Sunday, November 09, 2008

It's Time to Start Planning Next Year's Garden! Online Seed Sources & Helpful Growing Tips

Seven Kinds of Basil Seeds Started on My Potting Bench 6/12 (Late!)

The Internet is an amazing resource for cooks and gardeners, but I'll never give up my cookbooks or seed catalogs. I refer back to my seed catalogs often throughout the year, checking for information on something I currently have in the garden (usually because I didn't bother to write it on the plant marker—if I even bothered to make a plant marker), looking for other varieties to try when something does well, investigating new things to grow (last week it was okra—I've decided to go from zero to three kinds next year) or sometimes just simply daydreaming. There's nothing better than curling up on the sofa or in bed during a snowstorm with a pile of seed catalogs and letting your imagination grow wild.

That said, I have to admit that Johnny's Selected Seeds, a wonderful employee-owned company in Maine, has done something very cool: they've put their entire 2008 paper catalog online. You now have the ability to browse through page by page just as if you had the book. You can even place your order right through the virtual catalog, too. It's slower than flipping through the paper version, but that's probably partly because my Internet connection isn't very fast. And it's definitely easier to search for stuff.

I'm a big Johnny's fan and have always been pleased with the seeds I've started, organic hardneck garlic I've planted (more about this one of these days!), and tools I've purchased from them—all of which come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Their catalog is one of my favorites because it's packed with growing tips and all sorts of helpful information, and I love that gardeners around the world are now able to access it. Johnny's has also started producing a series of neat how-to videos, including one on How To Use Floating Row Covers.

Like the rest of us, Johnny's has been dealing with the increasing costs of just about everything, and they're going to be raising their prices for 2009. But if you order your seeds and supplies before November 15th, you'll still receive the lower 2008 prices.

These scrawny little basil seedlings grew up & became a batch of my favorite lower fat, full flavor pesto (seeds started 6/12, transplanted into individual plugs 7/22, went into the garden in August).

I think the earliest I've ever managed to get my seed orders together was New Year's Eve, but saving money does give a girl incentive. Of course I still have dozens of packes of seeds from last year (including something like 40 varieties of tomatoes—counting the seeds I saved myself) that never got planted. Not that this has ever stopped me from ordering more.

Many of you know that my two other long time favorite seed sources are Pinetree Garden Seeds (also in Maine) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located here in Missouri. Pinetree specializes in smaller seed packets for the backyard gardener, with many costing less than a dollar—which is nice since those seed orders can really add up quickly! The seeds are top quality and they offer lots of interesting heirlooms. They also have a good selection of bulbs, plants, nifty garden products (I always seem to find some new gadget or tool I just have to have), and often bargain-priced books.

Baker Creek offers an amazing variety of rare and unusual seeds from around the world, all very reasonably priced. They also hold two seed and plant festivals each year at their southern Missouri farm that feature well known speakers from around the country. In addition, they operate, the world's largest online gardening forum that has thousands of members who make up a "hip community of heritage gardeners, natural foodies, and seed savers."

Gardens Alive, a company that sells "Environmentally Responsible Gardening Products that Work" (and the ones I've tried do) also has lots of useful information on its website. Their online library covers everything from squirrels to starting seeds indoors, and their Insects and Disease Guides might just save your supper (or your sanity).

What's your favorite seed catalog or seed company? Know any great gardening related websites? One of the things I love most about having this (often sadly neglected) garden blog is hearing from you—about your garden successes, your failures, the important things you've learned, your funny stories, or simply what's going on in the garden or what your weather's been like. So please do tell!

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and letting your sheep (even if it's just a few of them) into the garden because it has more thick, lush grass growing in it than anywhere on the farm is always a bad idea. Always. (Don't ask—though I might tell you later so I'll have someone commiserate with me. Not that you'd ever dream of doing anything that stupid. Again.)