Norton seed company helps America’s new gardeners grow – The Boston Globe


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“We saw millions of Americans start a garden, in their backyard, within a community space, or even on a balcony during the pandemic not only as an activity to do, but as a way to relax,” said Rebecca Sears, the company’s chief gardening guru.Conducting its own survey, she said, the company found that new gardeners cited a desire for a relaxing hobby and for a new “at home” activity as their chief reasons for beginning a garden. Other reasons included the “stress-relieving mental benefits,” physical benefits, and a love of fresh herbs and vegetables.Judged an essential business because of its role in food production, Green Garden’s Norton office and order-filling facility remained open throughout the pandemic.The company works with a network of farmers, most of them located in this country, to grow the seeds for its catalog of traditional prestige brands such as Ferry-Morse, Seeds of Change, Livingston, American, and McKenzie seed brands.Green Garden’s 210 employees work in the areas of selling, marketing, finance, quality control, design, e-commerce, and communications.And some with the company, including Sears, provide advice on getting those seeds into the ground and what to do to keep them growing. Good gardens, the company believes, begin with good seeds.The company’s traditional brands, founded in the 1800s, “were the true beginners of the home gardening seed category,” Sears said. Ferry-Morse invented the individually labeled seed packet envelope for the home gardener.“That’s still how seeds are packaged today,” she said.Alexander Livingston’s contribution in the late 1800s might be even more far-reaching.“Prior to the tomato breeding work of Alexander Livingston, tomatoes were small, sour fruits and were even considered to be poisonous by some,” Sears said. “As someone who loves to cook, I can’t imagine a culinary world without tomatoes.”These traditional brands have become among the most trusted on the market. They are tested for germination before packaging takes place, Sears said. They are non-GMO, a quality important to some consumers in recent years. Some product lines, such as the Seeds of Change brand, are organic. To earn that label, the seeds must be grown without synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides.But even the best seeds need thoughtful attention to get the desired result.As the company advises, “Mother Nature doesn’t always make it easy. The weeds will come up, the rain won’t fall … whatever the issue, it takes resilience to overcome. We pride ourselves on pushing through problems and finding unique solutions.”Sears, who says she “nurtures the heritage of Green Garden’s family of brands,” said her goal is “to help gardeners of all skill levels fuel their passion and become more successful in the garden.”She offers advice on topics such as top-selling plant varieties and dealing with weeds.The bane of many gardeners new and old, she points out that plants compete with weeds for soil nutrients. “The fewer weeds in your garden, the more food available for your plants, making them more productive and likely to succeed,” Sears said. “A little effort early on will save a lot of aggravation later.”She recommends using lawn clippings to mulch around plants as soon as seedlings are established. “The key to weed management is to remove weeds while they’re still small — it’s a lot more work to pull established plants.”And even though the sun is already at its height in late June, it’s not too late to put seeds into the ground. “There are seeds you can plant through the end of the summer to grow into the fall.” The essential point, she said, “is to make sure your plants are ready for harvest before the first frost,” in late September or October, depending on a host of local factors. Higher elevations bring earlier frosts; the moderating influence of the sea leads to later frosts in coastal areas.In June, Sears said, you can start “fast-growing vegetables like beans, carrots, radish, and beets. You can also start cool weather vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage now for a fall harvest.”Other possibilities include leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, and kale, which grow swiftly and thrive well into colder months. You can plant them any time throughout the summer.Finally, Sears said, “flavorful herbs like basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro are fast-growing in the summer heat.” They will grow through the end of summer and then “can be transferred indoors once the weather turns colder.”A Massachusetts native, she discovered her passion for gardening while living in Portland, Ore., “and inspired by the public gardens throughout the city.”Moving back to the south of Boston region, she continued to develop her gardening craft by creating her own large backyard garden.“My personal favorite flower seeds are nasturtium for edible flowers, alyssum for the sweet fragrance, and scarlet runner beans to attract hummingbirds,” Sears said. “My garden is also always full of flavorful vegetables like colorful tomatoes, spicy poblano peppers, and fail-proof butternut squash.”That “fail-proof” recommendation is likely to attract some customers.Robert Knox can be reached at [email protected]
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