Greetings and welcome to the 2015 growing season! Yes, it’s happening already! I write in the dark of a January winter’s night, but know full well that the days are getting longer and that things can really only go up from here.
2014 was my best growing season since first growing seeds in 2007. Despite a harsh winter that killed many normally hardy crops and delayed spring plantings, we ended up with great weather for farming and gardening—a moderate, dry summer that led to fewer plant diseases and bigger harvests. I also cultivated seed from my largest plots to date. The 2015 offerings were grown in four locations throughout the city—the home office roof in Bushwick, Riverpark Farm, and with tremendous support and assistance from both Brooklyn Grange and Weeksville Bioheritage Farm.
As always, I’m not just offering varieties that grow well for urban gardeners, but also varieties I personally love to grow and eat! I’m proud to offer 10 new varieties this year, including 3 chiles that I consider personal favorites and two winter hardy greens that kept me well fed during the harsh winter of 2013-2014. I’ve also long sought a great tasting tomato that was more appropriate for container growing, and really feel like I’ve found it in Santiam.
I’ve been steadily growing the company by offering more varieties and more quantities of the varieties I do grow, while staying true to my promise to only sell seed I know will work for urban growers—seed I grow myself in New York City, in containers or shallow rooftop planting medium. Growing anything in an urban environment is challenging, so growing seeds is doubly difficult—large isolation distances, longer maturity dates for seed crops, and a narrow pool of appropriate varieties to pull from add up to a limited selection of seeds. So sticking to that pledge isn’t easy. I constantly feel the pressure to add more and more varieties and grow the company, debating weather or not to buy seeds bulk from elsewhere. But in these times when the public is hyperaware of GMOs and organic standards, transparency is of the utmost importance. Most seed companies don’t grow all their seeds and definitely don’t tell you where their seed is actually grown. The potential for unwitting purchases that bankroll business and ecological practices that you do not support is real and happens all the time. What I offer more than anything is my word. I sell seeds that I pledge will work in urban plots, and seeds that I grew myself, using exclusively organic methods, without a whiff of GMO technology within miles of my operations.
Sorry but these standards don’t lead to huge volumes of seeds, so Rooftop Ready Seeds is going to remain a limited supply company for now. Niche. Rare. Collectors Item. Boutique. Call them what you will, but make sure you get them while you can and enjoy them all 2015 long!
Rooftop Ready Seeds is growing steadily every year, and the excitement around our offerings has grown right along with it. This marks our 4th year selling urban-oriented seeds and stands to be our best one yet. We have 17 new varieties, including 5 new tomatoes and a great selection of new herbs and flowers. Click on the link above to download our 2014 catalog!
We’re also offering a new way to order your seeds and plant your garden for 2014. With our new Readymade subscription program, you can let us handle the garden planning and send you a selection of seasonally-appropriate seeds every month. Similar to a CSA (Seed-S-A?), you pay us for your selection of seeds up front, and we send you your seeds when the time is right. Click here for more information on Readymade.
Rooftop Ready Seeds is set to have a great year, building new partnerships with local urban farms and spreading the good word of our urban-adapted seedstock all across the country. Founder Zach Pickens will be presenting at the 2014 Organic Seed Alliance’s Organic Seed Growers Conference in Corvallis, OR at the end of January. Great start to a great year!
Here’s to hoping that 2014 is YOUR best season yet too!
There’s a great community of growers in New York– it really makes the city feel smaller. Most of the farmers know each other on a first name basis and rely on each other for advice, resources, and sometimes help in the field. This is mainly because people who chose to grow food in the city are amazing by nature, but also because we all recognize that 1. we don’t know everything and 2. we want everyone to succeed in providing better food to our neighbors.
In that spirit of mutual aid and common cause, Rooftop Ready Seeds and Brooklyn Grange formed a partnership in 2011 that would help us expand our horizons and help the Grange save some money on seed. Brooklyn Grange runs the largest rooftop soil farms in the world, so they have a great big genetic pool of potential seed saving candidates. We work with them on a seed saving plan, select the best plants, and process the seed that gets divvied up at the end of the year. They save some money on seed costs and get first dibs on crop seed that has proven itself to be best for their micro-climate. Win-win.
Look for the Brooklyn Grange Grown logo on packs that they helped bring to the market:
And buy some seeds (and produce!) at their farmstands starting in May.
All hand-processed everything. Rooftop Ready Seeds are hand selected from the most successful plants, hand cleaned, hand packed, and hand delivered to the vendors that sell them right here in New York City. We also hand stamp all the seed envelopes. And until this year we put the logo on all those seeds packets by hand too. That took a lot of work to perfect such a detailed rubber stamp, so we switched it up this year. Thanks to the fine folks at Bushwick Print Lab, we’re speeding up the operation, screen printing our envelopes 12 at a time. It’s faster, it’s uniform, and it’s still a handmade skill.
What’s more it opens up the possibility of us printing some t-shirts down the road. Be on the look out for those in the online store…