The holidays are over, and we’ve had snow and plenty of cold weather to make a dent in next summer’s insect population. I have no more use for winter. I’m ready for spring.
Others may be daydreaming of sunny, sandy beaches, but I am dreaming of gardens. Visions of seed catalogs and planting charts fill my mind, and I am downright giddy at the thought of planting in cool, earthy-smelling soil with the soft warmth of the spring sun on my back.
I’m not alone. Gardeners everywhere anticipate the arrival of spring. The best way to indulge in pre-gardening bliss is to snuggle up in fluffy blankets with a large mug of coffee and peruse seed catalogs. I typically don’t order all of my seeds from catalogs; some I buy from local stores. I purchase some vegetables as transplants, but seed catalogs are a great place to find new varieties to experiment with when planning next season’s garden.
Knobby pumpkins, feathery foliage and unusually colored vegetables are just a few of the delights you may come across. My favorite catalog finds last year were mini-cabbages and lettuces. These smaller-than-normal varieties are just the size I need. They are also perfect for planting in small gardens and containers.
I chose mini-greens, but mini and patio varieties are available for many different fruits and vegetables, and many even produce normal-size fruit on a more compact plant. I’ve seen mini or patio varieties of everything from bok choy and eggplants to tomatoes and watermelons.
Pelleted seeds are easier to find in catalogs. This past year, I tried pelleted carrot seed, and it is a gardening miracle. Carrots have miniscule seeds and the dissolvable, pelleted coating makes them easier to handle, thus easier to space, which saves wasted seed and time spent thinning. I find pelleted seed is also great to use when planting with children, especially in spring gardens where many seeds are small.
My true weakness when it comes to seed catalogs are flowers. I dream about having a large cut-flower garden à la Martha Stewart. Sadly, however, I do not have a team of gardeners. My husband usually reminds me of this after seeing the first draft of my seed order. But it’s fun to daydream, and I have at least 10 different varieties of zinnias, 20 sunflower varieties, and an assortment of sweet peas, cosmos and ornamental, long-stemmed cabbages from my favorite seed catalogs.
There are many interesting varieties available for flowers, vegetables and herbs, both heirlooms and new releases. You may find that you need a second or third garden, or maybe a small farm to fit all of your plants.
As much as seed catalogs are great sources for inspiration, they also provide information to help you narrow down your choices. One flower that I will actually order this year is ‘White Finch,’ which I’ve been obsessed with since I saw it at the University of Georgia’s Research and Education Garden in the research pollinator garden on the UGA Griffin campus last year. To me, it looks like a cross between yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace. Because small-space garden flowers must play multiple roles, I was ecstatic to learn that not only is it great for attracting beneficial insects, but it also doubles as a cut flower and can be dried as well. Having information on hand about each variety makes it easier to decide which varieties make the cut and which ones will grow well in my area.
Though winter may still be around in full force, the time for planning gardens is now.
For more information on planting a spring garden in Georgia, read UGA Cooperative Extension Bulletin 577, “Home Gardening,” at extension.uga.edu/publications.
(Alicia Holloway is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Barrow County.)
Whether you are searching for pelleted seed, unique vegetables or hard-to-find flowers, seed catalogs are full of every kind of seed a gardener could imagine.Download Image