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Seed Catalogs: Still Worth Reading!

I hope everyone had a good weekend; if you celebrate US Thanksgiving, by now you have probably exhausted the left over turkey and are emerging from the tryptophan stupor. All I can say is – look upon this coming week as an opportunity for you to eat a LOT of fiber and try to get your digestive system in some sort of equilibrium before the onslaught of pre-Christmas entertaining.

To the topic at hand: seed catalogs.

With the advent and embracing of the internet by retail seed sellers, the whole convenient factor inherent with going to a site, ordering seeds and paying might seem to doom paper catalogs to the ‘ash heap of history’, but they really are quite useful. Seed houses are always looking for new/different/foreign/trendy plants and seeds. That’s in their DNA (so to speak) and certainly from a marketing standpoint, this is one of the major ways they differentiate themselves for the competition. If everyone sold the same varieties, there would be no need for there to be so many different retailers in the field. Even with specialization, you’d think there are only so many varieties of short season tomatoes, for example.

But the problem is that people are constantly discovering new and old varieties of flowers, fruits and veggies and sometimes, your particular fav might just go off the radar. And if all you have is your memory that you like a certain variety of green bean, and there’s been a crop failure or disease outbreak, you might just find, if you use the ‘go to the site and search on variety name’, that you are out of luck. And, conversely, old favorites which have gone out of commercial production may be resurrected, but if you haven’t found it in your searches for a while, you might think that it’s…just…not…available.

Enter, catalogs. This seemingly oldest of marketing forms has a definite place next to your easy chair or bedside table because (especially at this most dark and chilly time of the year), hope definitely ‘springs eternal’ with an application of well-written plant copy with a generous dusting of color photographs or drawings. Once you sit down to read all the entries on tomatoes or peppers, for example, you’ll discover that there are a whole lot of items that you never knew had come into commercial production just for people like you and me.

Example:
I have now read in several of my catalogs about a tomato from Argentina (!), which is being described as ‘sprayless’, virtually bugproof. For those of us who live in warmer/more humid climates where raising tomatoes is a constant battle with tomato hornworm and other critters, this is a tomato that should interest a lot of people. It’s called “Peron” (wouldn’t you know) and I can tell you that this is a completely new to the catalogs tomato. Last year? Not there. If I had not gotten catalogs to read, I never would have known about it. (Pine Tree Garden Seeds)

Prima Rose Swiss Chard (Totally Tomato) Now, those of you who visit here know that we love our Rainbow Chard at Chez Siberia (still have it out in the garden too), but this is completely different. Rainbow Chard is colorful with it’s red/orange/yellow/white/green ribs and veins in the leaves, but the leaves are still bright green. It’s darned decorative, but Prima Rose has it beat: Beet red in the stems AND the leaves. Very decorative stuff and could be a great ‘edible lanscaping’ candidate. I wouldn’t have known about this except that I get and read the catalog.

Purple Tionfo Violetto Beans (Pine Tree Garden Seeds): We’re big fans of purple bush beans for their earliness and ability to handle cool conditions, but we’ve never seen another purple bean. This is new, from Italy. It’s not a bush bean but is supposedly superior and very ornamental, so it might be worth putting up a trellis to have them. But again, I’d never have known about them if I had not gotten the catalog and sat down and read it.

Now is a great time to sit down with your catalogs; if you aren’t on any seed companies’ mailing lists (and I don’t know how you’ve escaped unless you have not ordered seeds recently), now is the time to visit some sites and order some catalogs so that you can get started with dreaming up your garden for the spring.

You might want to search on ‘seeds for xxx” (where ‘xxx’ stands for your region of the country) or, seeds for a particular type of flower or vegetable or a particular hardiness of vegetable (peppers for short season areas, etc.). Once you get on a mailing list and get your catalogs, it’s time to hunker down with your favorite hot beverage and give these ‘dream books’ a good read, with your marker in hand to circle varieties that look interesting or useful to you.

Bon appetite!!

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One Comment

  1. WolfSong says:

    IMHO, seed catalogs are a necessity for a gardener, even if just to give us something to read and dream about for next season.

    I swear, those catalogs are the only thing that keep me sane during the long, dark, winter months! Well, those and coffee. 🙂

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