Ready, Set, Seeds

by Linda Wiggen Kraft

January is the time to begin the new gardening year by spending time with seed catalogs both in paper form and online. The ritual of sitting with a pile of catalogs, a computer and a cup of tea while snuggled under a blanket is the first gardening activity of the year. The world of plants from seeds is much larger than the world of already growing plants available in the spring. Looking online and in catalogs lets you take a trip into a world of unlimited beauty and possibilities. Your garden will be more beautiful and nutritious by planting flowers and vegetables that are only available as seeds.

One way to begin the seed selection ritual is to list the names of flowers, herbs and vegetables that you would like in your garden. Looking through seed catalogs will give plenty of choices. If not sure what will grow best and at what time of year, there is information in catalogs, books and online through the University Extension, Missouri Botanical Garden and other sources.

Your wish list of what plant seeds to buy may be too long for the reality of your life. If so, begin to look ask questions. Is there space in the lighted seed starting trays you have? What seeds can be sown directly in the garden? What about special care? Can they be purchased already growing?  How much time and money will it really cost? Is the only way to have this plant by planting seeds? And the final question, can you live without this plant in your life?  Usually the list becomes manageable once these questions are answered.

With the seed list complete, the question is where to buy? Find seed companies whose policies match your values. Just as buying goods that are fair trade, locally grown, provide a living wage and other ethical issues are part of buying decisions, look into the seed company’s background. Many tell their story up front, in the catalog and website. Ask questions. Is the company committed to organic and sustainable gardening? Do they sell genetically modified seeds? Are heirlooms part of their mix or main commitment? Do they support small family farms? Who owns the company? Where do they get their seed?

There are lots of choices of individual plants and where to buy them.   Here is a list of recommended seed companies and names of some of the seeds this gardener can’t live without.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – www.rareseeds.com.  Mansfield, Missouri’s own heirloom seed success story with over 1,300 non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds. Visit the Spring Planting Festival May 6 & 7.  Seeds ordered: Mother of Pearl Poppies, Oriole Orange Swiss chard.
Botanical Interests – www.botanicalinterests.com. Colorado. Over 500 varieties of flower and vegetable seeds.  Many organic and heirloom varieties.  Info about plants on seed package.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds – www.johnnyseeds.com. Maine. Seed catalog and research facility for organic and sustainable food.  Great info about seeds and planting for home and market growers.  Gardening tools and supplies also.  Seeds ordered: Queen Red Lime zinnia.

Missouri Wildflowers Nursery – www.mowildflowers.net. Missouri. Start some native perennials from seed.  Wildflower, grass and sedge seeds from Missouri.  Seeds ordered: Dittany and purple coneflower.

Renee’s Garden – www.reneesgarden.com.  California. A woman owned company that sources seeds from small growers around the world.  Website has recipes and gardening info for home gardeners.  Many heirlooms. Seeds ordered: Apricot Blush and Polar Bear zinnia.

Seed Savers Exchange – www.seed-savers.org. Decorah, Iowa
More than a seed catalog.  A pioneering educational organization and seed bank that helped put heirloom seed’s genetic importance into gardener’s awareness. Catalog offers heirloom seeds. Yearbook lists heirloom seeds available through thousands of home growers.

Pinetree Garden Seeds – www.super-seeds.com. Maine. Specializes in small seed packages for home gardens. Books and garden supplies.  Small family owned company.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a mandala artist and garden designer who uses the wisdom of many traditions in her work. Visit her blog to find out what seeds she ordered for 2012: www.creativityforthesoul.com/blog, or call (314) 504-4266.