2012-01-12 / Editorial

The Island Garden

Seed catalogs are coming

BY ROGER MARSHALL BY ROGER MARSHALL If you have ever bought anything from a garden website, expect to see seed catalogs coming through your doors over the next month or so. And there will be a lot of them – my pile is 6 inches high already and growing daily.

Because I start everything early and move plants into the greenhouse before transplanting to the garden, I tend to start planting early, which means that I need seeds early. Rather than order from the catalogs that have top prices and no guarantee of early delivery, I usually buy my seeds in the fall and start planting in early January.

If you are looking to order seeds from a catalog, I’d suggest looking at only a few catalogs.

(Note: Looking at too many catalogs and buying seeds from most of them results in all your friends being given a lot of small plants.)

The first catalog I love to see each year is the one from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. It is oversized and has a wide selection of heirloom seeds – that is, seeds that have been handed down from one generation to the next.

In this colorful, glossy catalog, you’ll find squashes that hail from many parts of the world with names like Pennsylvania Dutch crookneck, Long Island cheese or jumbo pink banana. You’ll find white, pink, yellow, purple, black, green and striped tomatoes. Then there are 10 pages of peppers: hot, sweet and mild, and of all colors. The bean, cucumber and lettuce sections have varieties that you’ve probably never heard of. They also come in all colors and all the seeds are organically grown. For me, this is one of the few catalogs that is worth keeping and ordering from. My biggest problem is deciding which ones to grow. I’d grow them all if I could. Find out more at Ra reSeeds.com.

Another catalog I like is the one from Renee’s Garden. For the vegetable gardener this is a catalog worth having. It has a wide selection of vegetable seeds and good prices. You can also get Renee’s newsletter that tells you the best way to grow a lot of the seeds in the catalog. I especially like the tricolor carrot package that has yellow, orange, purple and white carrots. The newest trend in growing vegetables is to grow them in containers and Renee’s has several bush type varieties that can be easily grown in containers. Check them out at ReneesGarden.com.

Yet another seed catalog that I like is the one from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They have a large selection of seeds at reasonable prices, except that its seed potato prices seem high compared to other sellers. As the company is from Maine, a well-known potato-growing state, I would not expect them to be so high. Most seed packages have good numbers of seeds that will enable you to try lots of different varieties at a reasonable cost.

If you plan on growing exotic plants you can buy them from Logee’s in nearby Danielson, Conn., or from Raintree Nurseries in Washington state. Both have a large variety of unusual plants. The big advantage that Logee’s has is that you can drive there while Raintree has to send you the plants. If you plan on buying from Raintree, I’d suggest having the delivery made in April or May so that the plants are not exposed to frost on the trip east. Similarly, any plants ordered from southern states should be shipped after the frost season.

If you plan on growing fruit trees, I’ve found that Miller Nurseries in Canandaigua, N.Y., has a hardy selection that have produced well. Its blueberries and raspberries have produced prolifically for me over the years. The apples have not done so well, but there’s an old English saying that “apple trees don’t grow well near the seashore,” and I am wondering if it is true.

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