Dig In

Sowing the seeds of love

By Patricia Bailey
Posted 2/15/18

Are seed catalogs still arriving in your mailbox, including your email? Since making my first seed order from a catalog several years ago, I now receive catalogs from all over the country. I also …

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Dig In

Sowing the seeds of love


Are seed catalogs still arriving in your mailbox, including your email?

Since making my first seed order from a catalog several years ago, I now receive catalogs from all over the country. I also receive several emails that preview a catalog or direct you to their website. I guess this is an example of targeted marketing and they sure have effectively reached the right audience. I’m just crazy about seed catalogs. Of all the other mail I receive, these catalogs certainly are not considered ‘junk mail’. They are perfectly stacked and waiting for me to peruse and indulge. I’m a gardener who grows delicious, nutritious vegetables without spending a fortune doing it. And it all begins here.

I find reviewing the actual catalog a lot easier than navigating websites, especially when comparing one source to another. With so many options, sorting through them can be a challenge. I prefer to order from companies that adhere to the tenets of the Safe Seed Pledge and/or are members of the Safe Seed Initiative and The Council for Responsible Genetics.

As a general rule I tend to order seeds from companies that are considered local or share my growing zone. Although, a unique or rare species from a seed company in Indiana will certainly be considered.

Price is certainly a factor and comparison-shopping can be tricky. Not all seed companies package the same. Some indicate an amount of seeds per packet others use grams or ounces. Comparing pricing from one catalog to the next can take time. For example, when comparing different basil cultivars you may find that ‘Eleanora’ and ‘Genovese’ are priced the same, but ‘Eleanora’ has more seeds per packet. Once you take into consideration the attributes, growing habit and days to maturity of each, you may find that they are so similar that ‘Eleanora’ is the better buy.

If you have a friend or family member that is also ordering seeds, perhaps you could consider a shared order or a swap. This is an effective way to save money, but also could be the beginning of your own seed savers exchange. You are making a commitment to the diversity of seeds by preserving, propagating and sharing.

I also make a list of the vegetables I’d like to grow and take into consideration those that can be grown in the spring and then again in the fall. This allows me to determine the amount of seed I will need. For example, spinach is a cool season crop that likes to be sown in early spring when days are warm and nights are still cool. It can also be sown again in the fall when days are warm and nights begin to cool. Because of this, I may opt for two packets of spinach seeds. Cool season crops can extend your growing season well into November. Cool season crops with short days to maturity that deserve consideration include arugula, beets, carrots, chard, celery, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, peas, radish and spinach.

Enjoy the process and know that your seed company of choice wants you to succeed. They are available by phone or email and are always willing to help. I marvel at the level of customer service they offer when I’ve had a germination issue.

Generally, they will offer to send you a replacement packet within days. If you want to start small you can’t go wrong with growing peas. Try varieties such as ‘Lincoln’, ‘Tall Telephone’ or ‘Royal Snow’. Order a packet and sow directly into the ground around St. Patrick’s Day. Choose a warm sunny spot near a fence or trellis where they will have ample space to climb. You’ll be rewarded with fresh peas in the early spring. Perfect for a lamb stew with spring vegetables!

Patricia Bailey is the Community Outreach Horticulturist at Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, where she has managed the Vegetable Garden since 2013. Having a deep appreciation for the quality of life a good garden can bring to those in need, she spearheads school programs, mentors young people and provides local charities with fresh organic vegetables. 

Patricia Bailey

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