The seed catalogs are piling up and I am eagerly anticipating a stretch of time in which to dream and shop for this year’s selections. Don’t wait too long or the best varieties may be gone. Plus, some seeds require extra time before they are ready to go into the garden.
Here are some things to consider when you are browsing through those gorgeous catalogs.
• Do you have these seeds already? Many seeds remain viable for several years. If you bought seeds last season, with a few exceptions, they should be good for this year’s garden as well. Exceptions include cosmos, onions, pelleted or pre-treated seeds, and perhaps lettuce. I have good luck with old lettuce seeds but some folks have problems. If you are in doubt, you can always conduct a germination test — layer seeds between damp paper towels for up to 10 days and see how many sprout. If the germination is low, get fresh stock.
• Did you like the varieties you grew last year? With some vegetables, there are enormous differences between varieties. Picture a desire for a bread-sized slice of tomato versus the much smaller and less juicy slice of a Roma type. That may be an exaggeration but some tomatoes are sweet, others not so much, yellow beans are different than green beans, and a melon plant that produces yards and yards of vines might not work for you. Read descriptions carefully and don’t be fooled by the marketing photos.
• Prioritize indoor seed starting. Starting seeds indoors is an enjoyable way to save money and get exactly the variety you want. However, most of us have limited space for growing seedlings at home. You can opt for growing a large number of annuals for just a few dollars, thus getting more flowers for your time and money. You could choose to start a variety of perennials from seed. Most perennials take a long time to germinate and become large enough to transplant outside and they may also require special steps like cold stratification or scarring. But you can get a packet of perennial seeds for just a few dollars and with attention to detail and a bit of patience, have a rich array of long-lasting plants that you have nursed from infancy. Purchased perennials are often quite pricey.
• What’s available locally? I am lucky to have a wide choice of garden centers from which to buy plants. One local greenhouse has a rich assortment of tomato and pepper varieties so I have cut back on the number of tomato and pepper seedlings that I grow. Likewise, instead of starting several kinds of onions, I start my main crop seedlings and supplement with nursery-bought red and extra-sweet types. This leaves me more room to start flowers indoors.
• Seeds or plants? Many companies now offer “plugs,” or pre-started plants. You can get seedlings of flowers, vegetables and even native grasses. Ordering actual plants instead of just seeds can provide you with a much wider choice of varieties than your local greenhouse or nursery may provide. These plants are usually shipped at the correct time for planting and are often guaranteed. They aren’t always cheap but may be worth it to you.If you don’t have time or space to start your own seeds and if you don’t have access to a good local grower, buying pre-started plants can be an enormous help.
• Get started. No matter if you start seeds indoors or not, it is time to get those orders placed! Whether you try some new hybrids, opt for tried and true or choose from this season’s award winners, let’s get growing.
Beverly Carney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.