Seed Catalogues: the stack keeps growing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’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

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Joene Hendry

4 comments for “Seed Catalogues: the stack keeps growing

  1. December 31, 2010 at 8:47 am


    I don’t get nearly as many seed catalogs as you do but I’m intrigued by Pinetree Garden Seeds so I think I’ll try to get one of their catalogs since I seem to remember you referencing them before. I did get the Comstock catalog and was totally amused by the guy on the cover. I like their approach of not just showing veggies on the cover. Add in the fact that they are CT-based and I think they may get a good portion of my order this year. Of course, I only buy seeds that I can start outside (too lazy for starting them inside) so I’ll have to choose wisely.

    Happy New Year.

  2. joenesgarden
    December 31, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Debbie, Check out Kitchen Garden Seeds and Select Seeds too, both are CT-based suppliers.

    Happy New Year to you as well.

  3. January 3, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I received the Comstock catalogue, too, this year. I think they have great, artsy photos in it. I order from Pinetree nearly every year because I love their “Krautman” cabbage. Sam, our 3 year old, won Grand Champion Junior Garden 2 years in a row with that one. It’s HUGE. And it does make wonderful sauerkraut.

    Although I order mostly veggies, I will have a friend grab godetia seed for me from Stokes. I don’t order from them much anymore since I’m out of the dried flower business, but they do have some of the harder to find varieties.
    Happy Planting!

    P.S. As one seed lover to another. Last year I received a box with 1000 packets of seeds for the community gardens. It was all I could do not to spread them out and roll in them!

  4. joenesgarden
    January 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I love the visual of rolling in a bed of seeds, Amy. Hilarious!
    I tend to order the bulk of my seed, also mostly veggeis, from Pinetree – they offer the small packets needed by home gardeners at very reasonable prices. I also order from Kitchen Garden Seeds, a CT-based company with interesting varieties – love their purple podded beans. I’ve so enjoyed the Comstock catalogue. I’m even more motified to visit their site in Wethersfield which is not too far a drive for me.

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