It’s Time to Look at Seed Catalogs!


When it comes to vegetable gardening it seems like most folks I have met fall into one of three categories. The first group is made up of heirloom seed growers. They have a Mason jar full of seed that has been passed down in their family for generations and they are not about to grow anything else. Then there are the “tried and true” gardeners who only grow the same common varieties that everyone else grows. The third group is made up of folks that love to try strange and unusual new plants in the garden. Which one of these groups has the best philosophy? Well I like all of them. After all, NASCAR wouldn’t be much fun if everyone drove a Chevy and ice cream wouldn’t be as much fun if you could only get vanilla! Regardless of which flavor of gardening you like, one thing is true. It’s time to get out those seed catalogs and get those orders in the mail.


I look forward to getting seed catalogs in the mail with the enthusiasm of a kid waiting on the arrival of the “Wish Book” before Christmas. I found that looking at the brightly colored photos of freshly harvested vegetables instantly transported me away from a North Georgia winter with visions of a bountiful summer harvest, but those visions will be wasted if I don’t get on the ball and order my seeds on time!


If you are a grower of heirloom seeds, you no longer have to limit yourself to the few varieties you have on hand. Many of the larger garden catalogs these days have sections devoted to heirloom seeds. You can find ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelon and ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato seeds along with many other old time favorites. There are also specialty catalogs available from The Seed Savers Exchange and others.


If you are devoted to tried and true varieties, seed catalogs can be helpful to you as well. Most seed catalogs contain far more varieties than your local garden center. They are helpful if you are trying to locate a favorite no longer carried locally. If you are deciding between varieties, a good seed catalog is an excellent reference source. Most catalogs give information on the days to maturity, disease resistance, and characteristics of the various vegetable varieties. If you find a variety you like in the catalog, you can always contact your local garden center and request that they start carrying it.


That’s why trying something new and different can be so much fun. It may be as simple as experimenting with a new hybrid variety that you’ve never grown and a lot of folks enjoy growing a garden novelty now and then. Many of the larger seed catalogs today carry oddities like huge sword beans and white snowball tomatoes. You can find seeds for all kinds of fun and unusual new vegetable varieties in a garden catalog. So this season you might go with the old standby or venture out and also try something new!


But before you get lost in a seed catalog, there are a few suggestions that I want to make. First, don’t forget to consider only those varieties that will grow in your USDA hardiness zone. Second, be sure to consider the disease resistance and days to maturity of varieties you are selecting. And third, be realistic about the quantity of seed you order. There might not be a need to buy enough seed to plant the entire garden in some new experimental variety. Finally, have fun. No matter which type of gardener you are, spring planting season will be here before you know it and now is the time to get ready!


The Union County Extension Office is hosting a commercial vegetable meeting in Blairsville at the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center on Wednesday February 28th.  The meeting starts at 5 PM and if you plan to attend you must contact the Union County Office by September 26th.  Please feel free to contact me if you need more information.   


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