Garden Catalog Mania

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The holidays are behind you. It’s a break-out early spring day. Not quite warm enough to plant, but the sunshine is teasing you outdoors. Like every red blooded gardener, you’ve waited impatiently for the new garden catalogs to arrive. They’re here! If you are like me, they’re already spread out across the kitchen table and you are dreaming of new beginnings. Another chance to have an awesome garden this year with the right plant in the right place.

Many of us use catalogs to find plants and seeds that we can’t get locally. But some catalogs are so much more than that. They can provide a wealth of information to the gardener – novice or expert. No purchase required! But since you probably will succumb and make that purchase, put on your super sleuth hat and read between the lines for tips, cultivation information, bloom time and a whole lot of useful information as you develop your garden plan for 2016.

Information and Tips

The larger seed producing companies most likely have already been able to discern your shopping style from mining the purchasing records that are available to them. That actually can work to your benefit because the larger companies also typically provide useful educational information on how to be successful with the seed products they offer. This information can frequently be applied to similar seed and transplant products available through other sources.

To get the most out of any catalog, start on the inside cover for a table of contents and the symbols that indicate the environments that are best suited for each particular product. This will save you from the “oops, I wish I had known THAT” moment later on. The first few pages will give you good idea about how that particular catalog can help you put together your dream garden, sometimes with discount coupons or early bird specials. Pay attention to shipping dates because you will want to have your garden beds all prepped, ready and waiting by the time your plants arrive.

The next most useful piece in top of the line catalogs is the index. Some will tell you whether plants are annual or perennial, what germination temperatures are needed to be successful, planting zones required for a particular plant, necessary light quantity, soil moisture conditions and other special treatments necessary for that plant to thrive. Sometimes, you may even be able to determine critical soil types preferred. Keep an eye out for the catalog company’s guarantee policy. Are replacements available and in what situations?

For the careful reader many catalogs are full of tips and advice. Some are clearly spelled out, while others are more “picturesque”. For instance, you very well may replace the phrase “robust grower” with “garden bully”. Look for terms like “self cleaning” and “disease or insect resistant”. Learn garden marketing-ese, and you will save yourself time and trouble.

For a ready-set-go garden, look for pre-designed garden collection packages. These offer seeds or plants all chosen for you by garden experts for a specific theme, such as “Cut-Flower Garden”, “Pollinator Garden”, “Vegetable Garden Kit”. Beginners should be aware that the plants in a perennial garden border will not all bloom at the same time. These gardens are planned so some plants bloom early, some midseason and some in the fall with color themes that change with the season.

Most of the seed production and plant sale companies have an online presence and offer multiple ways to stay connected with them and other like-minded communities of gardeners. Several are not only offering products via the internet, but publish articles, reference materials, videos, recipes, craft ideas and other resources to help you learn.

For more information on suppliers of culinary and ornamental herb seeds and/or plants take a look at horticulture leaftlet 130 found at the URL site: plants.

For information on seed and plant sources for medicinal herbs and botanicals you can find a listing in horticulture leaflet 129 found at the URL site: botanicals.

Get ready to have fun in the garden!

Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent at North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.