Gardeners, take heart! It’s time for perusing those seed catalogues, or perhaps taking in a seed swap or two. While the weather outside might be cold or stormy, that’s all the more reason to snuggle up with a list of the seeds you’d like to plant this year.
But then there’s the big question: with your red marker by your side (all the better to circle things, my dear!) how do you decide what to order? Here are a few questions to guide you in your choices:
What do you eat?
This is probably the most important question. What do you enjoy eating? Make sure that you order a selection of plants that you’ll enjoy eating – and ask your children what they like as well!
What else grows well in your garden’s specific growing conditions?
I give myself a small budget for new seeds every year. These are the seeds that I’m trying out. They may grow and produce, or they may fail miserably. Who knows until I try? Since my space is limited and my budget is as well, I try out a few new varieties each year.
Planning an heirloom garden?
What is the maintenance like?
I love tomatoes. I do not like watering. For me, tomatoes need to grow near my house or not at all. Are there plants that work well for the time and energy you have available? Grow them!
When can you start the seeds?
Keep your garden space and gardening season in mind when you order your seeds. If you live in a cool climate, hot weather plants like tomatoes and squash may not do well until quite late in the spring. You’ll need to choose varieties with a shorter growing season. If you live in a warm climate that gets very hot in the summer, aim to grow your cool-season crops before the heat descends and they bolt.
Will you get more seed from your plants?
Choose open-pollinated seeds instead of hybrids for at least some of your crop, and you’ll be able to save the seeds that these plants produce. Over time, this means that you’ll develop a locally-adapted strain of seeds that works well in your garden. Hybrid seeds have desirable characteristics, but they may not pass on those characteristics to the next generation, meaning that the seeds you save from hybrids will hold more surprises.
How much seed should you get? Take a look at the weight or seed count for each package, particularly if you’re ordering online or from a catalogue. That great deal on seeds may not be so good if there are few seeds in the package.
What are your friends ordering? Can you share your seeds with a friend if the packages are large and your garden is small? Perhaps you can share shipping as well.
What is the shipping like? Since shipping a single package of seeds can be pricey, I tend to choose a few seed catalogs instead of – oh – twenty so I save on shipping.
What are the ethics of the company? I look for companies that cultivate organic, heirloom varieties of seed and that seek out seeds that are well-adapted to my local region. This allows me to save seed and choose varieties that will do well in my climate.
Here’s to many happy hours with those seed catalogues this winter!