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It’s Later Than You Think: Order Garden Seeds Now

Aunt Toby hates to make great hulking generalizations but this year has been one for the books.
No matter where you live, the weather has been absolutely awful and totally out of the usual in terms of cold, rain, freezes, snow (tornado warnings in Phoenix, AZ?).

No matter where you live, the economy stinks.
No matter where you live, the winter veggies you get are grown in California, Arizona, South Texas and Florida. And those areas have gotten hit very hard and have suffered huge losses this year. Prices have already gone up because availability has gone way down.

So, no matter where you live, you have probably already started to think seriously about a garden this year. And if you are like most of us, you have already put it in the pot on the back of the stove that’s in your head. You think you have time. That pile of seed catalogs is still next to the bed or the couch in the family room. You might even have your list clipped to the cover.

One small reminder:
Last year, by March, seed sellers were already reporting a) they were way behind on filling orders and b) they were running out of seed because the economy had started to make people feel they needed to have a garden to grow their own.

That was last year and we didn’t even have the winter crop destruction. Despite what the pundits have told us, the economy has NOT gotten any better (my measure of an improved economy is when I see the job listings in my local paper go up above the current one page on a Sunday). People are going to feel even more that they need to grow their own, grow more of their own, can and freeze, and get some sort of control over at least one part of their food supply. People have already started to order their seeds. I want you to imagine thousands upon thousands of seed orders winging their way over the phone, internet, and mail to seed purveyors across the country.

And your catalogs are still next to the bed.

We’re almost through January. Most of the seed producers and sellers are on the internet and accept all forms of payment other than elephant tusks. Pull out that seed list, do whatever comparison shopping you need to do between your two or three fav vendors. Go to the site or sites, pull out the plastic or whatever and order the seeds NOW.

OK, so you are not that far ahead. You are still in the “I think we should grow veggies (or more veggies) this year. If you’ve done this before, you know what to order:
1. What does your family like?
2. What will your family eat?
3. Order those things. It does not pay to order a whole bunch of things that your kids will turn their noses up at – if they will eat cherry tomatoes and you want to go wild, order a seed mix of cherries – that will give them what they like and will eat, but in a different set of colors. Easy extension. Move on from there.

If you have never, ever done this before and have a yard, then your hardest job is keeping your eyes in your head. You use the same items as above, but in a different format:
1. What does your family like that is easy to grow? Easy to grow things are: lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, squash, snap beans. These are seeds that you can literally dump into the ground and as long as you get some sun and water, they will grow and give you stuff to eat. Less easy things but still doable are: spinach, chard, anything from the cabbage family (cabbage of any sort, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, etc.). These will sprout in cool ground but need thinning to about 8” to a foot apart (the seed package will tell you), but you have to give them some protection from the little white moths (use row covers, old sheer curtains, etc.). You can order seeds from one of the vendors on the internet or wait and buy from a seed rack at your local home/garden store, grocery etc. Most of the rack seeds are from growers such as Burpee etc. Ordering from them now will just get you your seeds now – you will be buying the same seeds off the rack when the distributers get them. The one thing is that people watch those racks like hawks – so ordering your own now might be a better idea in terms of making sure you get the seeds you want.
2. Tomatoes and Peppers. For first timers, or folks who live in cool season areas, my advice is to – go to your local nursery (not your local ‘extremely large home/lumber/has a garden area’ big box store. Your local grower is going to grow the sorts of tomatoes and peppers which will work in your area. If you have never grown anything but a houseplant in a pot before, then just spend the money and get a good solid potted cherry tomato and a couple of potted pepper plants. You will want to transplant these into something like a big 5 gallon plastic bucket each with some holes in the bottom. Use a commercial growing mix half and half with soil from your garden. That will give the pots weight and they won’t blow over. Put them into a sunny spot and make sure they get water on a regular basis. When the tomatoes turn their correct color (it might be red, pink, yellow, orange..the stake in the pot will tell you); you can pick peppers at the green stage or when they reach their final luscious color (they have more vitamin C then, actually; so it’s worth the wait).

Don’t know where to find seeds on the Internet? Well, you can always type ‘vegetable seeds’ into a search engine and see the zillions of offerings. Or, you can go to this site and use their section on seeds: Dave’s Garden Marketplace

I started these seeds last week. They were on top of a heating mat with a grid on top of a piece of plywood under a fluorescent fixture in my basement. But in years past, the DH and I have successfully started seeds on top of the following:
The top of a gas stove – the pilots were on all the time and kept the top warm
A screen with a trouble light underneath it pointing up
A screen with a chick warming light underneath it pointing up.

The point is that many seeds – most actually – need some form of bottom heat, as well as moisture and some sort of covering that will hold the warmth and the moisture in.

Until the next time…oh yeah..order the seeds, ok? And when they arrive – if you are not going to plant them right away, take a ziplock™ bag, put the seeds in them, and put the whole thing into your fridge – not in the back where they can freeze, ok? The crisper works fine.

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5 Comments

  1. WolfSong says:

    A friend insisted I was crazy last year when I made my seed order in december. I also bought seeds at the local dollar store-3 pkgs for a dollar!-and was ready to go by the 2nd week of january. The same friend was in a panic when she couldn’t get what she ordered because the seed company was sold out, and she was unhappy with the substitution.

    This year, she ordered with me, and we split the shipping cost. Now, we both have exactly what we want, and are ready for seed starting in March. It pays to order early!

  2. htwollin says:

    It’s not even a case of it paying – it’s a case of even getting what you want, especially if you want something specific. Because of the Late Blight last year, I did a bunch of research and ordered in Striped German (Rodale says those are the only things that survived for them last year) with my daughter when she ordered from Johnny’s, and I ordered Legend through Tomato Growers Supply. Between the two of them, I figure we should get some tomatoes this year.

  3. kathleen says:

    I don’t have a lot of available sunlight because I live in the woods. I grow tomatoes, summer squash and lots of fresh herbs. The herbs don’t mind partial sun and fresh herbs really make a difference. Good luck with your tomatoes

  4. Aunt Toby says:

    Kathleen — one of the best gardens the DH and I ever had was in the shade of a huge maple in our old house. We grew zucchini, green beans, peas, greens of all sorts. We had to grow the tomatoes in pots in another part of the yard that had sun, though. Gardeners have to be flexible, crafty and think out of the box most of the time. I’ve totally given up on growing peppers in the ground.

  5. Miss Janey says:

    Miss J loves it when the seeds break the surface of the soil…

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