Garden Lifestyle

New Seeds for a New Season

When temperatures are in the teens and snow is swirling outside, what can a gardener do? Grab a seed catalog and order seeds, of course.

Photo/Illustration: Ruth Dobsevage

Unlike many people, I am energized by solitude. And with a frigid, snowy Sunday in the offing, I knew just what I wanted to do: order vegetable seeds. With two woodstoves cranking, a pot of lamb/barley soup simmering in the kitchen, and the dog curled up on “his” couch, I opened my seed box, only to discover that a mouse had gotten there first. All the pea and beet seeds were gone, and some of the lettuces. Sigh. I thought we had plugged all the holes in the foundation this fall, but apparently we hadn’t (and the tiny mouse tracks in the fluffy new snow led right to an opening we had overlooked).

To the strains of Vivaldi’s “Spring” concerto from The Four Seasons (somebody at NPR has a great sense of humor), I opened my trusty Fedco catalog and began a slow browse, flagging anything that caught my eye and checking my seed stash. Did I already have beans, enough for next season? Or were the seeds too old to germinate reliably?

After a couple of hours, my order form was filled out. Yes, I could have ordered online, but I never do that. I like the process of filling out a paper form, adding up the numbers, writing a check. It’s a seasonal gardening ritual, akin to raking leaves off the planting beds or harvesting the first radish.

Halona melon   Red Marble onions.   Carnival squash.
Halona melon, Red Marble onions, and Carnival squash will be newcomers to my garden this spring. Photos:

So what did I spring for? Another packet of Blue Coco pole beans, because last year’s crop was so good. A packet of Halona melon seeds, because one of these years I am going to succeed at growing melons, and in January, everything seems possible. A sentimental order of Eight Ball zucchini, which in my days as a soccer mom, we called soccer ball squash. Carnival acorn squash, which I hope will be as gorgeous and delicious as the catalog copy promises. Red Marble onion seed (see “one of these years…” above). Okra, which I haven’t grown in several years. I love the muted yellow flowers that precede the pods. And, as they say in the infomercials, much, much more.

  In the market for seeds? Read our seed-catalog reviews

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Renee’s Garden Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (reviewed by Jodi Torpey)
Fedco Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (reviewed by Chris McLaughlin)
Botanical Interests
J.L. Hudson, Seedsman
Seed Savers Exchange
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Seeds of Change
Totally Tomatoes
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co.

Did I mention my vast collection of unusual tomatoes? I’m fond of black heirloom tomatoes, but used up all my seed last year. So I decided to try some new ones, both Russian: Black Prince and Paul Robeson. My 2009 tomato crop, 22 plants in all, succumbed to late blight. The 2010 tomato seedlings will be planted in an entirely new location, and Wapsipinicon Peach and Speckled Roman will get another chance to shine.

Seed order completed (this seed order, not all my seed orders), I put on my outdoor gear, walked the dog, shoveled the drive, and ventured into the garden for some Brussels sprouts (frozen food at its best). They were delicious with whole wheat pasta and garlic sauce, a last hurrah from the 2009 garden and, one hopes, a harbinger of good things to come in 2010.

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