Gardener’s Winter Ritual: Seed Selection, Catalog Combing and Garden Planning (with List of Favored Seed Companies)


Pile Of Seed Catalogs With Notebook

In January and February, with holiday traditions celebrated and New Year’s resolutions ushering in a new cycle, we collectively exhale. And despite the bleak pallet and chilled days, the clean-slate months of a new year present gardeners solid ground on which to lay plans and hopes for a successful growing season. While the garden sleeps, the gardener schemes and dreams.

Now is the time we relish the ritual of seed selection and garden planning. We watch our mailboxes and wring our hands in anticipation of seed catalogs and when they arrive, we welcome them like old friends. The spectrum of colors alone is enough to brighten our days. Striking photos of thriving plants stir our spirits, evoke visions and invite us to reminisce. Each year, despite the bounty or heartbreak of previous harvests, seed catalogs provide us with page after page of beginner’s sight. They renew us with the promise of this year’s garden.

Seed Selection Considerations

Despite the page-turning euphoria, this ritual is also serious business. As various catalogs pour in, we are charged with the task of digesting specifics on thousands of varieties. Seed selection entails comparing growing vigor, determining hybrid or heirloom, organic or conventional, verifying zone or cold-hardiness, soil and light requirements, All-American Selections winner or other accolades, annual, biennial, perennial or tender perennial, cost and seed count ratios and value, all in addition to the ownership and location of the seed purveyor we intend to patronize.

Referring to previous garden notes on seed selection and actual performance also helps us choose. In this process of figuring, our gardening spirit meets with science while our dreams meet with details.

For those of us novice or expert seed savers, the seed selection process is its own rite. Stores of seed painstakingly grown, harvested, processed, dried, cured or otherwise preserved are retrieved from safe storage and revisited. We handle them ceremoniously, making sure nothing has sprouted or rotted. These varieties have already proven themselves; the seeds likely chosen from the season’s first or largest fruit or vegetable produced from the plant. They are precious capsules of potential to be revered.

These seeds are often our favorites, having grown in our gardens year after year, having fed us, our friends and families consistently, having adapted to our soil and climate. These seeds may have originally come from a seed catalog or might have a sentimental attachment to the gardener who generously gifted them to us.

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