Its that time of year again, when seed companies begin engulfing your mailbox with catalogs. I look forward to the bright and cheery catalogs at a time when nothing is blooming. Each company is known for its own brand of advertising, with pages full of colorful photos and drawings. Descriptions may vary slightly from one catalog to another. Some catalogs specialize in organics seed, others in heirlooms, and still others have an array of hybrids. We also get catalogs from some tree and shrub companies, such as Plant Delights Nursery and Forest Farm.
I have long pored over these catalogs, since I was 5 years old. My family grew a large, 1 acre garden each year, and I was allotted some space to try things. Between my brother and I, we tried every kind of vegetable available in the Gurney’s catalog. One year he grew epazote and Brussels sprouts while I grew spring wheat and clover. When you are trying to decide what to grow in your garden, pick things your family likes to eat, and experiment with 1 or 2 new things as well.
Picking which catalog to order from can be tricky. Many of them carry the same things as everyone else. Some have chemically treated seeds, others do not. Some of the companies have really good sounding deals, like buy $50 and receive $50 free. It is a good deal if you can find what you want in the catalog. Catalogs like Gurney’s may carry mostly hybrids, but will have notations on certain cultivars that are heirlooms.
If you want to grow all or mostly heirloom varieties, there are a number of companies to choose from. Baker Creek, Territorial, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and the Seed Savers Exchange are good ones to look through. If you are interested in mainly organic seeds, look for High Mowing Seeds, Seeds of Change, and Eden Brothers Seeds. If you do not care about either organic or heirlooms, but just want any variety or hybrid seeds, look at Gurney’s, Pinetree Seeds, or Burpee’s.
You can choose to order online if you want to, but as a gardener I love the chance to browse the colorful pages of a catalog in hand. Many times I have looked through the catalog, made my selections, and then ordered online to save time. Sometimes, however, not everything is available online, but only through the catalog. Whatever your preferred method is, do not lose the ability to receive a print catalog, I fear their days are limited.
Keep on gardening!