Long before it is time to plant seeds, while it is still winter outside here in western Washington, there are steps you can take to get great results in your garden. What planning do you do now?
My planning starts with reflecting on the prior year, and establishing a plan for the coming season.
- What crops grew well, and what didn’t?
- What were the biggest successes at the dinner table? Anything we didn’t like?
- Did we grow too much or too little of anything?
The next step in planning for me is learning about and acquiring seeds. While I buy a lot of seeds, I also grow and save some of my own seeds and I swap seeds with other gardeners. I rarely buy anything from the seed racks at the national retailers however. Large-scale seed suppliers offer their top quality seed to farmers. Home gardeners aren’t their top priority. In my experience, such seeds lead to limited success and considerable frustration.
Over the years I have had the best results by selecting high-quality varieties that are adapted to my climate and region. For example, I live in the U.S., north of Seattle, Washington, where we have relatively mild winters and a late start to sunny, summer conditions. I have to select early varieties and perhaps use season extending techniques. If I were to choose plant varieties that require a long growing season, nothing would be ready for harvest before end of the season.
Instead I buy from seed companies who cater primarily to small-scale growers and home gardeners. The best suppliers also operate regional trial grounds and conduct regular germination tests. Take a look at one of their seed catalogs and you will note that such companies distinguish themselves by offering fantastic culture information about each plant. Reading these catalogs will provide a gardener with a lot of information about the advantages of different varieties and the way in which the best grow them.
This is a list of my favorite seed companies:
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds
- Fedco Seeds
- Territorial Seeds
- High Mowing Organic Seeds
- Seed Savers Exchange
- Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
The Midnight Gardener