The seed catalogs arriving daily in our mailboxes and email inboxes are a sore temptation for a gardener especially when it’s cold outside. Google tells me Guthrie is a balmy 54F today, way up from the high of 10F we experienced only a few days ago. The clouds that have dogged us for days finally burned off, and skies are that clear wintry blue.
That’s winter on the prairie. Warm, cold, warm, cold–no wonder plants heave themselves out of the soil.It’s enough to send a gardener into a seed buying frenzy. Stop. Before you plunk down that credit card, consider a few things.
- How much space do you have to garden? If your space is tiny like my potager, and you don’t belong to a community garden, you don’t need a lot of seeds. I hear your groans from here, but trust me and start small. If you succeed at gardening the first and second years, you’ll add more space and gardens over time. How do I know this? A little bird told me.
- How do you want to set up your garden? Do you have a sunny space, or is your area shaded by trees?
- If you live in Oklahoma or some other windy place, do you have wind protection? If you don’t, those spring winds will shred and desiccate anything you try to grow. This is the truth. So, build some latticework, a fence, or something else to shield your tiny plants from the wind.
- What is your soil like? Is it gumbo red clay? Plan to spend several seasons–years–amending it, or burm up your soil, or build raised beds. You can build your own raised beds. I show you how in The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, or you can search online. You can buy corners that make construction very easy from Gardener’s Supply. So, consider it, and never fear. While it takes practice to garden and garden well, no one ever really fails because there’s always next season.
- Will you buy some plants as transplants from your local nursery or box store, or do you plan to start some of your seeds indoors? If you think you’ll start seeds for tomatoes or peppers, I’ve written about it a couple of times. Also, I’ve written about vegetables easiest to grow in Oklahoma. Starting seeds indoors is easy if you remember they are your babies, and like babies, they must be fed and cared for on a very regular basis. You can’t forget to water them for a day especially if they are on heat mats. Speaking of heat mats, I think they’re essential. Heat beneath seed trays makes those little seeds pop up out of the potting mix. Don’t use regular soil either. That may sound elementary, but not everyone knows this. Use a good soilless mix for best results. I don’t like seed starting mixes myself because they SO finely grained–if you water at all from above, you’ll have floaters–floating seeds that is. So, just buy a good potting soil, preferably one with locally sourced ingredients. Check with your local nursery.
- What do you like to eat? If your family won’t touch rutabagas, start with something they do like. You’ll get more help in the garden, and if you have children, you also have future gardeners following in your steps. Let them pick out some of the seeds. Botanical Interests has a children’s seed collection so you might check it out.
- If you and your family are adventurous, go ahead and try one or two new things. Then, plant the rest of your garden in vegetables and fruits you love to eat, or those that are extremely expensive to buy. Of course, make sure they will grow where you live.
- Go through last year’s seeds too and consider using some of those. Many seeds remain viable for years. That’s why so many of us store ours in cool and dry places.
- Don’t forget flowers either, especially sunflowers. These tall beauties really make any garden, but especially a cottage garden, shine.
Finally, take your time as you choose. I usually sit at the table with a pad and pen in hand–along with a cup of tea–as I circle those seeds I really want to try. I go through and write down the company name along with item numbers and quantity. Several seed companies sell seed in different quantities, and I want to make sure I buy the right ones. I also try to buy only the seeds I’ll need for the current season. Then, when I go to their websites, I have my list in front of me. It helps with impulse buys. Right now, I’m thinking about lettuces and other cold crops that I’ll plant out in February along with the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers I’ll start indoors. Later, I’ll go through the seed catalogs again for summer food like squash, watermelon and pumpkins. You may find you like to do it all at once, but my eyes begin to cross before I can choose. Soon, I hope to write about those vegetable varieties I definitely can’t do without.
Get your motors running gang. There’s seed to buy.