It’s an exciting time to open the mailbox as seed catalogs are beginning to make their way into hopeful gardeners’ hands. Whether or not you took the winter off, you can begin dreaming of spring flowers and summer harvests. So brew a cup of hot tea, grab a catalog and a pen and get dreaming!
Why seeds? In this cash-strapped economy seeds give you more bang for your buck. While one plant may cost you $4 you could buy a packet of 100 seeds for the same price. And if all of your plants die (which for me happens way too often) you don’t feel so bad. Plus even if you too have the “black thumb of death” you might still have some seeds left in the packet to start again.
The main thing is to be practical when seed shopping. There are so many options it is easy to get overwhelmed or carried away, but start by writing a list. If you want to grow food, write down a list of items you and your family eat on a regular basis. Then get a couple packets of something unique and fun as well. Remember how much gardening space you have, as well as the time you have to devote to your garden.
Many easy to grow seeds require minimum maintenance once the soil is prepared (just water and sunshine). Others are high maintenance, but sometimes truly worth your time. Most companies offer free mail catalogs or online versions in case you don’t want to wait. Here are some great companies to look for: Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Burpee, Seeds of Change and two California based companies, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply and Renee’s Garden.
Companies that offer heirloom seeds are fantastic, as many of the varieties are unique and time tested. If you’re looking for the hottest pepper on earth or a gorgeous “Cinderella” pumpkin (Rouge vif D’Etampes) these catalogs will have them. Catalogs and websites offer a selection that far surpasses what you’ll see in most stores so shop around.
Once your seeds arrive read the label thoroughly. We’re in climate zone 8b or 9 depending on who you ask, though many packets just simply say plant after last frost, which for us is usually the very end of February. Cold hardy varieties can be planted sooner and others can be started indoors. The label will let you know what to do.
If you still have questions you can usually find the answer online or, even better, call the Tulare County Master Gardener helpline on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at 684-3325 or 684-3326.
Until then, just browse and dream via seed catalogs.
And maybe have another cup of tea.