Archive for January 6th, 2011


Shopping for Seeds via Catalogs: Part I

January 6, 2011 Registered & Protected

Note:  If you received Part II first and you’re wondering where’s Part I, I just noticed that I forgot to post it yesterday. That’s what happens when I leave the house early.

If the elusive-growing season hasn’t steered your thoughts forward spring planting, browsing seed catalogs is sure to germinate enthusiasm. Cozy next to a warm fire, a hot beverage and a few catalogs and you’ll start counting the days for putting down seeds. Studying seed catalogs is a romantic occasion, when your mind fills with visions of mouth-watering produce and colorful flowers. Their scents seem to float from the photos and descriptive text as the tiny seeds considered become subject to ordering. If you haven’t experienced delirious moments while under the spell of seed catalogs, and you’re new to seed shopping, via catalog, order copies now for February planting.

Even if you don’t have space to jump-start your spring plantings with indoor sowing, or you simply prefer six-packs to seeds, there are several benefits (besides romance) for reading seed catalogs. Here are a few advantages:

  • Wider selection found beyond your local garden centers.
  • Discounts, usually offered when buying large seed units.
  • Find more annuals or perennials for your specific microclimates.
  • Learn about items you wouldn’t otherwise hear of or learn about.
  • Access to rare and unusual species that you’ll never see in garden centers.
  • Most catalogs carry a variety of garden items, many you don’t find in stores.
  • Discover the newest hybrids and unique cultivars before they reach retail outlets.
  • Get FREE seeds. How exciting is that? Many companies offer free samples. Even if the freebies aren’t what you’d normally buy, plant them for fun, use them as a gift, or donate them to a local school or community garden.

Most seed catalogs are available on the web to browse, buy, and order a free catalog. However, some companies no longer mail printed catalogs. If you know beforehand what seeds you want to purchase online buying saves time and gas. But nothing beats the hand-held catalog. Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre

Tomorrow, look for Part II with tips on choosing the right catalogs and seed ordering hints.


Shopping for Seeds via Catalogs: Part II

January 6, 2011 Registered & Protected 

Here are more tips to help make your seed selections successful.

  • Buy from local seed catalogs. Although some seed varieties will grow in just about any climate, others won’t. For a list of local catalog companies check with your cooperative extension service or master gardeners office. Look for company names on seed packets sold at a nearby nursery or garden center. Google, “seed catalog companies:  Northern California” (or whatever region you live in).
  • Order several FREE catalogs, including a couple from non-local companies just for fun. Most catalogs also offer garden tools, supplies, unique items. Once you start ordering, you’ll become familiar with their practices and learn which ones provide good costumer service, quality products, and best buys.
  • Once the catalogs start arriving in your mailbox, thumb through them. Study the ones with the most information. Look for description of taste and texture, germination temperature, preferred soil pH, growing tips, canning and freezing abilities, and disease resistance. For flowers look for size, spacing, planting season, bloom period, required light.
  • Try one or two weird varieties for fun.
  • Don’t overbuy. The whole idea of seed sowing is to save money. Think about how many zucchini your family wants to eat, how many you want to pick or try to pawn off. How much canning or freezing do you really want to do or have storage space?
  • Look for return policy, guarantee, and quantity discounts if you buy bulk.
  • If environmental practices are important to you, look for a statement on the company’s standards.
  • Some catalogs have colored pictures or sketches, while others are simple line text organized by categories on newspaper print. Color photos are important when ordering flower seeds, shrubs and trees so remember this when soliciting catalogs.
  • Once you’ve made your selections, consider ordering online for faster service.

When your seed order arrives, check the contents against the packing slip. After planting, staple each seed envelope to a blank sheet of paper for writing notations. Note things like:

  • How long it took to get your order.
  • Whether of not your order was complete. If not, how the company handled the error.
  • Did the seed envelope provide further information like location, soil preparation, planting depth and space, when to thin, mulching, seed storage, water requirements, harvest tips,  deadheading. If not, was it available online?
  • How well did the seeds germinate, develop, and produce.
  • Did the flavor, canning or freezing, and blooms live up to the company’s promises.

Tuck your notes in the proper catalog for future reference. These steps may seem like overkill. However, they’ll save time. After a few seasons you’ll know which companies you favor, varieties the whole family loves, and how much to order. 

Please add your own comments about seed catalogs. We’d love to hear your comments and experiences.

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