seed-shopping tactics (plus a podcast)

garden cartoon on seeds by andre jordan

I‘M WORKING ON RESTRAINT over here, trying not to order every single thing I scribbled on catalog covers and Post-it’s I stuck all over them the last two weeks as I browsed hungrily on the first pass. It’s a good time to review my seed-catalog shopping “rules” (not too strict, just practical, hopefully–about how to decide what to give your precious vegetable-garden space to this year), perhaps while you stream this week’s podcast on the subject, or get it from iTunes? (Doodle by Andre Jordan.)

  1. Kaveh says:

    I let my seed ordering addiction overcome me the past month and went a little crazy. I vow I won’t so much as look at another catalog now. There comes a time when you have to say enough is enough.

    Though now that I think of it I may need to order a few more seeds for my new veggie garden.

  2. Anne says:

    Excited to try several varieties that are new to us from the little company in NC that has all open pollinated seeds. We want to grow several new things, but we’re also trying to keep it simple enough that we can succeed.

  3. Galen says:

    I do my very best to buy seeds that are open pollinated so that I can expand the variety of plants I can grow each year. This also keeps seed costs from being too much each year. During the growing season I let a few plants of each variety go to seed. Harvesting seed from many plants is very easy, the hard part I find is in keeping track of which varieties not to plant in close proximity to prevent cross pollination.

  4. I recently came out of the closet as a seed addict. Each year, I have to talk myself through the impulse purchases and remind myself that I am not a commercial grower. My problem is that when I look through the catalogs, everything looks so inviting. Over the years I have learned to narrow seed selection down to what I enjoy growing the most — geraniums and impatiens, for no other reason other than I can. I then save space for the easy seeds, like zinnias. And I will reward myself with a seed that presents more of a challenge, like gerbera daisy or bird of paradise. It’s a yearly struggle — perhaps there should be a support group? Seedaholics Anonymous?

  5. Sarah says:

    I have to admit I haven’t started yet, although I need to. The budget insisted that I wait until next month, so I’ve been using that as my excuse. What it really means, though, is that I have time to budget the exact amount instead of a wild estimate so I need to get cracking.

  6. Michele says:

    Margaret, I’m a new gardener in the high desert of Southern California, we are almost done with the 20x30ft glass house we’ve been building, and I am getting ready to do a fairly big garden this spring! I am so excited!! We experimented last summer and fall, but without a roof on the glasshouse, lost everything (except the lettuce, parsley, cilantro, and radishes) with the first freeze(as expected). My main question is about the lettuce – it never really actually grew with the cold weather, but it’s still green/alive, just stayed very small. Will they grow when it warms up? Or should I pull them and start with new seeds come spring? I’m sure I’ll have many other silly questions, but your blog is the best one I’ve come across, so far, searching for information, and I appreciate your time and answers! I hope I’ve posted this in the appropriate place, if not, please forgive me :-). Also, can I freeze onions, whole? I’ve just starting canning, as well, and would like to preserve almost everything we grow – wondered about those onions…

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Michele. Easy ones first: Freezing onions is usually recommended to be best when chopped first, like this.

      As for greenhouse growing in a high-desert environment, it’s beyond my realm of experience, but I see that someone has a website and wrote a book about it (click that green link)…but what I’d do right off is start with your country cooperative extension, since they help both gardeners and farmers and are locally specific in their advice. Find your office here.

      Sorry not to know personally, but thank you for the very nice compliments and hope to see you again soon.

  7. Anne says:

    Hi Margaret, This is off topic here but I want to say how grateful I am for your directions on freezing parsley logs. The method works beautifully and it is supremely delightful to enjoy vibrantly green and perfectly fresh tasting parsley this winter.

  8. Phil says:

    Hi Margaret, how many varieties do you generally plant of each vegetable? Obviously there are common mainstays like tomatoes and greens that many people like to plant several species of, but for things like carrots, beets, garlic, beans, do you do a couple varieties of each?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Phil. Nice to see you. Depends on the vegetable. I usually plant several beets (some are better keepers, some earlier to yield, some for their “tops” more than roots), same with carrots. Garlic I plant a strain of ‘German Extra Hardy’ that I have been selecting from for many years, so I always use my own stock. Beans I plant a few bush types and a few pole types — a flat-podded of each, a gold, a traditional, a filet skinny type. So I mix it up in almost every case to lengthen the season or increase the variety of tastes/colors/textures.

      @Anne: So happy to hear it helps. Much better than spending $$$$ all year on fresh parsley when you usually only need a little at a time. For the price of one bunch at the grocer you can grow the year’s worth, right?

  9. Debi says:

    Hi Margaret, just heard pod cast on seed shopping an wanted to mention I use tongue depressors that I get at my local pharmacy as plant markers. 500 in a box for about $8.00!

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