Archive for February, 2012

Gone to seed…

Yes, we’re still here… Needless to say, last fall got a bit hectic. And then Christmas happened. And suddenly it’s nearly a year since I started this blog & nearly six months without a post. Time to fix that… thanks for hanging in there!

Regardless of what that sodding groundhog thinks, spring is on its way, & it can’t come soon enough this year. We’ve been cursed with an unnaturally warm winter here in south central Pennsylvania, with only one decent snowfall since November. I know there are many out there who would celebrate a season free from shoveling & salting & snow days, but I see winter as a very necessary pause in the year. It’s my re-set button, forcing me to slow down & reflect & breathe before launching into another year. No such luck this turn of the wheel, it seems, so I’m chomping at the bit to get spring underway.

It’s still a little early to start digging (and tempt Mother Nature into flinging us into a freak deep freeze), so I have to content myself with the planning stages of this year’s garden. We’ve only got so much space, most of it automatically spoken for by the large variety of tomatoes we like to grow, but that doesn’t stop me from poring over heirloom seed catalogs like some girls browse the make-up counter…

Top of the pile this year is the Landreth Seed Catalogue. The oldest seed house in America, Landreth puts out an annual catalog that is well worth the $5 cover price. It is beautifully printed by a small press in Baltimore, & is a refreshing change from the glossy magazine-style catalogs. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, packing a ridiculous amount of information into some variety’s entries while being maddeningly vague about others, but the reproductions of antique seed adverts, detailed plant biographies & thoughtfully curated collections make up for that. The Landreth catalog is one to pore over for weeks, to pass along to trusted friends, to dogear & mark up & generally treat like a working heirloom. At least, until next year’s edition arrives.

A new company for me is John Scheepers, and I am indebted to my mum for passing their catalog along to me. Delicately illustrated with tinted line drawings, their catalog makes up for a more modest selection of varieties with very thorough descriptions, detailing optimal growing conditions, yield, appearance, flavor & suggested uses in a concise, easy to browse format. John Scheepers is also one of the oldest & most prestigious flower bulb importers, so check out their main site for pretty things to brighten your flower beds…

While they no longer offer a printed catalog, it’s worth firing up the computer to browse through the offerings at the Victory Seed Company, especially if you’re looking for unusual plants. They’ve got an especially lovely selection of beets, & if y0u’ve wanted to try your hand at growing ornamental tobacco, they can get you started. I particularly enjoy their annual & bi-ennial flower selection, as there are lots of old fashioned varieties that you don’t often find anymore.

A relative newcomer to the seed world, Seeds of Change has rapidly become a well respected powerhouse, offering a carefully curated selection of quality certified organic seeds & starts. They are particularly sensitive to the non-traditional gardener & have a great section of their site devoted to urban & container gardening. Best of all, they offer their print catalog in downloadable PDF format, so you can print your own & save a bit of time & a few trees.

Aaaaand of course, there’s the Burpee catalog. While it won’t win too many points for artistry or esoteric varieties, there’s a reason Burpee’s one of the most recognized names in home gardening – they are fast, easy & accessible, & their ready-to-ship plants are a boon for gardeners without the patience or time to grow their own from seed. I will say, Burpee has noticeably stepped up the organic & heirloom offerings in recent years, & they carry several of our go-to varieties. They aren’t particularly cheap, & I’ve heard mixed reviews of their seed performance, but they’re a pretty safe, well established source.

So, that’s a partial list of what I’ve been poring over these grey February days. Another few weeks & I’ll place our orders & get started on our makeshift seedling nursery – I’ll be saving our lettuce boxes & clear egg cartons in earnest. What are you doing to get ready for planting season?


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