Make us your home page
Instagram

Never an off season for heirloom seeds, seedlings at Growin' Crazy Acres

Desiree Conora picked mature peas for their heirloom seeds at her Growin’ Crazy Acres, . Celery, foreground, is nearly ready for harvest. Marigolds, right, are thought to ward off wildlife.

BETH N. GRAY | Special to the Times

Desiree Conora picked mature peas for their heirloom seeds at her Growin’ Crazy Acres, . Celery, foreground, is nearly ready for harvest. Marigolds, right, are thought to ward off wildlife.

BROOKSVILLE — Gardening doesn't need to take a season off in Florida. And it doesn't at Growin' Crazy Acres, where last week, owner Desiree Canora was harvesting mature Sugar Ann snap peas and Kentucky Wonder beans — for their seeds.

The self-taught organic grower is in the business of preserving and propagating heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs, those that the retiree-aged, their parents and grandparents know or knew, that "still taste like they're supposed to," said Canora, 48.

"Years ago, I wanted to save and sell the seeds I grew. But you don't get the same plants from all seeds," she pointed out.

Most varieties today are hybridized, meaning they're the result of cross-pollination between two or more varieties selected for complementary traits. Thus, their seeds will yield some of each parent variety as well as the genetic mix of the two.

"The heirlooms I grow are open-pollinated. If you save the seeds, they will grow true to the original plant, unchanged, unmodified, unaltered for 50 to 100 years," the grower explained.

She's been engaged in the effort for nine years.

In fewer than a dozen raised beds of about 60 square feet, Canora grows peppers, tomatoes, peas, beans, kale, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, lettuce, carrots and several herbs.

While she ladens her own table, freezer and canned goods pantry with the produce, she grows out more of the crops through their life cycle to yield seed. She dries and packages the seeds for sale online and Saturdays throughout the year at the Hernando County Farmers Market in Spring Hill.

Canora also plants seed at appropriate times to grow seedling plants, selling those as well at her farmers market booth, or they can be ordered online for pickup there.

"I actually have people from the other coast (of Florida) who come," she said. "I get orders on the website from all over Florida, plus Georgia and Alabama because they're a similar kind of season."

From a 10-acre wooded parcel south of Brooksville, Canora has cleared about one "crazy acre" for her gardening endeavors. Cottage-size describes each unit: plastic-clad greenhouse; climate-controlled concrete-block work shed for starting seedlings as well as drying, sorting and packaging seeds; roofed open-air pavilion for advancing seedlings, and the 4- by 16-foot, 8-inch-deep raised production plots.

The plots are sized "because that's the extent of my reach (from outside the perimeters), so I don't have to get in and tramp in the bed," Canora said.

The size also enables random planting for optimum use of space, rather than in rows.

While the base soil of the property is clay underlay, Canora uses compost in the growing beds, some of which she produces herself, other of which she buys. The "other" consists primarily of manure and livestock bedding. She augments the compost with fish and blood meals, plus kelp.

When necessary, she fights insects with three organic compounds. "I try to be a minimalist gardener," Canora emphasized. "I use as little as the plants need."

This month, the entrepreneur is sorting, drying and measuring seed amounts for her $3 seed packets. She's also starting seeds for springtime transplanting into gardens: Valiant tomatoes, early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, Lacinato kale, Seminole pumpkin squash and Suyo long cucumber, among others.

Customers tell Canora they relish the heirloom varieties "for their taste and flavor, and they love the fact that they can save the seeds" for repeat performance in years to come.

Contact Beth Gray at graybethn@earthlink.net.

>>if you go

Growin' Crazy Acres

What: Heirloom vegetable and herb seeds and seedlings

Where: Sales at Hernando County Farmers Market, 2468 Commercial Way, Spring Hill

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays

Phone: (352) 650-7343

Website: growincrazyacres.com

Never an off season for heirloom seeds, seedlings at Growin' Crazy Acres 12/16/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 5:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday

    Business

    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.