My Connecticut gardens are finally covered in snow but this doesn’t mean all plant material has stopped growing. In a sunny window an amaryllis has grown from a small shoot to two-feet of blooming potential and, nearby, running a close second in the growing-taller race is a swelling stack of seed catalogues.
This ever-growing bundle will get it’s first look on New Year’s Day when I plan to loll on the sofa surrounded by this mass of printed-promise while I warm my bones by a cozy fire.
As of December 30, 2010 my catalogue stack includes Pinetree Garden Seeds, Comstock Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, Totally Tomatoes, Vermont Bean Seed Company, Seeds of Change, The Cook’s Garden, Burpee, R. H. Shumway’s, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I won’t be surprised if tomorrow’s mail adds to this list.
I’ll peruse all the catalogues that make it to my mailbox, but since there’s simply not enough time in my life, space in my seed-starting rack, or money in my pocket to purchase from all, some catalogues garner more of my attention than others.
After my first look I triage the stack according to location. I live in New England and try to purchase items from companies in New England – or at least the Northeast U.S. I try to follow this practice with all my purchases.
Now, with my stack minimized to Pinetree Garden Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds, both in Maine; Comstock Seeds in Connecticut; and the catalogues I expect to get from CT-based Kitchen Garden Seeds and Select Seeds, I settle in for a closer look. I dog ear each page containing a plant of interest, then I go back through the marked pages to give these items further scrutiny.
- Do my choice’s characteristics – color, growth-pattern, water needs, invasiveness, usefulness, pickiness – fit my casual, low-maintenance gardening style?
- Do I have a location where this plant will shine?
- Am I able to grow it from seed or is it only available in plant form?
- If only available as a plant, is it, or a closely-related variety, likely to be available at a more local nursery where I prefer to buy plants?
Choices that survive this round of culling go on to separate – usually long – flower and veggie/herb wish lists, and just for fun I tally what my total expenditure would be if I purchased every item on each list.
It’s good to want.
I go through the next culling stage with a keener handle on reality. Before ordering any seeds I inventory those left from the previous season. When stored in a cool, dry location seeds remain viable even after a year. (They become less viable with increasing time.) If I have enough seeds left from last year’s purchases, and I’m pleased with plant’s characteristics and yield, I don’t need to buy the same variety anew.
Then I reassess my list to insure that my wishes do not exceed my time and space. I review last year’s notes – started too many basil seedlings or too few peppers – and further edit my list accordingly. Once I have my customary choices covered – the aforementioned basil and peppers plus tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, mini pumpkins, beans, peas, lettuce and greens, radishes, eggplant, cilantro, dill, and other herbs – I re-scrutinize the list to include at least one new-to-me variety or vegetable as my time and space will allow.
When I complete a similar triage on my flower wish list I re-tally the total cost in time, energy and dollars. I don’t place my order/s until I’m comfortable that I can accommodate all the seeds I want to purchase for inside and outside starting.
Is my process foolproof? No. It’s rare when I don’t start more seedlings than I need. Extras go to friends and family; some become experiments – how do they grow in pots, in less than optimal light, or where deer can browse. Still, this process works for me … and it starts my New Year off in a delightful direction.
If you have not yet joined the seed starting group but have considered doing so check out the list of seed catalogue sources from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
So, seed starters, what’s your seed ordering process? Do you create wish lists? Do you follow them, cull them, ignore them?
Read my Garden Zone column, Seed and Plant Catalogs Ease Winter Blahs