Seed Catalogs In January

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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 Is it just me or does everyone this time of year get a mail box full of seed catalogs?   I have a small garden area and if I ordered one packet of seeds from each catalog it would take me years to satisfy each one of the seed companies.  It is small due to the many rocks from the size of a small car to a basketball. In spite of getting a flood of seed catalogs this time of year I also receive the garden supply companies catalogs  that quickly follow.  I love those hot houses but I don’t think they would stand up to the high winds we receive here in the mountain.  

So as I sit here waiting for winter to subside somewhat – in another 3-4 months – it is actually fun to read through the catalogs and plan ahead.  Way ahead!  I envision my garden looking like those photos in the catalogs.  Unfortunately my garden looks like the photo above right now and it won’t look any better in the next few months.  Where I had to position myself to take that photo of my garden boxes was right next to a 10′ snow bank.  Just a few days earlier those garden boxes were under 6′ of snow that took us most of the day to shovel out.  So when I look at seed catalogs this time of year it is with long term future dreaming.  Last year I ordered some rhubarb plants that grow very well at 9,750′ of elevation and they sent them two months before the ground even started to thaw out.  Out of 6 rhubarb plants I was only able to keep two alive until I could get them in the ground.  The seed company held them so long before sending them most of the plants were dead when received.   

I have tried to start seeds inside for later transplanting when the snow is finally gone and the ground finally thaws.  That has not been very effective because one year I can plant in April, and other years it can be mid or late May before I can break ground.  In those cases the seedlings tend to become weaker and success is not what those photos in the seed catalogs show they could be.  Then we sometimes have snow storms up until July, which makes having a garden iffy to say the least.  One year I had my garden in the 1st of April so you never know when the weather at high altitude will favor a garden.  That year was a really good year but most years the growing time is much shorter.  Also I need to have sun screening in place on the garden boxes or the intense sun at high elevation will burn young seedlings.  

So as I look through these many seed catalogs and see the photo’s of gorgeous plants I can only dream that someday I’ll have a long enough growing season, sufficient moisture, and a reduction of pests that my garden will look like those photos.  Last year we went camping for a few days and came home to totally destroyed potato bins.  I have still not figured out how they got past the netting and hardware cloth.  Maybe this year I’ll add razor wire.  Yes, growing vegetables at high elevation is probably more of a challenge than most people experience but when it comes together every few years, voila, fresh garden vegetables all summer long.  Maybe this year will be one of those years and maybe I’ll order seeds early from a catalog.  For us summer is a very long way off yet so while I patiently wait I’ll just dream and keep my snow shovel handy.

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