It’s probably no coincidence that seed catalogs start arriving in the mail just when gardeners are ready for winter to be over.
Perusing them is great fun and provides a welcome diversion from the bleak landscape outside. And it’s a good thing spring is still a long way off, since there is some serious planning to be done before then.
When selecting seeds for the vegetable garden, it’s important to remember that the Inland Northwest growing season is comprised of about 120 frost-free days.
All seed packets list the number of days it takes for a vegetable to reach maturity, but keep in mind that applies to the number of days after the seedling has been transplanted out into the garden, and not when the seed itself was first planted indoors.
Here is a guide to some useful mail-order catalogs sure to inspire beginning and experienced gardeners alike:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: Even though Baker Creek has been in business since 1998, most gardeners in this area are probably not familiar with them. They only sell “nonhybrid, non-GMO, nontreated and nonpatented” seeds, mainly for growing vegetables.
Baker Creek offers an impressive list of cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, tomato, squash and pumpkin varieties. Their selection of American, Asian, European, Bitter, Snake and Wax melons are sure to inspire any gardener to try something new. ( www.rareseeds.com, 417-924-8917)
Bountiful Gardens: This company is a project of the nonprofit Ecology Action Group that teaches sustainable agricultural practices in more than 130 countries worldwide.
In addition to selling helpful publications like “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons (Ten Speed Press, 288 pages, $19.95), this catalog is notable for its selection of open-pollinated seeds.
In addition to a wide variety of specialty greens, there also are seeds for such compost crops as Austrian field peas and vetch, and such grains and fibers as flax and amaranth. ( www.bountifulgardens.org, 707-459-6410)
Seeds of Change: In business for 20 years, they sell certified organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds. There are many varieties of hardneck and softneck garlic bulbs, 13 types of organic seed potatoes, seed-starting supplies and season extenders like mini-greenhouses and cold frames. ( www.seedsofchange.com, 888-762-7333)
Territorial Seed Co.: Based in Cottage Grove, Ore., Territorial Seed offers a large variety of flower and vegetable seeds, including more than 60 types of salad greens. They also sell garden tools, floating row covers, composting supplies and garden books. ( www.territorialseed.com, 800-626-0866)
Gardener’s Supply Co.: Even though they don’t sell seeds, this catalog is notable for garden tools, seed-starting supplies, plant supports and garden décor. ( www.gardeners.com, 800-427-3363)
Vermont Bean Seed Co.: As the name implies, this is a good source for every manner of bean seed that exists: bush, dry, filet, lima, pole and runner beans.
They also sell other types of vegetable seeds including 36 varieties of tomatoes, strawberry plants, seed-starting supplies and pest repellants. ( www.vermontbean.com, 800-349-1071)
Totally Tomatoes: This sister company to Vermont Bean Seed offers nearly 300 varieties of cherry, paste, standard and heirloom tomatoes. Their other specialty is peppers, with about 150 different varieties. They also sell garden tools and equipment for growing tomatoes. ( www.totallytomato.com, 800-345-5977)
High Country Gardens: This company doesn’t sell seeds but is a good source for drought-tolerant perennial and annual plants like Mexican Hyssop (Agastache), lavender and ornamental grasses. When planted near the vegetable garden, these will attract beneficial insects to keep your garden healthy. ( www.highcountrygardens.com, 800-925-9387)
Pinetree Garden Seeds: In addition to vegetable seeds, many of which are heirloom varieties, they also sell flower seeds and cover crop seeds. There’s also an extensive list of garden books, seed-starting supplies and other garden products. ( www.superseeds.com, 888-527-3337)
Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply: This company sells organic garlic bulbs and seed potatoes, onion sets and transplants, vegetable seeds and cover crop seeds. They also have greenhouse supplies. ( www.groworganic.com, 888-784-1722)
Jordan Seeds Inc.: For those wanting to vegetable garden in a big way, Jordan Seeds sells their seeds in quantities as large as 50 pounds and as little as one ounce. Offering tried-and-true varieties for market gardeners, they also sell plastic mulches and floating row covers in large quantities. ( www.jordanseeds.com, 651-738-3422)
R.H. Shumway’s: If for no other reason, this catalog is fun to look at because of the vintage vegetable illustrations. In business for 139 years, Shumway’s also sells herb seeds and plants, seed-starting supplies, flower seeds and spring bulbs. ( www.rhshumway.com, 800-342-9461)
Jung Seeds and Plants: Another long-time business, Jung has been selling vegetable and flower seeds, plants and garden tools since 1907. ( www.jungseed.com, 800-247-5864)
As you can imagine, this list is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mail-order garden catalogs. For a list of every catalog available on a wide range of gardening topics, go to www.mailordergardening.com.
Happy dreaming and planning.