There is one activity each winter that always seems to do the trick when it comes to keeping our minds off of the frigid temperatures, blowing wind and seemingly ever-expanding pile of snow outside. No – it’s not building a roaring fire in the fireplace, or pouring a hot cup of coffee – or even preparing a favorite comfort meal like roasted chicken. It’s actually none other than the annual ritual of burying ourselves in the latest seed catalogs that arrive in the mailbox!
Much like an avid reader looking forward to the latest release from their favorite author – we never seem to tire of devouring every single seed catalog we can can get our hands on each winter. There is something so energizing, invigorating and beautiful about looking through all of the incredible photographs of the plants and vegetables. Not only does it turn our thoughts toward Spring, and keep our minds off of the gloominess of Winter – it’s also a great way to find and try the latest and greatest heirloom seeds for next year’s garden.
Although we save many ornamental and heirloom seeds from our plants each year, there are some like our tomato, cucumber and pumpkin seeds that we purchase each year to insure that our seed stock is pure. In addition, we love to find new varieties of all types of vegetables to try in our test beds. With all of the selection now in so many of the magazines – we become much like a “kid in the candy store” when deciding what new things to try each year.
Late fall and the cold snowy winter months are a great time to start planning out your spring and summer garden – and the catalogs provide the perfect avenue for inspiration.
Most all of the seed companies now have beautiful websites and electronic catalogs that can be a great way to research and learn about all of the available varieties. But for us –call it nostalgia or just plain old-fashioned – I don’t think we will ever stop loving the feel of the traditional catalogs – there is just something so beautiful about seeing the heavily worn pages or the dog-eared corners in late march, denoting our favorite selections that will make their way into the new season’s garden
Although there are so many great ones to choose from – here are three of our favorites when it comes to winter garden and seed catalogs:
Garden Seed Catalogs:
Bakers Creek / Rare Seeds Catalog
Without question the full size Baker Creek / Rare Seeds Catalog book is one of our absolute favorite reads every year. Not only is the photography of the huge selection of available heirloom vegetable plants gorgeous – the catalog is filled with thousands of great descriptions and interesting stories on how and where the seeds were collected.
They do charge for the full book ($7.95) – but there are many libraries across the country that carry a copy that you can check out for free.
Baker Creek also offers a great free catalog of their seeds that can be sent right to your door – with great descriptions of a huge variety of vegetables from all over.
Seeds Savers Exchange
The 100 page color catalog, in much the same spirit as Baker Creek / Rare Seeds, tells wonderful stories about the heritage of the seeds – and is chock full of information to educate gardeners of all ages. It seems that every year, I always learn something that I never knew before opening up their pages.
Seed Savers Exchange is unique in that is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage.
According to their website – much of their mission is to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants at their 890 acre farm in Iowa.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Johnny’s was the first catalog that we ever purchased seeds from – starting out with a packet of Purple Cherokee and Brandywine tomatoes, along with a few selections of sugar snap peas and beans. We also purchased our initial stock of black pearl ornamental peppers from them a few years back – adding to the growing collection of ornamental peppers we grow and save seeds from each year.
One of the cool things about Johnny’s is that it is a 100% employee owned company – and I love that many of their customer service representatives are Master Gardeners, which can be so helpful to those who need a little more info when ordering.
I am really excited this year because we will be purchasing Beauregard sweet potato stock from them to grow our first sweet potatoes ever at the farm!
Here is to enjoying a little rest and relaxation through the winter months – and some great reading to get you primed up for a great 2016 gardening season!