2017-02-22 / Gardening Tips

Seed catalogues

by Bob Beyfuss

At one time, back in the 1980s I think, I used to receive more than 50 different seed catalogues each year by the end of this month. In those days they were free for the asking, or even if you did not specifically request one, they arrived in the mailbox unsolicited, as reliably as income tax forms! Today that has all changed and neither seed catalogues nor tax forms arrive automatically. In the past 20 years the seed selling business has changed dramatically, as most small scale companies have been swallowed by larger corporations and less than a half dozen major suppliers now control nearly all the seed sales for backyard gardeners. Regardless of who you order seeds from today, they were most likely sourced by Monsanto, which owns 23 percent of the proprietary global seed market. Along with Dupont and Synerga, they own about 50 percent all proprietary seed sales in the world and that represents about 80 percent of all seed sales. The two catalogues I did receive this year, (unsolicited) were from Johnny’s Selected seeds and Peaceful Valley. Both of these companies along with Fedco (my favorite by far) and Burpee, are NOT owned by Monsanto.

By the middle of February, most northerners, or “Yankees” as my southern friends refer to us, are getting anxious for some sign of spring. The weather-predicting rodent from PA (Punxsutawney Phil) is always 100 percent wrong with his prediction for spring being either “right around the corner” or “six weeks of winter to go”. Let’s face it, winter ALWAYS lasts for another six weeks after February 2 in the Catskill Region regardless of whether he sees his shadow or not. We sometimes get some spring like weather in March, but it does not last until May, ever.

The joy of perusing seed catalogues comes from the beautiful pictures and descriptions of all the fabulous flowers, fruits and vegetables that we envision growing in our backyards in only a few more months! Somehow, my garden never looks quite the same as the ones in the catalogue, but likewise, I don’t look like the guys in the beer commercials either, no matter how many of their beers I drink. The 2017 Johnny’s catalogue is about 250 pages long and includes equipment, gadgets and lots of other useful, as well as interesting information. I noted that there are many, many close up pictures of the various, individual types of salad greens, with 16 different pictures of baby, leaf lettuce varieties alone. More than 80 different lettuce varieties are offered all told, with a dozen or more different “salad greens”, as well as a dozen different “Asian Greens”. There are close to 100 different tomato varieties, 30 or more winter squash varieties, 20 different carrots and on and on. Whoever predicted that the consolidation of seed companies would lead to a drastic reduction in home garden offerings, was seriously wrong. All this information provides many a night’s reading matter for those afflicted with cabin fever.

Fortunately, I do not suffer from cabin fever here in sunny Florida and I am pretty much happy with the few varieties of fruit and vegetables that I do grow in Schoharie County. I am no longer the adventurous gardener I once was. Still, I do reserve some space in my garden for new varieties and this is where I welcome your suggestions for varieties that you have found superior to the following “staples” of my garden. If you grow any varieties that you consider as superior to these, please send me an email!

These are Few of My Favorite . . . Seeds!

“Jersey Giant” asparagus, “Golden” Beet, “Chioggia” striped beet, “Detroit Dark Red” beet. (I really like beets) ‘Royal Burgundy” or any other purple podded bush bean, “Sun Gold” cherry tomato, “Big Beef” standard tomato, “Dwarf White Sugar” snow pea, “Long Island Improved” Brussels sprouts (I could use a better variety here), “Gypsy” sweet pepper, “Ace” bell pepper, “Black seeded Simpson” leaf lettuce, “Marketmore” standard cucumber, which I also use for pickles, “Delicata” winter squash, and “Rainbow Chard” Swiss Chard.

I generally buy whatever varieties of “seed” potatoes are left at Story’s Nursery by June, which is when I plant them. I like almost all varieties of sweet corn, any variety of leeks, as well as any variety of zucchini or yellow squash.

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