Monday, November 26, 2007

What's Growin' On 11/26/07:
The Mailbox Says It's Spring Planning Season!

Tempting, Oh So Tempting. . .

Realization Of The Day:
The seed catalogs are already piling up!

Last Thursday I, along with zillions of other Americans, consciously thought about the many things I'm thankful for. When it comes to the garden, I am of course thankful for the glorious, year-round bounty my endless toiling it provides me: all the amazingly flavorful (and beautiful!) lettuce and spinach and peppers and tomatoes and potatoes and turnips and cucumbers and beans and greens and beets and kale and Swiss chard and arugula and garlic and herbs and flowers and especially the broccoli that I only very rarely manage to successfully grow.

But I'm even more thankful for something else from the garden, and it isn't even edible: it's the annual ability to completely forget every single disaster and disappointment of the year and start excitedly planning next spring's garden before winter has even begun.

The seed companies know all too well that we gardeners come down with this strange, yet oh-so-convenient affliction. In fact they bank on it. Yes, just moments after the most pitiful tomato harvest in a decade has faded to a hazy memory, the seed catalogs quietly begin to arrive. Next year will be different, we tell ourselves as we begin casually flipping through the first one, eyes glazing over, brain whirring a million miles an hour as we mentally (and effortlessly!) expand the garden to ten times its current size and fill non-existent pantry shelves with 3,000 jars of neatly preserved bounty.

Next year there will be no squash bugs! Next year the blister beetles will spend the summer somewhere else! Next year there will be more tomatoes than I know what to do with! Next year it will be 62 degrees and partly cloudy for 199 days in a row! Next year absolutely everything in the garden will be picture perfect!

Oh, how happy the seed companies will be when they see our largest, most ambitious orders yet!

We can't help it. And really, why should we? For just a few dollars (okay, for some of us it's more than just a few), our seed orders buy us endless winter hours spent happily planting and plotting and harvesting more than we could ever possibly eat. In our dream gardens there exists nothing but pure, unbugbitten success. Sometimes I think December and January are actually the most productive months in my garden.

You may have noticed that these are 2007 seed catalogs in the photo. That's because I'd planned to write this post a year ago. I guess I got carried away drooling over poring through them all instead. I was so proud of myself when I faxed in a seed order on New Year's Eve--the earliest I'd ever placed one. I figured it was a sign of things to come--this would be the year I did everything on time, or even early! Instead I found myself frantically behind in more ways than I ever thought possible from January through September, even for me. I actually bought tomato plants.

But that's all over now. And there's nothing but a whole new gardening year ahead.

There are certain varieties of seeds I faithfully order year in and year out, and of course I save lots of my own seeds, too. But I always like to grow a certain number of new things each year as well. I'm especially drawn to old and rare heirlooms, which my beloved Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds here in Missouri specializes in. Their 2008 catalog hasn't arrived yet, but the one from my other tried and true supplier, Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine, has.

A brief look through it already has me eyeing some new offerings, including Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes ("It's like one of those urban legends--we've been hearing about it for years. . . attractive, crack resistant, uniform fruit provide just the right balance of both sweet and tart flavors."), Midnight Ruffles lettuce ("This new variety from an Oregon breeder is the darkest red lettuce we've seen, almost black in color."), and Welsh onions ("This perennial is used like chives but the flavor is substantially stronger.")

I hope to write about some of my favorite varieties of veggies in the upcoming weeks, along with some of the ones that won't be making second appearances in my garden. In the meantime, what are your favorites and--perhaps more importantly--your least favorites? Or are you buried under a pile of seed catalogs?

Copyright © 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.


  1. Glad to see you're back - hope you had a good Turkey Day.

  2. I spent last night poring over that very same Pinetree catalog. I'm interested in the Miner's Lettuce, and I'd be ordering Cosmonaut Volkov (with a name like that, how can you not?) except that I got a few seeds for free from the WinterSown tomato offer. I do definitely plan to order the Walla Walla onions--I grew up in Washington and I miss their flavor. As for the rest, I'm a gardening newbie, so everything is exciting to me. I did try the Toga eggplant from Seed Savers and didn't like it a bit...very pretty, but no use for eating.

  3. You've described perfectly that cruel optimism gardeners share... This year I want to try growing "Beer Friend" edamame (how can you not, with a name like that) and, on your recommendation, Bright Lights Swiss chard!

  4. I always enjoy slip-sliding down the hill on a sheet of ice and prying open the mailbox to pull out a stack of seed catalogs. It's like opening a little window of anticipation of spring.


  5. I like Bright Lights Swiss Chard, too. I've tried Cosmonaut Volkov, but it didn't perform well in my garden. Perhaps it's due another chance.

    Gardening is like being a Cubs fan: there's always next season!

  6. That's the one positive thing at this time of year, the seed catalogues! Full of hope and excitement for the year to come. It is so gloomy here right now, almost up to the shortest day!

  7. I got two catalogs new to me yesterday. "Totally Tomatoes" and "The Vermont Bean Catalog". I'm already drooling over next years tomatoes.

    mss Zanthan Gardens

  8. The catalogs have just started rolling into our mailbox too. I'm drooling and I'm not even done with 2007 yet... :)

  9. Waiting for more snow this evening; you must be, too. Can't figure out where you are in Missouri (NE or NW or NC), but I'm in Columbia. I'm going to be following your blog throughout the year. I have had an organic garden here in the middle of the city since 1971, when I moved from NYC, but my current location provides the most difficulties. Garden gets overrun with squash bugs and flea beetles and this summer a doe or fawn ate all my impatiens! However, my most obnoxious raider is Nixon, the Woodchuck!! Dang that dastardly desperado!! One year I grew a most fabulous stand of flagelot beans surrounded (and protected, I thought) from mirauders by a sturdily crafted chicken wire fence. On the evening before the great harvest, Nixon tore down the barrier and helped himself to all the scrumptious leaves. Yes, he left the beans. Did the same thing with the okra. It's pretty much the same thing every year. Figuring if you're out in the country in the middle of nowhere, you must have critter problems, too. If you have experience with banishing bugs & critters, I'd love to hear what might have worked for you.

    Oh, and also wanted to provide an endorsement for the sprouting seeds Pinetree sells in bulk. Our Himalayan, Buddha, loves the wheat sprouts, but I am partial to the lentils!

  10. Farmgirl...your blog is fabulous! I just stumbled upon it yesterday and I've been reading and reading, a little guilty because I'm not getting all my chores done. I too am a farmgirl/gardener/foodie, you are truly an inspiration.
    In one of your archives I read about your purchase of $77.00 of garlic...ohhh...I've been trying to give away garlic to my gardening friends! Next time I'll just send it to you...all the way from Washington State, that way I'll have no guilt about it going to waste. Us garden girls gotta stick together.

  11. After reading your post I realized that there is a great book that mentions the many trials and successes you write about. It's called Second Nature by Michael Pollan - and it offers a lot of contemporary analysis about gardening, nature and transcendentalism. Wishing anyone who picks it up a good read!


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

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