This is a favorite time of year for many gardeners. We pull together our seed catalogs, the notes we made about our gardens during the past year, and our dreams, and we start making lists.
Then, most of us order too many seeds. If you are in this group, know that you have plenty of company.
Some Seed Companies to Try
A couple of seed companies that I plan to order from this year have online catalogs only — not print catalogs. Those are Nichols Garden Nursery and Sand Hill Preservation Center. Strictly Medicinal Seeds has not yet sent out a print catalog, but the website assures that it will be available soon.
Gardeners in the Southeastern U.S. might also look at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, that specializes in seeds for the mid-Atlantic states. Most of their seeds will do well across the whole Southeast.
A friend is looking for more container-sized varieties of veggies to grow, and I have suggested that she look at Renee’s Garden Seeds. That company seems to have a lot of miniature-sized crop varieties.
Consider plant size at maturity, disease resistance, heat tolerance
Most of the cool-season veggies that will go into the early spring garden are smaller plants — lettuces, beets, carrots, and spinach, for example. For those, size at maturity is less of an issue, and they will mostly do well even in the Southern U.S.
It would be good, though, to check the days-to-maturity. If a cool-season veggie variety matures in 100 days, the poor plants will end up trying to mature in May or June, when it is no longer cool here. Look for cool-season varieties that mature in much less time, more like 50-70 days, to give them a fighting chance in our short spring.
If you have a small space garden in the Southern U.S., and you are hoping for summer veggies, then you have a double problem. Many of the summertime veggie plants are large. The smaller garden needs right-sized plants that produce well AND that can stand up to all the heat/humidity/diseases that the summer will bring.
When you are looking at mini-sized versions of normally-large veggie-plants, look for information about hardiness and disease resistance. If the description says that the plant stands up well to the harsh conditions of England, you might want to look for another variety. The kind of harsh that is in England is cool/cloudy/wet, not the hot/humid/wet of the Southern U.S.
For the truly determined, it can be possible, with planning, to grow a normally large plant in a smaller space. If you decide to grow gourds, for example, you might “trellis” them up over the top of a shed to keep them from sprawling across the yard.
Switching to a smaller variety – an example from my garden
My garden used to be larger. It has been made smaller in the past few years due to a life change within my family. Change come to all gardens and all gardeners, and change isn’t all bad, but I have had to make adjustments in my gardening. Here is one change that I made this year:
In my order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I included a smaller cowpea than I have grown in the past. My most favorite cowpea on the planet (so far, of the dozen or so I have tried) is Pigott Family Heirloom Cowpea. However, that isn’t really a small space garden plant. The vines reach more that six feet.
The cowpea I chose from Baker Creek — Old Timer or Purple Hull Speckled — is indeed speckled in the photo, like Pigott Family is speckled, so I am hoping that it has similar flavor.
Saving Money When Ordering Seeds
Seeds can get expensive. Choosing reliable varieties reduces the odds of a total garden failure, and a waste of seeds, even when the weather gets weird.
Choose reliable varieties
For new gardeners, choosing reliable varieties can mean checking with your local Cooperative Extension office to get a good list. In Georgia, the list comes from UGA, and it is full of vegetable varieties that have done well in test gardens across the whole state. You can find Georgia’s list of reliable vegetable varieties at this link.
The planting dates included on that list are for middle-Georgia (Macon-ish), so those dates have to be adjusted if you live north or south of Macon. However, the varieties, some of which are heirloom varieties, are “tried and true”.
New gardeners may also want to check out my information on planting seeds in the garden, to improve the odds that the planted seeds will grow.
Pool seed orders with a friend, splitting shipping costs
One of my friends and I often place our seed orders together. Then, we split the shipping fee, so each of us only pays half the shipping cost.
When I send in a Baker Creek order, for example, her seeds go onto my order. This year, Baker Creek is sending out seeds without a shipping fee for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. We pooled our order anyway, even though it won’t save us money. We like Baker Creek, and asking them to send out one pile of seeds instead of two might reduce their costs by a tiny bit.
Also, this sharing by pooling our orders and splitting shipping fees (for other seed companies), is a long-standing tradition for us. Over the years, dividing shipping fees has saved us both a little. A similar practice might keep your costs down, too, and it is good to spend time discussing seeds and plants with other gardeners. The conversation is a bonus!
I did get some advice about this practice, though, from Louis in Customer Care at Baker Creek. He said that when seed orders are pooled, the person who placed the order will get a seed catalog the following year, but the other person will need to remember to request a catalog. Just keep that in mind.
Share a seed packet with a gardening friend
When we both have wanted to grow the same variety, my gardening friend and I have shared seeds from one packet. Only one of us ends up with the information on the original packet, but that has not been a problem. We know how to write the important parts (kind of veggie, variety name, source, year) on little envelopes.