Oh, it’s that time of year… Garden Dreamin’ …on such a Winter’s day!
Hi folks! Yup, in December the annual seed catalogs started to arrive. Let’s see who we have here: A gorgeous one from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (overflowing with seed varieties); a sweet and glossy catalog from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds; a potato-packed, half-sized catalog from Wood Prairie Family Farm – with a new potato variety, Keuka Gold, on the cover; and hmm, apparently we are on a new mailing list because I see Mr.Gordon received a quaint black and white one from The Maine Potato Lady. Ironically we do not receive a printed catalog from the company we’ve ordered most of our seeds from, the Hudson Valley Seed Co. That’s okay, we know how to find them online. 😉 (Actually, we do all of our ordering online, but the printed seed catalogs are a luxury to browse on a dark evening under the lamplight.)
And the Winner for Best Seed Catalog Cover Is…
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange! I mean, that is just awesome.
But, it’s not only about the joy of browsing and dreaming, of wondering if it would be silly to grow 20 different varieties of tomatoes – Mr. Gordon would probably not so much go for that – it’s also about learning.
If you have been reading along with us, you might remember our “horror story” related to evil squash bugs and our poor, beautiful Black Beauty Zucchini plants. Our favorite zucchini plants. Our prolific, wonderful, most-flavorful-zucchinis-ever plants.
The story can be found here Ugh! Squash Bug Eggs! and here Dealing with Garden Pests. I’m sorry to report that the squash bugs won last year. They killed our several big Black Beauty Zucchini plants. As much as I lamented not getting hardly any zucchini last year, I honestly was more upset by the cruel death the bleeping squash bugs inflicted on these generous plants.
So what to do? Mr. Gordon is a great researcher and has some plans for Garden 2020 that include: transplanting our Black Beauty Zucchini plants into the garden later in the spring season and covering with fabric crop cover. The theory – purported by some – is that the squash bugs will already have picked a place to be and lay eggs, so the late transplanted zucchinis will be less affected.
Hey, I’m willing to try it!
But let’s get back to the topic of this post: learning via browsing seed catalogs. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange included this note with their description of Black Beauty Zucchini:
“Our observations over several seasons indicate that Black Beauty attracts squash bugs much more than other varieties and we have used it successfully as a trap plant for hand-picking squash bugs.”
I have to admit when I read this information from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I was a little discouraged. Use it as a trap plant? Well, that is good advice, and trust me, the squash bugs DO seem to zero in on the variety. (While the squash bugs did eventually migrate up to our Yellow Squash and Honeynut Squash in a different garden of ours, they did not swarm those plants as much as the Black Beauty Zucchini.)
So, I will tell you now that I do not plan on using my Black Beauties as a sacrificial plant this year. I will be using all the tips and tricks that I can implement. Wish me luck.
But I still appreciated the shared experience and wisdom from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seed catalog. That is helpful to know.
One more little “educational note” that I wanted to point out. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange also shares other news on plants that are “at risk” – so if you as a gardener / plant steward want to help particular endangered species, you can learn about some of them and order seed for your own contribution back into the “wild.” (Bekah, if you read this post, what are your thoughts on folks ordering and planting in “our woodlands”? I can see pros and cons of those activities.)
I believe I learned about Annie’s Heirloom Seeds from another blogger’s website.
Gorgeous photos – the products of a labor of love in full color.
She gives great growing tips and shares her preferences nestled in among plant / seed descriptions
Her “voice” is kindly and these little notes throughout the catalog are like listening to a friend share ideas and wisdom.
Last year we ordered our potato seedlings from Wood Prairie Family Farm. Worth. Every. Penny. We ordered three varieties and they produced wonderfully in our garden. Highly recommend! (The company also provides information via social media on laws, actions that affect farmers, growers – especially with regards to what big AG is up to.)
We also appreciate that throughout their catalog, they provide detailed charts about potato varieties, including size, scab resistance, yield, color of flower, blight tolerance, etc. VERY helpful.
All these reasons – and more – are why we recommend reading through your seed catalogs, even if you have the seeds in hand. There are always lessons to be learned.
And while you can discuss the good reasons to not use printed materials – especially since we have the almighty internet at hand – let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. There are opportunities to learn from the printed page, and good arguments for “getting offline.” 🙂
As I… mentioned… in the opening to this post, I don’t receive a printed catalog from Hudson Valley Seed Co. (I tend to source most of my seeds from there, though.) So during a browse of the website, I noted this little gem.
Extra points, HVSC, for your sense of humor:
“Will go with almost any Martha Stewart dining room set.” – Source HVSC
And now… the State of the Gardens
Well, we’re a bit under water. I swear, we live on a sponge.
Here’s the upper garden. We have three kinds of garlic and a variety of shallots over-wintering here. (Seed garlic and shallots from Hudson Valley Seed Co.) Oh, I hope they do well. The wet is just… so much.
Would you like to take a cold swim between our rows? This is one reason why we do no till, raised bed, plant directly in compost gardening. The plants need that buffer between them and the saturated ground throughout the year.
Ever see my garden-squish video from a couple of years ago?
So there you have it!
What are YOUR favorite seed catalogs – and what have you learned? Please share in comments below!
Links to our favorite seed resources:
- Hudson Valley Seed Co.
- Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
- Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
- Wood Prairie Family Farm
Mr. Gordon gave me a pair of those “claw gardening gloves” for Christmas this past year. See the Amazon ad /affiliate link below. Can’t wait to try them out!
I love looking through seed catalogs! What a great way to learn about other varieties, planting tips, history, etc. I also use them when I teach garden lessons to elementary and high school students. A seed catalog is an inexpensive and very visual way to show kids the wide variety of vegetables…far beyond anything they have ever seen at the grocery store!
Tracy, that’s a good question about reintroducing disappearing natives back into our woodlands. I know that it is very, very popular to try and landscape with native plants (for a variety of reasons), but what I also know is that after a few years some gardeners discover that many native plants do not grow so neat and tidy as other ‘cultured’ plants. It’s actually been a bit of a research project of mine for a presentation I give on which native plants are best incorporated into a typical home landscape. Research has shown that plant diversity alone (not necessarily sticking to native plants) is a higher priority and serves many of the same purposes as trying to design a natives only landscape.
I suppose there is also the question as to whether these disappearing species are being reintroduced on private land or public land? I wander what the legality is of planting roots in local forests and woodlands? It would be the rural version of the urban gorilla gardening I have read about 🙂
Thanks for giving me something more to think about and look into! I will see if any of our regional university extensions have written on this topic!
Have a great week!
PS If I read this??? Of course I do! I love reading your posts 🙂
Now that is something I didn’t think about, but yes, what a good idea, Bekah: using the seed catalogs as a teaching tool with students! Brilliant!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on planting native plants, and I had some of the same thoughts – especially if one is planting them on state lands, or land that they do not own. I mean, we have laws here – and I assume that other states are similar – that make it illegal to pick wildflowers along the side of the road. Or, if you are on state land, you are not to cut of pieces of any tree, etc. And although one might question why these rules are in place (like the wildflower one, although I get it now), they are there to protect the native plants. I doubt it is legal to walk into the state lands here, or parks, and plant anything, even native plants. Seems like humans have a way of upsetting the balance when they decide, gee, this woods needs more “blank.”
I kind of feel this way when I read about introducing one insect population to control another. What long term problems are possibly being created? (I’m even talking about ladybugs in the garden, here.) So, quick story: Growing up in WNY and near Western PA everyone had a gypsy moth problem. One summer they ate the trees bare. All the leaves were gone. Horrible. Now, I was pretty young, so this story was told to me second hand, but the powers that be decided to introduce some sort of Asian beetle. Well, the gypsy moth issue was eventually resolved. Over 20 years later my parents are killing dozens of these beetles in their house every week – sometimes daily, and yes, even in winter. They stink and I’m convinced they bite – although I wouldn’t swear to it.
Oh humans, when will we learn?
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject, Bekah! I’m glad you come by and read! (Honored!) 😀
Our area has been on the watch for Gypsy Moth. I think it was found across the river from us in Portland, OR. But, it has yet to make it’s way here to our county. Let it stay over there! And, yes, introducing a species to control another can be a dicey situation. It may work in the short term, and I am sure in many cases it does work long term, but there can be permanent changes to an environment when a non-native species is intentionally released in an area. Typically a local species will arise that helps to control another. But it takes time, and often many properties/forests/farms suffer in that interim.
Hi Bekah – I hope your region can keep the gypsy moths at bay. Nasty little creatures. I’d love it if we humans could wait for another species to rise up naturally and control the invaders, but you are right: chances are things suffer in the meantime. So, we don’t wait. We intervene. And, there is a prize and a price attached to most actions in life.
I loved this post! I really, really want to put in a garden again this year…
I have given it a break the last couple of years. So this post made me
kinda excited again to start planning ahead. 🙂
Yay, GKGirl! I hope you DO end up putting in even a small garden. It’s such a good feeling to grow your own, as I’m sure you know. I always say: Cooking is my therapy, gardening is my religion. 🙂
I can just imagine the gorgeous photos you would take of your garden plants and post! Thank you for coming by my blog – great to “see” you! 😀
you know, I never really read the seed catalogs! I think I mentioned it somewhere–maybe in our book discussion–that I usually dream big of starting seeds, having an heirloom garden, but then when the time comes I just run to the local nursery and pick up whatever they have with little thought to what I’m planting other than ‘tomato’, ‘basil’, etc. But after reading this post I am so totally ordering seeds and trying for a more heirloom garden this year. I probably won’t have a total heirloom one but I want to think about it more. Plan it out better. And those catalogs! I’ve never heard of those companies but you better believe that I’m ordering catalogs as soon as I’m finished catching up with you!
Interesting discussion you and Bekah are having. My first thought was ‘sure I’ll plant some endangered species here on the homestead. We do have 400 acres after all’. But then after reading your discussion I’m wondering if there needs to be more research done rather than just blindly (do you sense a pattern here) doing something. Maybe it will upset the balance. Maybe it’s not native to this exact area. Food for thought.
Okay. I must run. Those seed catalogs are calling my name. And I have to can some chicken stock.
Hi Kristin! I used to browse them for ideas on what to plant, but until I started to seriously garden and count on outcomes, I never really dug deep (ha! pun!) for the educational tips. Now I read them for work as well as pleasure. Although it’s not really work!
I just put this post up: https://gardencookeatrepeat.com/blog/seeds-are-here/
It’s a list of what I’m hoping to plant – we do almost everything from seed, except potatoes, garlic, shallots, etc. – and our thoughts and considerations we take as we develop this year;s food plan. After all, that’s what it really is: planning out our future food!
I left you a comment on Facebook, but I’ll include it here, too. If you order seeds from Strictly Medicinal Seeds, look for their Tulsi Holy Basil: https://strictlymedicinalseeds.com/product/tulsi-temperate-holy-basil-africanum-packet-of-50-seeds-organic/
Bees love it! And, it smells wonderful.
Hope your canning went very well! I love that you can all year through! 😀