Marion Owen

Courtesy of MARION OWEN

Published 50 years ago, Richard Langer’s “The After-Dinner Gardening Book” is not only filled with hilarious stories, but it’s a love story about seeds.

One of my favorite gardening books begins like this: “The conversion of our apartment from a normal, barren city cave into a tropical jungle began quiet by accident one bleak witner day…”

And so begins “The After-Dinner Gardening Book,” Richard Langer’s unique guide to achieving magnificent plants for house and terrace from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Not everything goes as planned, however, which makes for hilarious accounts in this delighful collection of stories.

My favorite story, “But I want to take a bath”, had me in stitches when I first read it. Richard tries to fulfill a childhood dream to grow a coconut palm. From the local fruit stand, he brings home seven of the biggest brown coconuts to be found. Then he fills the bathtub with water and adds a bunch of salt, having heard that coconuts won’t germinated unless permeated with salt water.

He drops the coconuts into the tub and withdraws into the living room. 

Soon, his wife comes home. Feeling tired, she decides to take a shower. Five minutes later, Richard looks up to see his wife confronting him. He smiles innocently.

“The bathtub seems to be full of coconuts,” she says. “They going to be there long?”

“About two months,” he says. “Why?”

“Oh nothing, I just thought I might want to take a bath—before next year.”



Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. The largest seed? Coconuts. Small seeds? The dust-sized bits produced by begonias.

Did you know that seeds provide more food for the human race than any other plant or animal? Stop a moment and think about the vast amounts of peanuts, rice, corn, wheat, oats, pecans and barley that we consume. 

When a seed comes in contact with moist soil, the miracle continues. And who doesn’t appreciate a good miracle now and then, especially to set the tone at the dawn of a new year. Maybe that’s why I traditionally place my seed orders around the New Year.

Whether you’re a newbie at gardening in Kodiak or you want an creative kick in the you-know-what, here is my Master List of easy things to grow.



Kale — No vegetable garden, smoothie or life, should be without it.

Carrots — Sow direct in May to June. All varieties do well here.

Snap peas — Ideal for small gardens and containers.

Lettuce — All varieties do well. 

Potatoes — Short on space? Grow in containers.

Onion (green and bulb) — Grow from seeds or sets

Cabbage — All varieties. 

Spinach — Sow a new crop every 2 weeks.

Broccoli — Most all varieties love Kodiak.

Mustard greens —Another nutritional must-have.

Oriental greens — Yes, all.

Broad (fava) beans — The northern lima bean.

Beets — All varieties. Roots AND tops are edible 

Radish — Raw or cooked; rediscover the radish.

Brussels sprouts —Best eaten after a frost.

Leeks — Sweetened by frost.

Rhubarb — The vegetable we treat like a fruit. 

Turnips — Hakurei (sweet, white, golf-ball size)

Swiss chard — Great way to add color to your veg garden.

In the greenhouse or hoophouse—Summer squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, bush and pole beans



Annuals — Calendula, pansy, nasturtium, sweet peas, baby blue eyes, dianthus, lunaria, Sweet Alyssum, Iceland poppy, silene...

Biennials — Foxglove, Sweet William…

Perennials — Columbine, Shasta daisy, delphinium, bee balm (monarda), Jacob’s ladder, bleeding heart, autumn joy, geranium, forget-me-not, primrose, meconopsis poppy, Oriental poppy

Bulbs and other early perennials — Tulips, primrose, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, lily



Chives — Divide plants every 3 to 4 years.

Mint — Keep contained or you’ll have it everywhere.

Lemon balm — Member of mint family. Good in baths, iced tea.

Arugula (garden rocket) — Adds gourmet zest to salads.

Oregano — Hardy, pretty plant. Dries well.

Parsley — Another must-have, vitamin-rich.

Sage — Fragrant perennial; prefers well-draining soil.

Thyme — Replace plants after several years. 

Dill — Grow for greens, seeds or both.

Fennel — A hint of licorice; cook like onions or celery.

Garlic — Plant cloves in late summer for summer harvest harvest.

Growing your own seeds is one of the most rewarding things you can do. (And no app can replace the joyful experience of co-creating with nature). 

For one thing, watching something flourish with greenery during the winter is uplifting. And when you get the itch to garden, starting seeds indoors helps you scratch the itch.

Starting your own seeds also gives you a head start on the growing season. We’re talking a jump of up to two or three months if you garden in covered beds, or a hoophouse, or greenhouse.




Have you noticed the cost of a head of romaine lettuce lately? (If it hasn’t been yanked off the shelves for possible  E.coli contamination). For the same price you can grow a hundred heads of lettuce. 

For much of the world, seeds account for almost 75 percent of the human diet. But seeds are also part of our language: We speak of the seed of an idea or seed money. Indeed, around 1930, a dollar was called a seed, and we still have birdseed and hayseed and…

Meanwhile, plant a seed for gardening by picking up a copy of “The After-Dinner Gardening Book.” It was published 50 years ago—might even be at the library—so used copies are easy to come by. 


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