Friday, January 22, 2010


Every year, I get so excited about ordering seeds.
I pour over the catalogs and I make pretty charts of my back yard.
Then I get overwhelmed, and I don't order seeds.
Although I don't order them, I still desire them. So I end up at the garden store down the street in late May, learning that they just sold the last packet of beets, or getting a talking to about how butternut squash seeds are in short supply this year.
Every year, I say, next year I'm ordering my damn seeds.

This year is different. I've been studying the Johnny's and Fedco catalogs, and I'm getting my order together. I am not overwhelmed. And to ease me along, I thought we could work on this together.

I'll tell you right now that I only buy seeds that I can put directly in the ground. I know that someday soon I will start seeds inside in February and March, but I haven't done it yet. Although I'd like to think I can conquer the world in one fell swoop, I'm more a conquering in stages kind of girl. And I have a few friends with big greenhouses and lovely farm stands, and I am happy to buy my tomatoes and brussels sprouts from them for now.

So what am I most excited about this year?

I'm so glad you ask!

I've never grown potatoes, and I'm going for it this time. I'm thinking about Austrian Crescent Fingerlings and Red Gold potatoes. I'm especially in love with radishes right now, and I'm going to grow Easter Egg and French Breakfast varieties. And my new found addiction to radicchio, which Sadie has caught as well, is driving me to Palla di Fuoco Rossa radicchio and treviso, which I think will probably never make it inside because I'll eat it right out of the ground.

I've gotten a lot of questions about seed ordering, as if I have any idea what I'm doing, but the answer to the main question is that I am ordering my seeds from Fedco. If you've never seen their catalog, it is absolutely worth it just for the descriptions. Listen to what they say about their "olympia" variety of spinach:

"Olympia our Senator loves to keep us in suspense. Will she support the public option or not? How will she vote on the final health care bill? Olympia our spinach never keeps us in
suspense. No Snowe job here, Olympia spinach is an outstanding performer for the fall crop. She grows fast, producing enormous yields of mostly smooth leaves up to 5x6" almost entirely lacking in oxalic acid taste so her mild flavor goes down easily. But like our Senator, Olympia can’t stand the heat, and bolts quickly when planted in spring. Both the spinach and the
politician survive just fine through November and over the winter. But we prefer the spinach as the more straightforward of the two."

You can see why the Fedco catalog seems always to live in our bathroom. Endless reading. They're a pretty amazing resource though, and although the order form is a bit confusing, I think I can make it through this year. And I love that Fedco gives the option of buying very small amounts of seed. For the home gardener, a pound of lettuce seeds is, well, just a few too many.

Any one else out there addicted to garden porn? What am I missing? Is there anything that you can hardly wait to get in the ground?


  1. Definitely do potatoes--I had great success with mine (from Fedco) last summer. We still have a few left, and they're delicious. Also, check out the Hudson Valley Seed Library--their dino kale was one of my favorites last year. I did some seeds inside last year, but I find the timing difficult. I am definitely a 'throw it in the ground and see what happens' gardener...

  2. I’ll second the potato championing! Even if only for the search for buried treasure that is harvesting – kids just LOVE it (and so do I). We are also in MA and I would highly recommend Wood Prairie Farm ( Last year, we got a “sampler” of seed potatoes from them – 3 each of 4 varieties (your choice). They grew wonderfully even in what was considered a bad potato year. Will definitely order from them again.

    I’ve moved away from Johnny’s due to my attempted avoidance of anything to do with Monsanto. At least Fedco is very forthcoming with information on their seed sources so one can make informed decisions.

    Over the years, I’ve been fine-tuning my garden crops to try to maximize the vegetables that we don’t get from our CSA (or don’t get enough of!) But the catalogs come and my resolve to keep to the plan is gone. I always need to order something for fun or just for the challenge of trying to grow it. I feel lucky that we can do this – garden for pleasure, not just to eat. So this year I’m definitely trying escarole and maybe sesame seeds and popcorn!


  3. I share your love of seed catalogs -- oh the possibilities!! We are growing "tall" peas this year :) I have the turtle tree catalog and the kitchen garden seeds catalog (which has beautiful illuastrations in lieu of photographs). Also, for Andrea, we grew pop corn last year with decent sucess -- we used the heirloom Tom Thumb variety. It's smaller and chewier but still tasty. We gave ears of it to family members as a novelty holiday gift.