As the long cold days of winter set in, if you are like me, you are perusing seed catalogs and looking longingly at the beautiful fruits and vegetables contained within the pages. Grocery store tomatoes are hard, mealy, tasteless things and the fruits have been imported from somewhere south of the border if not from South America. A nice pantry full of home-canned produce is wonderful, but the body craves fresh things too.
Let these cues help solidify your resolve to get a garden in this spring and to produce as much of your own food as you can. Many people have found success with Square Foot Gardening and we are moving towards raised beds ourselves.
Considerations When Ordering Seeds
If you are a relative newbie to vegetable gardening, here are some things you may want to consider:
- What area of the country do these seeds thrive in? For example, there is no sense planting a variety of corn that takes 92 days to mature if you live in the North where the growing season is too short. Some seeds sites or catalogs will also give information like “produces well in hot, humid climates.”
- Can I double-crop in one season? Some vegetables, like radishes, have such a fast maturity rate that you can grow 2 different varieties in the same space. This effectively allows you to grow twice as much food in one spot.
- Which seeds are “cool weather” and which are “warm weather”? It may seem that you grow them all in the summer, so they are all for warm weather. It’s not quite that simple. This goes along with double-cropping. Carrots can go in early, but where we live, I have no success with broccoli and cauliflower in the spring. It rains and rains and then gets suddenly hot and they do not perform well. I have to wait and plant them in late August or early September so they can mature in cooler weather. Corn, on the other hand, will just rot in the wet ground if planted too early.
- Are these open-pollinated seeds? In other words, if you save your seeds, will they grow true to type again next year? Hybrid seeds have some advantages (like resistance to mildew or extra large crops sometimes), but seeds planted the following year may not perform the same way.
- How many seeds will I need to fill the allotted space? Before ordering, you will probably want to have at least a rough idea of how many plants you intend to grow or how many of each type of vegetable will fit in your raised beds, etc. One packet of zucchini seeds will likely be more than plenty. One packet of pole beans may not if your family really enjoys them, especially because any surplus can be canned for later.
- What about herbs for seasoning, teas, and homeopathic remedies? This is one of my focuses for this year. I want to establish good stands of mint, bee balm, echinacea, and so on.
When should I order?
The answer to that one is NOW. Some seed varieties sell out every year and they tend to be the ones I’d most like to grow. Some are just rare (like Hopi Pale Grey Squash) and hard to come by anyway. Occasionally, there has a been a large crop failure and seed stock is greatly reduced the following year. Make sure you get yours!
What companies carry good seed?
There are quite a few good seed companies out there and some of them even sell started seedlings to save you some work and improve your odds for success. My two favorite places are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Territorial Seed Company. They are both privately owned family-type businesses rather than parts of big conglomerations. They have a commitment to the integrity of their stock. Neither sell genetically modified seed.
After those two companies, I would look into Jung Seeds, Gurney’s, Burpee, R.H. Schumway’s, Seed Saver’s Exchange, and Henry Field’s. Some have $25 coupons on the covers that can be applied to early orders. That’s a nice incentive!
Any other favorite seed carriers you want to mention? Please leave names or links in the comments section.