I've seen many posts recently about gardening and seed catalogs. Some posts analyze the timing of the seed company's publications. Most posts are simply people salivating in anticipation of what may come! I have to admit it I am doing the same. Ask my wife what my favorite bathroom reading material is and she'll tell you that it's the seed catalog. It doesn't matter which one. I like looking at those pictures and imagining where these plants will fit into our landscape. In two out of three bathrooms in our home there exists a small stack of seed and garden catalogs taunting me with the promise of spring! But that's not all.
I've started marking the catalogs creating an initial planning list for out purchases come spring. I simply put a little star beside the plant I like so I can narrow the list later. The key is to balance what would be nice to have and what you could actually fit into your garden. I think many gardeners buy too many seeds. That's OK though since usually you can store seeds for a year or two and still have viable seeds. I don't think we'll order any plants from the catalogs but we will stock up on seeds. Perennials, annuals, vegetables and herb seed that's where the money is, or rather goes! Why only seeds? It's pretty simple really. Seeds are cheap! If you are willing to put in the time to baby them up until planting it's the best way to go. The key here is to have the room to start them indoors a few weeks in advance. If you start them early you end up in a statistical dead heat with the store bought plants and you've saved dozens of dollars. We almost always start our tomatoes from seed indoors. The one exception was the year when we bought from one of our local high school's agriculture department (Not a bad way to get a few extra plants every now and then). Several times we used little paper cups to start the tomato seeds. You could always go with peat pots or newspaper pots.
I have a general idea of what we will need for next year. There are a few vegetables that we plant every year like tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, radishes, green onions and green beans. This is where I'll start in the catalogs. With the tomatoes I want to try an heirloom variety. The flavor is supposed to be much better even though they are less disease resistant than the hybrids. I've seen a couple that sound good. The Mortgage Lifter has an impressive name, if only it would do the same for us as the name implies! We'll go for some cherry tomatoes of some sort and probably another kind that is conducive to slicing and smacking on a hamburger or slathering with mayonnaise on a BLT.
The problem is wanting to try a bit of everything. We have limited space in both our garden and our stomachs so we must restrain ourselves from over planting. That being said I would love to have enough in my garden to give to our neighbors and friends throughout the summer so I'll plan ahead for some extra.
Sunflowers will have to be planted. There are several varieties including the giant Kong. A sixteen footer! I'm not sure we need one that big but the others could make a great temporary screen the birds will love! Last year the gold finches flocked to the sunflowers. The cardinals weren't too shy either. Maybe I can make enough to supplement our winter birdseed. I can't make it through the whole winter on what I can produce but maybe one or two fill ups.
There are also perennials and a bunch of them! Where can I put them all? One that already has a place in my mind is catmint (I'll comment about catmint after Christmas). Delphiniums would definitely be an excellent accent to several places in our landscape. They have a quasi-fantasy type quality about them reminiscent of a medieval castle garden. Perhaps some more achillea and salvia?
I shouldn't leave out the herbs. How many different kinds of basil can I use? The purple leaved varieties are really interesting and there is a small compact form that is pretty unique. Mix them with some of the traditional large leaved basils, oregano, rosemary and thyme and you have the makings of a pretty good kitchen herb garden.
There's a lot to think about. Maybe that's why gardeners enjoy getting the catalogs in the mail. It's a chance to plot, plan, dream or scheme your way to a better garden. I think in many ways gardeners are collectors who always want something new or unique to add to their collection. At least that's what I think.
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Sunday, December 23, 2007
Perusing and Planning with the Seed Catalogs
Dave is the author of Growing The Home Garden and runs a small nursery business growing vegetables and herbs for local customers in Spring Hill, TN. (Blue Shed Gardens or FB page). He has written for gardening publications, Troy-Bilt and Lowe's and is available for edible garden consulting. Dave gardens organically and when he isn't writing, collecting seeds, or propagating plants he's parenting his 4 children as a stay at home dad.