Ordering from seed catalogs

February 13, 2007 lawanda Newspaper Columns

      February brings the excitement of the almost daily arrival of seed catalogs in the mailbox.  Now is the time to plan for this year’s garden and place your order for plants and seeds.  Page through the catalogs and make a list of everything that catches your eye.  Then, get realistic and pare the list down within the parameters of your budget, garden size and garden conditions.  It’s a good idea to order as soon as possible because many of the popular plants and seeds are sold out quickly.  If your order is backordered it may be too late or too hot for good success with your plants by the time they arrive. 

      If there is something you want that is offered by many of the catalogs, try to place your order with geography in mind.  That is, look for the company closest to your home.  There are several benefits here.  First, plant and seed material won’t have to travel as far to reach you.  Long shipping times for plants can be very stressful.  Second, the closer the plants are bred to your home, the more able they are to adapt to local conditions.  Third, supporting local companies keeps our gardening dollars in Wisconsin, or at least the Midwest. 

      Before placing your order, inventory your leftover seeds so as to avoid ordering something you already have.  If you are unsure that your leftovers are still viable, there is a simple germination test for them.  Take 10-20 seeds and place them on a layer of paper toweling in a saucer.  Cover with another paper towel and soak both layers with water.  Pour off the excess.  Keep the toweling damp and check the seeds every day for sprouting or mold.  If mold appears, take off the top layer but keep the bottom layer moist and put the saucer in a dark place.  The seed packet will tell you approximately how many days until germination is expected.  If most of the seeds sprout, the seed is still good; if half sprout, you could sew the seeds twice as thickly as directed, or buy new seed.  If less than half sprout, definitely buy new seed.

      Take the time to learn about the proper care and conditions for any new plants you plan to grow this year.  You may be bowled over by the new ‘Summer Sky’ echinacea, or the ‘Dancing in the Rain’ hosta, or the ‘Gold Bar’ zebra grass, but if you don’t have the right conditions in your yard for these plants, you’ll be wasting your money.

Garden chores by monthMiscellaneous

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