After the holiday season, January can be a long, dull month but for gardeners January can be an exciting time. January is the month when garden enthusiasts spend hours looking through seed catalogs, dreaming, and planning for their upcoming spring garden. Eventually gardeners decided what new vegetable or flower cultivars to order along with ordering their long time favorites.
Now is a good time to start ordering seed catalogs. This way you can enjoy flipping through seed catalogs, admiring all the new flowers and vegetables available during the winter month. If you have access to the internet, it is very easy to do a search for seed catalogs. Many vegetable and flower seed catalogs can be found on the internet where many of the websites have a place you can request a free catalog simply by submitting your name and mailing address. If you do not have access to the internet, a trip to the local public library may be a good place to get internet access to where you can look for seed catalogs. You may also choose to save paper and browse seed catalogs on the internet instead of having catalogs mailed to you.
Although most seed companies will have sufficient quantities of seed to fill orders it is still a good idea to get your orders in early so you get the seeds you want. Some companies offer “early bird specials or discounts” or a “freebie” to entice gardeners to fill their order early and not wait until the last minute. Another advantage to ordering seeds early is to allow time for gardeners who like to get a head start growing their plants early in the house or a greenhouse instead of waiting to sow seeds directly outside later in the spring.
When deciding what seeds you are going to order it is a good idea to ask yourself a few questions about the plants you are getting ready to order to avoid purchases not needed or ones that will not be successful. Although this sounds simple, the first question to ask yourself is what exactly is the plant you are thinking about buying. There are times when a plant may have a catchy name or descriptions that make them sound outstanding or be a “must-have”. This may lead to a situation of not getting the plant you thought you ordered. Common names can vary, but look for a Latin or scientific name, or look as to what type of plant it actually is. If you are not able to figure out what type of plant it is, then it may be best to not order it.
Another question to ask is do you really need the plant. It is easy to get caught up in all the great pictures and descriptions in those seed catalogs, especially when you are anxiously waiting for spring to where you can get out and start on that garden. The plant may sound outstanding and it probably would perform great somewhere but remember to check on the plants growing requirements. Consider the location you plan on planting the plant at and then see if the plant in question fits that location. Determine growing requirements like sun/shade, soil type, hardiness zone, space, and moisture needs.
One other important question to ask when ordering seeds of a specific plant is how pest prone the plant is and does the type you are considering have any disease or pest resistance. It is especially important to look for disease resistant varieties of vegetables when there has been a history of diseases in the location. The best example of this is ordering tomato seeds. Look for the tomato varieties with all those letters at the end of the tomato name. For example letters at the end of a tomato variety name maybe “VFNT.” These letters refer to resistance of certain diseases like Verticullium wilt, Fusarium wilts (race 1 or race 2 or both), nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, etc. The more letters at the end of a tomato’s name, the better off you’ll be.
As we start to see the Christmas decorations get put up until next year, think about ordering some seed catalogs (they are usually free to order!) and enjoy January by looking at all the plants available and planning out that vegetable or flower garden for the spring.
Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.