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Seed Catalogs A-Go-Go

They start showing up right after the solstice. Taunting me with full-color photos of prize tomatoes; fantastic dahlias; and firm, bulbous garlic heads. I’m talking about seed catalogs—every gardener’s weakness.

There are dozens of seed companies in the United States. Some focus on vegetables, some specialize in flower bulbs, some offer bare-root trees and bushes. Some just grow mushrooms, some just garlic! Below is as comprehensive list as I could muster.

I tend to buy from the companies that have their test gardens in my same region and growing zone. That way, if something works well in their garden it should also work well in mine! I usually order from Territorial Seed Company, and when I was in the Gorge I also liked Irish Eyes, based in Ellensburg, Washington—their climate was closer to mine than temperate Roseburg, Oregon.

The internet is full of videos that show you how to plant starts, space your plants out, and anything else having to do with gardening. There are also a number of garden-planning software packages appearing. I rely on gardening to keep me away from my computer, so I will never use anything but a pencil and sheet of graph paper to plan my garden beds. But some people find it helpful to be reminded when to plant what and so on. And having a computerized record does make it easier to track plantings and yields from year to year.

I would be remiss to talk about gardening without putting in a plug for saving seeds. You can use them the following year, or trade some with a friend for seeds you don’t have. This only works with “heirloom” varieties, i.e. plants that aren’t hybrids. Hybrids are crosses of two different types of plant to emphasize one or more traits over others (big fruits; sturdy stalks, etc.). They are great, but the seeds their fruits produce will not grow another hybrid plant. So, you have to keep buying more seeds.

Some large corporations have taken this marketing basis one step further and try to prosecute farmers who save their seed from a “trademarked” crop, or even who are affected by cross-pollination they don’t want! This mostly affects commodity farmers of corn, soybeans and rapeseed (canola), not food farmers.

Many nurseries and gardening companies sell tools and resources as well as seeds—if you don’t see Get Your Pitchfork On! in your favorite catalog or store, please ask them to carry it.

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