As inclement winter weather settles in, we remove the frosted summer vegetable and flower plants out of our gardens and contemplate the now-bare beds and think of spring.
Seed catalogs begin arriving in the mail in the fall and early months of the new year and offer colorful and tantalizing dreams of what the next growing season ahead may hold. Many of us enjoy sitting down with these catalogs and perusing the many offerings, both familiar and untested, imagining the delicious spring greens or summer tomato dishes that will grace our tables. Some seed or plant catalogs are packed with information. Others are filled with not just seeds to buy, but stories about those who saved and preserved rare or noteworthy vegetables, so that in growing them, we grow a story as well as a plant with traits worth preserving. Some plant catalogs are inspirational as well as educational, and are strewn with an array of flowers we have never met, in color combinations we have never imagined. Promises of joy are found on each page.
Rather than doing a survey of all that the catalogs that are available, I have chosen a few that are particularly informational and inspirational, and that have a range of varieties to chose from that will preform well wherever you live. The catalogs are free.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog is an excellent practical primer on vegetable, herb and cut-flower growing, with book-length information included. It is a valuable asset for both the home gardener and the commercial grower. The information is a study in the concise and is presented in a no-frills format that can be read at a glance. From photographic lineups where different varietals of vegetables are displayed side-by-side for easy comparison and selection, to comprehensive growing information, there are many facts packed into each page. The catalog offers hybrids and heirloom or open-pollinated varieties and many disease-resistant vegetables. Most of the varieties offered have wide regional adaptability. The photos are informative, but not inspiring, but the information contained is invaluable. The seeds are high quality and dependable. In the first couple of pages, general seeding rates per acre or by the foot for each crop, and average yields by 100’ or per acre are clearly delineated in easy-to-read charts. This is followed by days-of-sowing-to-transplant-size information and days-from-transplanting-to-mature-crop timelines. As you flip through the catalog, each vegetable variety has a sidebar containing very specific information such as culture, transplanting, direct seeding, row covers, diseases, insect pests, ripeness, storage, days to maturity, average seeding rate, seed specifications, and packet seed count.
The catalog lists vegetable varieties by type. Rather than group beans or melons into just one heading, they divide them up into different kinds. Beans are divided into bush and pole types — both round and flat podded. Also included are filet beans, yard long, fresh shell, lima, fava and soy. The melon section has many succulent selections and lists them as cantaloupe, French, honeydew, Crenshaw, and Galia or tropical melons. Each variety has a block of information describing each melon type. Of particular note are the Galia types. These very productive cantaloupe-like melons from Israel have perfumed, succulent, very juicy green flesh rather than orange. The flavor is extremely sweet and has strong hints of citrus, banana, and pineapple. Johnny’s ‘icebox’ type small watermelons come in yellow, white and orange and are particularly tasty. For those wanting to grow microgreens and salad greens, the selection and display of them is unparalleled.