I’m a gardener. I’ve been a gardener ever since my devious father tricked me into liking vegetables when he helped me with my very first garden; a small plot in the back yard.
“We” chose vegetables as our crop. His reason for planting the veg was simple; no one grows flowers in rows. I was five or six years old and I couldn’t argue with kind of adult logic and I have spent my life having a love affair with vegetables.
Not peas though, which back then were not grown in a garden, but served from a can, heated through and dumped in a bowl; I still think they’re disgusting.
Now it’s the seed catalogs that drive me crazy.
Remember those long January days of yore when, one day, along with the regular mail, came a colorful booklet offering the latest plants and seed? Nothing helped with mounting cabin fever better than a slow peruse through the thick catalog of enticing photos and the euphoric descriptions of the new cultivars.
Lists would be made of the likely subjects, corn, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard and another new variety of tomatoes, especially the buzz created when the heirlooms were introduced.
A week later the list would change with add-ons and a few things crossed off, mainly those that are easier to buy as plants rather than seeds. Speaking of seeds, the company was always generous with their package sizes, so generous that gardeners found themselves trying to share extra seeds with everyone they knew; after all, to throw extra seeds away would be tantamount to murder.
By March the official order blank would be finished, the order made out, check enclosed and a new planting chart ready for spring.
Those were the old days. They are no more.
Now the seed catalogs come several times during the year and one has to ask themselves, why? Especially when the complete seed catalogs come out as early as November when and the summer’s harvest is peacefully sleeping in the freezers or standing guard in the pantry. The garden is finished and gardeners are glad of it; no more weeding or harvesting or processing all that produce you just had to plant. Take it from me, throw those catalogs away, and spend your time getting ready for the holidays!
Okay, after saying that, I will give way to the catalogs of fall bulbs that come in late summer, bulbs needing to be planted before the snow flies. But this year the spring bulb catalogs are coming in June and July. July, when there are endless berries to be picked and made into jam and the pea pods, green onions, radishes, and lettuce are bearing at full peak with so many other crops to follow in close procession.
It’s also the hottest time for gardening, which doesn’t bring out the best in the tillers of the soil and you have to wonder if anyone goes to their mailbox on a hot summer’s day and says with enthusiasm, “Wow, look, a seed catalog!”
Granted, the colorful catalogs that arrive this time of year usually tout the spring bulbs, but even if you do order, you can’t plant them now, unless they’re iris, which is one of the few flowers that do well if transplanted mid-summer.
Taking a closer look at some recent catalogs, if you have time to read the small print it might say-PLEASE NOTE: Though the tags that arrive with your plants may list them as Zone 5 hearty, in our experience, they are generally hardy in Zone 4, especially in areas with good winter snow cover. Huh?
Evidently, they are counting on gardeners just picking out their spring bulbs by their colorful photos and not reading the print underneath. Even if they did read the script, what exactly does that statement about zone 5 and zone 4 mean? Anymore, who can predict what kind of snow coverage we’ll get this winter? So order or not?
Even worse than the catalogs with the double-speak are the plants at the big-box stores. If people are new to gardening and do not read the tags or don’t do a quick bit of research before they buy, they won’t notice that the tag, in small print at the bottom, mentions ever so casually, that some plants are rated zone 10.
I’m sure the people down south are thrilled, but too many northern gardeners here in zone 2/3 are disappointed when the plant dies. Take it back to the store, receipt in hand and they will tell you it was winter kill, duh, and not refund your money.
Gardeners and farmers and the new hoop-house growers are still the back bone of the world’s food crop. Not only are we watching for the bees, from bumbles to honey and Mason’s, but we’re watering and pruning and covering our crops in hope of a good harvest.
We fight off the new pests that appear each year and we are diligent in our pursuits. At the height of the battle, we do not need a seed catalog or a catalog of amazing spring blooms that don’t need to be planted for months sent out in July.
Gardening is America’s number one pass time, you would have thought it was shopping, and we are manipulated enough into buying more seeds and plants than we can use, so fellow plants men, rise up and say no to the hundreds of greenhouses across the United States, no matter if they’ve been in business for over one hundred years, to withhold their fire until the fall for the spring bulbs and to wait for a bitter and snowy January day before they send out their main catalogs.
That’s when we’re most vulnerable.