Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

One of my greatest pleasures this time of year is settling in with a pot of tea and a collection of seed catalogs.  There's just something about thumbing through page after page of glorious sounding plants that makes the starkness of winter fade, even if just for a little while.  I get armloads of catalogs in the mail, and most I put directly into the recycling bin.  So many companies out there are selling seeds co-opted by Seminis (a division of Monsanto), and I just will NOT support that devilish company, even through a privately owned seed supplier.  I've also become more and more interested in open-pollinated, heirloom varieties.  Each year, I am impressed by how resistant they are to pests and disease, and their production is typically pretty good, too. 

As I've become a seed-snob, I've whittled down my catalog favorites correspondingly.  Funny how that happens...in any case, here are my top four "favorite ever after" seed catalogs:

1.  FedCo Seeds  Based in Maine, this seed company is staunchly anti-GMO and really supports small farmers who supply them with their seeds.  As well, they offer teeny weeny seed packets, perfect for home gardeners with limited space, or those of us who like to try out new varieties but aren't sure how well we'll like them on our plates.  I also value FedCo for their willingness to support "group" ordering, which is very helpful when coordinating a seed order generated by the upcoming Seed Swap.  For the past five years, it's been great to send off a huge list of things needed and have the fine folks at FedCo do all the work of gathering the order together.  And if that wasn't enough to like about this company, the pricing is tremendously low, they offer vegetable and flower seeds, seed potatoes, and trees (plus cool books and such), and their shipping is extraordinarily reliable.

2.  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Located in historic Mansfield, Missouri, this seed catalog is the epitome of Gardener Porn.  Page after page of luscious color photographs, so many varieties of everything you'd ever want to grow in the garden...I plan to make a pilgrimage to their historic village business site someday soon.  This seed company is dedicated to preserving all kinds of rare and unique heirloom vegetables, and trust me--if you want it, you are likely to find it between the pages of their glorious catalog!  Pricing is reasonable, and you get a good quantity of seeds in each package.  Their customer service is simply superb, as well.  Oh, and don't miss out on the vegan recipes included in the catalog.  The butternut squash curry is ah-may-zing!

3. Seed Savers Exchange.  I love this catalog.  I love the mission of this organization.  So much love...plus, you can order seeds!  A fantastic collection of heirloom seeds, this catalog offers stories of the people who saved the seeds from extinction, plus articles of how to preserve/plant various items in your home garden.  There's lots of information tucked in there about how SSE works, too.  I encourage you to think about signing up to become a member; you get access to all kinds of seeds not listed in the catalog, through the SSE Member Book.

4.  St. Lawrence Nurseries.  This unique nursery raises cold-climate friendly fruit and nut trees--perfect for my zone 3b yard.  I've had great luck overall with their trees--I'm hoping this year to get fruit from my Duchess apple and Northern Blue plum.  They no longer have an online catalog, but you can ask them to send you one via the mail--and it is lovely!  Loads and loads of fruit trees, with lovely pen and ink drawings by a local artist.  The pricing is extremely reasonable--$23 per bare root apple tree--and they come wrapped with such care.  The root systems are typically very strong, and these little trees come ready to pop into the ground and grow.  If you live in a cold climate zone (4 or less) and have thought you can't grow fruit trees or nut trees or any kind of fruit shrubbery, think again and check this catalog!

Now, to pull out my pencil and make a list of what I want for my garden this year.  If only I had an unlimited garden budget, I'd buy up everything!

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