by Leigh Mills
Seed catalogs started arriving at the Heyokah Homestead mid-November. We’ve got a nice stack of them by now and the colorful pages are very inspiring. Before you place an order for seeds, here are some things to think about:
What is your growing zone? Commercial seed packages mark which zones are best suited for each type of plant. Make sure the seeds you acquire are suited for your area. Here’s a link to the National Gardening Association’s growing zone chart: www.garden.org/zipzone/index.php
How big is your garden space? Be realistic about how much space you have and how many types of plant seeds you want. I’ve spent money on seeds and realized later that I could only plant a small portion of my purchase. Plan your garden and planting times to the best potential. I’ve found the “Square Foot Gardening” method to work very well in my garden and green house.
What are your gardening goals: hobby, extra seasonal food, growing and preserving to feed a family yearround? The answer determines how much seed you might need. Planting for preserving food or succession planting requires more seed than what comes in a standard seed package. Check for bulk options.
What’s your seed purchase budget? Seeds can be expensive. Combining orders with friends or neighbors and purchasing seed in bulk packages can save money.
Will you be saving seed? If so, make sure your seeds are an open pollinated—heirloom variety.
Know the plant’s pollination requirements and check for any cross pollination potential with anything else you will be growing. Plan your garden space accordingly. Many plants get very large as they seed out. Make sure any seed is stored properly in airtight containers and a dark, cool space. Many seeds can remain viable for several years. Here’s a couple of book on saving seed: Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth and Kent Whealy and Saving Seeds: The Gardener’s Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds (A Down-to-Earth Gardening Book) by Marc Rogers and Polly Alexander.
What are your seed sources? When purchasing from a catalog, use your best judgment. Here’s a link to Cyndi’s Catalog of Garden Catalogs: gardenlist.com. It lists 2000 catalogs with ratings for quality, service, price and breadth of varieties. Please keep in mind that most of the bigger seed companies order seed from the same place, one or two larger corporations. Look for smaller, specialty companies and ask about their sources.
Another source for seed is a seed exchange. Seed exchanges offer excellent opportunities for affordable, locally adapted seed. They also provide a venue for sharing knowledge and community spirit. You can ask the seed saver directly how any seed was saved and know that what you are getting is pure. There are two exchanges that I know of, one in Española, NM every March and our own local event, which happens in February.
Seeds hold the genetic memories of our ancestors and the promise of abundance for our future. Make sure you are using seed from a trusted source when planting your garden this year.