Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of conformity on all its many fronts.
Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Playboy combined.
I am torn between reverential ceremony and childlike glee (EEEE!!!!) upon the arrival of new seed catalogs. Do I clean the whole house and then sit with pen, pencils, highlighters, notepad, calculator and coffee in hand so that I can properly focus on them or just have my 7 year-old drive up the driveway from the mailbox so I can start thumbing through them before the groceries are unloaded?
Starbucks’ cups should have seed catalog themes.
When people ask about my plant based eating they always say same three things, one of which is, “What do you eat?!”
I try to smile but what I WANT to say is, “Here, HOLD MY GIANT SEED CATALOGS. It is full of actual food and THIS is what I eat.”
I love seed catalogs and will spend the next 4 weeks pouring over them until that fateful night when my husband and I sit down to place our orders. It is our favorite date night of the year.
There is a method we use and it developed because gardening should be budgeted. I’ll be writing about budgeting in a week or so. For now, I’ll share our system.
First, know your hardiness zone.
This isn’t everything but it is based on low temperatures and that matters to plants. Don’t bother getting frustrated when you don’t see this information on many seed descriptions. It is only one determinant.
(Since this is not our first year in this location, our first step is to inventory the seeds we currently have on hand.)
Next, know if you want to plant in your native soil or if you will be augmenting it to a higher quality. For instance, if we want to plant in an area with only our native, acidic sand, we know that okra, peppers, sweet potatoes and collard greens are what we can plant with success. When we are planting in our raised beds, which are compost based, we can plant all kinds of things that are heavier feeders (meaning they require a lot of nutrients). Our raised rows are native sand mixed with seasons of cover crops and other humus. They improve every year but are not rich enough to grow everything. Our garlic beds have virtually no native soil. They are our richest and best effort. Because we are willing to go to such extremes to accommodate certain crops, we don’t limit what we buy based on soil quality.
Now, the fun begins! Get a highlighter and a writing utensil and go crazy on those catalogs! Mark and list everything that strikes your fancy. Read the descriptions. Enjoy the photos and drawings. Figure out what might meet your needs. If you plan to save seed, remember to stick with heirloom stock. If you are more concerned about documented disease resistance, try some hybrids. We like to plant both so we can save seed and have less chance of crop failure due to disease. (Remember when doing this to keep things that may cross pollinate separated). Go crazy!
Follow this “wish list party” with some reality. Decide what you may actually have room to plant by making a tentative map of your space. If you have room for 6 tomato plants, it may be overkill to order 19 varieties.
Once you have eliminated anything that has no chance of ever being planted, add up the cost of all those seeds. Does it cause you to feel tightness in the chest and emit a choking sound? If yes, cut it back further. If not, put your catalogs and your list someplace you like to relax (if you have a place like that). There is, alas, more to do before you actually place your order.
A note here: Joining Seed Savers’ Exchange has perks like discounts and a copy of their magazine. If you find yourself obsessing about seeds and all the potential therein, you may want to add a membership to your list. You’ll really feel invested in the future of heirloom seed.
We over order and end up with seeds that are years old before we give them a Hail Mary toss in the ground. It is a waste of money but we continually do it. Seeds feel better than money.
Don’t wait until you are eating from your own ground to become a locavore. Find a grower in your area. If you need help, check out www.localharvest.org
Focus on local gifts this season. Recirculate money through your own community by purchasing everything you can from the people around you. A hand sewn gift, local candles, jams, woodworking, a book by a local author, art from the art guild…all of these things make your gift touch more than just its recipient.
If you are having trouble finding people, go to your local art galleries, Chamber, heritage centers and little downtown shops. Put a letter in the local paper calling all local crafts people, artisans and producers and encouraging everyone else to shop locally.
What gifts you can’t find locally, please consider buying fairtrade.
Chew on this
Deep roots draw nutrients up from lower in the soil and help break it up as they decay far more effectively than shallow roots.
Read your seed catalogs! T’is the season!
In case you missed it, here are my recommendations for some great seeds:
www.rareseeds.com (Baker Creek) 417-924-8917
Happy eating, Katy