shop lights), tray, propagation dome, soil and seeds (you can find the tray, dome and soil in our seed starting kit). If you’re growing on a windowsill instead of using shop lights, use a South-facing window and rotate your trays every day.

Fresh pea shoots

Pea Shoots are simple to grow, versatile in the kitchen, and perfect for any dish that calls for peas. I like adding them to pasta dishes such as macaroni and cheese or Pasta Carbonara.

Soak your pea seeds overnight before scattering them thickly over the soil surface (I use about 1 ½-2 cups for a 1020 tray), then cover with your propagation dome until they sprout. They thrive in cooler temperatures and will do just fine on chilly windowsills. I start harvesting them when they get about 4 inches tall, and have found that they’ll even regrow a few times.


Sunflower shoots

Sunflower Shoots have a succulent texture and delectable buttery flavor great for salads. They are ready to harvest in about 3 days, so if you want to eat them regularly, you’ll need to plant them often.

Soak the seeds for a few hours before scattering them over the soil surface (I use about 1 cup for a 1020 tray), then water in and cover with your dome until they sprout. Watch them carefully because the window to harvest them is short—their cotyledons (the very first leaves that appear) should have just unfolded. With sunflower shoots it’s best to harvest the entire tray at this stage and then start the next one; if you let them grow true leaves, they will be tough and bitter-tasting.


Arugula Microgreens

Arugula Microgreens are one of my favorite indoor greens—their peppery flavor is so good in so many things, from entrées to salads, garnishes to sandwiches.  You can harvest them at almost any stage, since they stay tasty and tender for a long time.

Simply sprinkle the seed over the soil (it’s best to sow a little less when growing crops with larger leaves), sprinkle a little more soil over the seed, water in and cover with your dome until they sprout.

Red Russian Kale Microgreens



Red Kale Microgreens are another favorite because they’re so pretty with their lavender stems and frilly true leaves. They’re also wonderfully versatile—I like that they have a little more heft to them, so I can throw them into miso soup, add to a stirfry or sauté with other veggies. They’re grown in the same way as arugula, and likewise can be harvested at almost any stage, from just cotyledons to baby-sized leaves.

Mild Mix Microgreens



Mild Mix Microgreens (and many other greens mixes) are perfect for salads, sandwiches and garnishes. The blend of flavors, textures and colors are exciting on the palate or plate, but still versatile enough for a wide range of uses. Sow these just like you would arugula, and try harvesting at different stages to see what you like best!


Tips for Success

After several years of growing indoor greens, I’ve learned a few things that have made it easier.

  • Start your greens on the same day every week. It’s a great way to ensure you have a consistent supply, and if you miss your day you can make a point to do it the following day, no harm done.
  • Never let your trays dry out! The tiny plants wilt very quickly if the soil becomes dry. Your trays will dry faster if the air is dry, if you use a small amount of soil or if your greens are growing rapidly. I check my trays every day and water lightly almost every morning to prevent them from drying out.
  • Divide your trays. Even if you really, really love sunflower shoots, you might not be able to eat them in time before they toughen up. Start by growing two or three varieties per tray, and if you find you can eat them all, grow full trays.
  • Grow what you love to eat. Obsessed with amaranth? Can’t get enough cress? Experiment with crops you’re crazy about even if they’re not being sold specifically as microgreens (my favorites are lemony sorrel and cilantro).

Cilantro isn’t for everyone, but if you’re in the fold of cilantro lovers (like me), you probably want it all the time for topping Mexican and Asian dishes. I don’t soak the seeds, I just sprinkle them thickly over the soil in the tray, then sprinkle a little more soil over them, water in and cover with the dome. They do take longer to germinate than almost everything else, so be patient and plant often!

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Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Growing Tips, Variety Highlights, Winter Growing | 17 Comments