The First Signs of Spring Appear

Start dreaming about your vegetable garden by looking through a few of the seed catalogs that are available now.

The first sign of spring appeared in my mailbox the other day: a seed catalog! Yes, it’s that time of year when a gardener’s thoughts turn to spring planting, and a seed catalog is just the thing to get you dreaming. I’m a little extreme – I plant almost everything from seed, including my tomatoes and peppers, things that are easily bought as transplants. But there are some plants that are best planted from seed, and that’s what we’ll discuss here.

Plants such as carrots, radishes, beans, and peas really must be grown from seed. I find lettuce and other greens are so easy to grow from seed that it’s not worth the expense of buying transplants, although they do just fine. The fun thing about lettuce is there are so many varieties. Just try to choose one or two! I buy lettuce mixes (sometimes called mesclun) so I can have several varieties growing at once.

That’s the fun thing about buying and planting seeds in your garden anyway. The seed catalogs are full of varieties that you would never see in the grocery store: speckled beans, pink-streaked kale, yellow peas, lettuce of almost any imaginable hue between dark red and light green, carrots that come in shades of red, white, purple, orange and yellow. The list goes on and on.

So I invite you to check out a few seed catalogs. The website, Rainy Side Gardeners, has a list of seed sources for those of us who garden on the wet (I mean west) side of the Cascades: http://rainyside.com/resources/seed_sources.html. My favorite seed company is Territorial Seed Company, located in Cottage Grove, Oregon. They specialize in seeds that grow well in our cool climate and short growing season, although they carry plenty of varieties that will never ripen in my garden (cantaloupe and watermelon, to name two). There are many other catalog seed companies, and you may already have your favorite. (Feel free to name them in the comment section!) Local nurseries like Molbaks will soon be selling many of these seeds, if you don’t want to mail-order.

As you peruse the catalogs, be sure to keep in mind that in order to be successful with heat-lovers like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers you should buy the varieties that will ripen in a short season (look for a number that indicates days to ripeness). Cool season vegetables like peas, lettuce, kale and carrots are much easier to grow here and you will find many varieties that will work in our area. If you are a beginning gardener, start with peas and lettuce, two vegetables that are not hard to grow and that are delicious when they are straight from your own garden. Both would work in pots, too.

Even though it’s too early to get out and plant, it’s not too early to plan your garden for next year. So peruse a few seed catalogs and start dreaming. Planting time for cool-season veggies will start in just a couple of months!

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Greg Johnston January 07, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Yes June, they're supposed to extend the season and yield. The one I planted last year though looked sickly most of the season -- probably because of our cool, wet June/July -- and while it produced well, most all the tomatoes had spots on the skins. Bought it as a start at Molbaks.
Kathy Dennis January 08, 2013 at 12:23 AM
I haven't tried grafted tomatoes (too cheap!). That's interesting that you didn't have much luck, Greg, because Territorial makes them sound like they are the best thing ever. I'm tempted to try one, though - maybe this year! Thanks for the input.
Greg Johnston January 08, 2013 at 02:34 PM
I'll try another grafted tomato plant this summer Kathy, I think our cool and wet early summer didn't give that plant a good start. It rallied but never quite recovered.
JuneGloom January 08, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Growing tomatoes in Seattle is a labor of love, and many, many, summers of trial and error. I'm going to try the grafts this summer.
Greg Johnston January 08, 2013 at 05:45 PM
This is going to be the summer June, bumper crops! That's what I tell myself every year; last bumper crop was what, 2009???


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