The Onion Flower

Writer and Horticulturist

Seed Catalogues

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Where I garden it’s not time to plant yet, but it is time to prepare.

Browsing through seed catalogues is a pleasure that those of us who must wait for spring can best appreciate. When winter is at its most drab is when catalogues bursting with colour start filling our mailboxes. They are the harbinger of things to come, the reassurance that spring will eventually be here. You will once again be out in the garden, surrounded by greenery, sunlight and warmth. Right now my garden is a study in white. Even though that has its own kind of beauty, four months of it is enough.

And so I give you a list of seed suppliers. I can’t take credit for it; this list of Canadian seed catalogue companies was put together by Canadian Gardening magazine and is much more thorough than I could ever be: http://www.canadiangardening.com/how-to/gardening-resources/browse-for-seed-catalogues/a/2493

Ideally, buying from local companies is best since their seed is acclimatized to your growing zone, but I do realize that some of the larger suppliers have a diversity that can’t be beat. Remember to calculate shipping costs as well. It costs more (environmentally and personally) to buy a little seed from several companies than to buy a lot from a few. With all that in mind, the only companies I give my business to must also offer organic,  non-GMO, open pollinated and heirloom varieties because this is what I want to grow in my garden. The ability to save seed from successfully grown plants will enable you to keep these varieties alive and improve the seeds’ adaptation to your growing conditions. All in all giving you more chance of success.

As you will discover buying seeds, bulbs and root-stock can get quite expensive. Besides saving your own seed and propagating your plants by division or cuttings there are other, cheaper ways to populate your garden. Most cities have a seed swap organized in early spring where you can buy and exchange seed with other like-minded individuals. In Canada you can find this list on the Seeds of Diversity website at  http://www.seeds.ca/.  Also consider signing up with websites like Freecycle http://www.freecycle.org/ where gardeners offer excess plants, seed and equipment for those interested. Seed banks also offer free seed for those willing to grow and test varieties in their own garden. A  list of both private and government-run seed banks can be found on the Populuxe Seed Bank website: http://seedbank.populuxe.ca/?page_id=34

Most seed suppliers have their catalogues available online to purchase from directly. Keep this in mind before ordering catalogues that can be quite costly to print and ship, not to mention that a wider selection is often available on the website. If you are ordering bulbs or root-stock, don’t be surprised if your order doesn’t arrive for many weeks as most companies won’t ship them until the last frost date in your growing zone. Once your seeds arrive, keep them somewhere dry and cool until you are ready to start sowing, either inside or out.

Lastly, don’t believe everything you see. Remember that seed companies only photograph perfect plants and they had to grow hundreds to get that one mouth-watering shot.

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