Monday, January 12, 2009
I know it doesn't even seem possible. Temperatures are below freezing and a lot of the country is up to their backsides in snow. However, it is time to order your seed catalog. There are a lot of things to consider when ordering your catalog because you want to get the best, most reliable seeds possible. It's easy to pick up a couple of packets of seeds at your local hardware store but it you want a great selection and reliable quality, go all out and order from a seed company. Besides, you will learn a lot about gardening and the specific plants from these catalogs.
I think of a couple of things when I'm thinking about what kinds of seeds I'll want, which is how i decide where i want to get catalogs from. The first is what kinds of vegetables do me and my family eat. There is no reason to buy eggplant seed if you've never even eaten one - unless you feel adventurous this season. I always try a couple of different vegetables every year. So, make a list. What kinds of vegetables do you love? What kinds of vegetables just taste so much better straight from the garden than from the back of an 18-wheeler that's just driven across the country (or now-a-days even further.) This category will probably include most all veggies, but there are some we know for sure. There is nothing like fresh lettuce (and nothing easier to grow) and nothing like eating tomatoes straight off of the vine.
So, now you should have one list, what kinds of vegetables and herbs you would like to grow. Next, consider what is important to you. For me I really enjoy growing heirloom varieties of vegetables. I love that they have a history, I love that they are usually more tasty (because they haven't been bred to ripen quicker, or last on that truck ride across the country), and i like that they are not genetically modified. So, I look for seed companies that carry a large selection of heirloom seeds. It is also important to me to try to get organic seed as often as possible. I order a lot of seed from seed savers and their members - sometimes it is seed they have collected from their backyard. I know chemicals have not been used on the seeds even though they are not certified organic. So, if i can i buy organic seeds if not, buy from a company (or better yet a person) that you are familiar with and know their growing practices. There are a lot of regulations and organizations that have been formed to have a tight hold on the organic certification process. This can make it very cost prohibitive for the small producer. (If you are using your seeds to make sprouts, please, buy certified organic!)
Now, that you have an idea of what kinds of seeds you'd like. We need to find some companies that carry seeds that meet those qualifications. You can google seed catalogs or you can choose from some of my favorites. I'll give you the low down on some great seed companies and their catalogs. There are a couple of companies that don't print paper catalogs and you'll have to order from them online. I'll give you a link to each of these companies and let you know how to get their catalogs.
My new favorite catalog this year is from Baker Heirloom Seeds. This is a gorgeous catalog. They have gone all out this year. Baker is a great place to order seeds from. They carry an incredibly large selection of heirloom seeds. They carry vegetables, herbs and flowers, many are rare and you won't find them anywhere else. You can request a catalog from their website.
My second favorite place to order seeds from is Seed Savers Exchange. They also carry an enormous selection of heirloom seeds. As a matter of fact, they have made it their mission to try to save as many varieties as possible. A great organization, a great catalog. The catalog gives you a lot of information about each variety. They also have a lot of rare varieties, which i love to try. You never know when you'll have a new favorite. You can request a catalog from their website.
Next, I get lots of seeds from Bountiful Gardens. This is an off shoot of John Jeavons and Ecological Action (of the grow biointensive movement.) I love John Jeavon's books, they are incredibly useful if you are trying to grow enough food to live on in a small area with no inputs that come off of your "farm." The seeds he offers are perfect for this type of growing. One thing this catalog offers that I absolutely love is variety packs. You can get one packet of carrot seeds that will contain 10 or 20 different varieties of open pollinated seeds. This is a great option for those with limited space and limited budgets that still want a variety of seeds. I highly recommend getting a Bountiful Gardens catalog.
A great place that does not have a print catalog but specializes in tomato seeds is Tomato Fest, my mother in law gave me a gift certificate to there last year. I ordered a lot of seed from them and will again this year. Great variety, great seed. check them out.
A couple of other good places to get catalogs are
Seeds of Change - they have a good selection of seed and gardening supplies. all of their seed is certified organic.
Johnny's Selected Seeds - they are starting to have more organic seeds. Carry mostly your standard varieties.
Territorial Seed Company - also has a large selection, some of which are open pollinated, some are organic.
Get those seed catalogs order, in one of the next couple of posts, we'll talk about what to look for when picking out seeds