Seed Catalog Fun

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Seed Catalog Fun

About now, in the mail (and increasingly in my email inbox), they begin to arrive.

No, not bills, although they also appear, but seed catalogs. Like additional Christmas presents, they start showing up about a week before the big holiday, and then for weeks afterward. By the end of January, I usually have a large stack of catalogs waiting for me beside my favorite chair. Seeds for vegetable gardening and beautiful flowers entice me, but I make myself lay them aside until I can really look and choose what I want to grow.

Those companies which aren’t completely paperless, have expanded their catalogs so they are now magazine-like in nature. All those pretty pictures, and once I look between the covers, all those choices. From their pages, they call, “Select me. No, no, choose me!”

Once I put away the Christmas lights, I feel I can give them the attention they deserve. In my garden, I grow both flowers and vegetables. In fact, I have a potager (kitchen garden) just outside my kitchen door where I plant cool crops first and later, summer veggies and herbs.

First thoughts run something like this:

  • Which will I plant as seeds? Of the early crops, I usually choose spinach, lettuce, chard, beets, peas (snow, snap and shelling), carrots and turnips. Add to them the delicious Asian greens like tatsoi and pak choy for stir fry.
  • Although they can be grown from seeds, I choose onion sets instead to speed up things. Potatoes are purchased small and planted outdoors in my area around St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Which will I need to buy locally as plants, or sow indoors under grow lights? Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower come to mind.
  • Which warm crops must be started indoors and when? Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are those I start about two months before my last frost date. Later, I think about green beans and other warm crops which can be planted directly outdoors once the soil warms.
  • Flowers, flowers and more flowers. Although much of my garden is perennial, I always grow zinnias, morning glories, cosmos and sunflowers for splashes of bright color.

I grab myself a mug of piping hot cider or tea, a pad of paper and a pen, my garden journal, and with great anticipation I begin. The garden journal is for reference, showing the successes and failures of the previous year. What will I grow? The possibilities seem endless, but I manage to narrow things down a bit. I know I’ll grow lettuce and spinach, but even then, there are so many varieties from which to choose. A lettuce “must have” is Black-seeded Simpson for its gorgeous spring green color and reliability. Bloomsdale Long-standing spinach is a good one for my garden. I’ve tried others which never produced and bolted far too quickly in early heat. Yes, definitely those two.

However, I turn the page, and I see an entire section of “Other Greens.” A photograph of beautiful red orach lights up the page with color, and I want it. Because I’ve never tried it before, I pick a mix of greens which contains orach. That way, if I don’t like it, I won’t have four rows of it growing in the potager, a hasty mistake I’ve made before.

I take a sip of tea, focus and line out my choices. At the top of the pad, in my own shorthand, I write the name of the seed company, type of seed, page # and price. Then, I move onto the second catalog and the third. I check my journal to see if a particular seed did well, and if so, did my family like it? Which flowers did I enjoy the most? Which fell over in the wind? Which were the prettiest and so it goes.


In what seems only a moment or two, I realize my drink has grown cold, and over an hour has passed. Oh, but what an hour. I’ve now gone through only a few catalogs, and I have a list a mile long. I’ll spend another cold winter’s night trimming it, but soon, my strategic plan is certain, and packets of seed are on their way.

Now, if only spring will quickly come. I’ve got planting to do.