How I order seeds for my garden

Vegetables to enjoy in season
I try to order most of my vegetable garden seeds in the middle of January.

I've been ordering seeds for one garden or another since I was a teenager and took over ordering seeds for my dad. Back then, I spent hours studying the seeds catalogs, reading all the descriptions and making suggestions on the seeds we should order.  My dad, as I recall, usually agreed with my choices.

Now I mostly order seeds by memory, by feel, which means I don't make lists. I don't spend hours reading seed catalogs. I don't go from one catalog to the next cross referencing them to see who has which varieties and how many seeds are in a packet for what price so I can optimize my ordering.

These days, I just go to the first seed company's website and start ordering seeds for my usual vegetables and flowers. I then move on to the next seed company's site to order, again from memory, what I think I still need because none of the seed companies seem to have everything I want.

And who is the first seed company and who is the next, and the next? Ah, that is my secret...

Some years, my garden seems small and I don't order many seeds. It's not that the square footage changes. The square footage is more or less always the same. What changes is the amount of time I think I will have to tend the garden.

If I don't think I will have much time, I tend to order just the basics because that's what I think I have time for. I know there is room for the basics in the garden and I know how much time it will take me to plant those basics. I don't feel overwhelmed because it really is a small vegetable garden with a total planting around of around 500 sq. ft. When I feel like the garden is small, I decide I will skip growing my own tomatoes and peppers from seeds and buy plants at the local garden center.

This year, though, my vegetable garden seems like it will be bigger, perhaps as big as it has ever been, because I'll have more time to tend it. I will start my own pepper and tomato plants from seed, which means I'm likely to increase the number of varieties I grow. I usually stick to my limit of 13 tomato plants to correspond with the 13 curly-cue tomato stakes I use. But maybe this year, with all the time I'll have, I might experiment with tomato cages?

Perhaps I'll also add a few more varieties of peas and beans and squash while I'm at it. And more types of lettuce. And why stop at one variety of spinach for heaven's sake?

Maybe this will be the year I try once again to grow cabbage and broccoli? I've avoided them in the past because of the white cabbage butterflies whose eggs hatch and become those little green worms that can devour a cabbage in an afternoon. Yes, those little green worms that hide in the broccoli and show up dead on your dinner plate no matter how long you soak the broccoli in salt water to force them out, no matter if you inspect the broccoli under a microscrope to find them.  Perhaps I should grow red and green cabbage?

There should be room for them in my great big garden of time.

After all, I don't grow enough of any one vegetable to preserve big batches for the winter, like my grandmothers did so they would actually have food in the wintertime. So why not increase the number of varieties I grow and just enjoy them in season?  "In tempore", if you want to use a little Latin to make it sound like the chic thing to do.  "Yes, I grow vegetables to enjoy in tempore."

Oh, and in addition to seeds, I need some new strawberry plants to put in a rather narrow bed which at one time had three apple trees in it, but now has one apple tree in the center.  The other two trees succumbed to disease in their first season, in spite of being disease resistant. My harvest from those three trees after three years, maybe four years, is one apple this past fall. And it was too gnarly to even consider eating. No need to buy a bushel basket to collect that harvest. But I'll keep the tree, and the hope of an edible apple or two, and plant strawberries around it. Everbearing, I think. After all, I just want a few strawberries to eat in tempore.

What happened to my other strawberries, you ask? Well, they did okay for a season or two but then started to look a bit diseased. I grubbed them out this fall and planted a hardy fig, the variety 'Brown Turkey', in their place. I think a few strawberry plants may still show up around the base of my Brown Turkey fig. That's fine, I won't take them out. I just want some new strawberries, a better variety, way on the other side of the garden.

Last summer, I planted sunflowers where the strawberries will now be, so I'll need to find a new home for the sunflowers, if I'm going to grow them again, and I most certainly am. Several types. I'll figure out where to plant them in the spring by doing a dance around the garden, the dance where I'm holding a packet of sunflower seeds and waltzing from border to border to see if any of them will provide a suitable home for some currently homeless sunflowers.

I'm a good dancer when I wear my best gardening clogs.

Zinnias? I must make room for more zinnias, too. Last season, I grew them in a bed along the back of  the vegetable garden and at the ends of some of the other beds. They were gorgeous and exotic and colorful and I could not have loved them more. I will grow them again, and add more marigold varieties, too. After all, is one variety of anything enough for a garden?  For a garden as large as my time will allow this summer? I think not.

And sweet corn? Last year, I skipped growing sweet corn and I and the raccoons missed it. Who minds the space it takes? Who cares if I get just a few ears of corn to eat? Those will be the best ears of corn I will eat all summer, in tempore.

Yes, suddenly, it seems like this year's garden, which hasn't really changed in size, is going to be a much larger garden. A garden of greater variety. A garden to feed me in tempore, a garden that will be the best one yet.

Where are those seed catalogs? Perhaps I will browse through them before I hit the first website to order.


  1. Your first year to be able to completely devote yourself to your veggie garden. The next thing we will know is that you will take up canning your veggies to have during the dark months. The garden fairies will be having fits with you treading about their territories. Be careful.

  2. It is time to start ordering isn't it. I am determined to grow just a few tomato plants this year. Half as many which means 15. I have such a time picking which varieties to grow. This year it is time to pare down! Stay know how difficult it is to resist those catalog pictures and descriptions.

  3. Hi! You must have a lovely big garden. I love gardening too.

  4. I find it extremely difficult to resist browsing the piles of catalogs that fill my mailbox during the winter months. I usually don't buy much seed, but this year I think I'm going to try some new things.
    Please check out my blog: Don't forget to comment and/or subscribe via email also. Thanks!

  5. I find it extremely difficult to resist browsing the piles of catalogs that fill my mailbox during the winter months. I usually don't buy much seed, but this year I think I'm going to try some new things.
    Please check out my blog: Don't forget to comment and/or subscribe via email also. Thanks!

  6. Having moved to a much smaller property - and thus a much much smaller garden - I have almost completely moved from buying seeds to buying a 6 pack of starts. Except for a tiny salad garden 6 plants is about all I can handle of any one variety. It still feels strange, but it is a necessary change.

  7. I have so many catalogs and photos saved in my garden wish book... i do this during the winter months.

    Does anyone have a list of best certified organic seeds, bulbs and plant catalogs? I want to put in a pollinator garden and do not want to have pesticides on my bee friendly plants.

    Appreciate your help!


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