Friday, February 18, 2011


For much of this week, I've been pouring over seed catalogs. It's been a fun and educational chore. But also a time-consuming one. From more than a dozen catalogs, I whittled it down to these six from which I will actually be ordering seeds. My process has been a long one: First I picked, in general, what I wanted to grow this summer. Then I went from catalog to catalog, picking varieties. Each time I saw a variety I was interested in represented in more than one catalog, I made a note of that. Figuring these would be 1) popular, 2) perhaps easy-to-grow, 3) easy-to-sell. With many vegetables I want to grow standard types and some that are harder-to-find.  I didn't want to order seeds from any large corporation (i.e. Monsanto), or anything treated or genetically-modified. Ideally, everything I will be growing will be either an heirloom plant or a common, open-pollinated variety, which contrast from hybrid seeds in that open-pollinated seeds are a more traditional seed source. Open-pollinated seeds are dynamic, meaning their offspring may adapt to local growing conditions, as plants have been doing for millennia. Many of the seeds I am ordering are labeled "organic" to boot. Reading these seed catalogs has been exciting for me. The folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, in Missouri, gather seeds from all over the world in an effort to maintain biodiversity and keep corporations from copywriting one of the basics of life: food. J.L. Hudson, based in California, is a seed bank. Their simple, black and white catalog blew me away with the depth and breadth of their seed offerings. They sell seeds for sequoia to common herbs. I loved R.H. Shumway's catalog. They're from Wisconsin and their catalog read like something from the 19th century, all the while standing firmly in the current movement toward small farms. All of these companies offer many heirloom varieties, and much garden wisdom. One of the things I learned is that mint doesn't reproduce true from seed. So, like an apple, the seeds of one plant may not necessarily make another of the same variety... talk about bio-diversity! I'm ordering some of the same varieties from more than one company to compare them in the field. For crops that I will be growing more than one variety of plant, I ordered many of the varieties from different catalogs. My labeling and mapping systems are going to have to be strong enough to make all of this worthwhile!

And although the ground hasn't been turned over, and the seeds are not yet here, I am already making plans to sell their fruits. I've been invited to attend a meeting of the Charleston Farmers' Market Growers Association, which meets this coming Saturday at Roc's, my favorite bar in town. The Farmers' Market starts June 1, which seems a long way off, but once I get going, will be just around the corner! The Growers Association is a group of local growers who pledge to sell only what they grow, and to grow using organic, or natural methods of farming. I am looking forward to seeing some of the farmers I met last fall at the market, and meeting new ones. Perhaps meeting them will allay some of my fears, especially the overwhelming sense that I'm in too deep!

Until then, I wait for the seeds to arrive, and the work to begin.

1 comment:

  1. You are going to do just fine. Remember WHY you are doing it and you will succeed. I have already received many of my organic seeds. Andrea is making a spreadsheet with name, where we ordered it etc ..but especially "date to maturity" so we will know when we can expect to harvest and what can have a second crop go in. I can't wait!!!