Bring On The Organic Garden Catalogs! Which Are the Favorites For 2017?

garden catalogs
Garden catalogs piling up on my coffee table.

Here come the organic garden catalogs!  They pile up in my mailbox, then they are brought home and heaved on to my kitchen table, eventually, one by one, they are transferred to my coffee table for a thorough look-see.  I’ve been gardening all my life, so obviously,  I’m on everyone’s mailing list…I get a LOT of garden catalogs.   Not to complain; I love getting them!  This is one time when I don’t mind the paper used and energy consumed to make these visual reference materials.  I settle down next to a warming fire and I read through each catalog, studying every product description, while trying to discern what makes each seed offered different from the next.  I have to admit that after awhile, they all start to sound the same.

“A champion…” “flavor rich…” “easy to grow…” “out performs all others…”

Still, I find small clues that help me to choose just the right seeds for me.  I earmark pages and scribble down notes all over the pages.  The seeds that promise to grow in my planting zone move to the top of the list and I absolutely refuse to buy anything but organic, non-GMOs.  I will occasionally buy hybrid seeds, but always prefer the non-hybrid/heirlooms.  Oh…and I can’t resist some of the novelty seeds too, like Cinderella pumpkins, or mini, white eggplants.  They’re just too much fun to pass up.

I usually have a featured plant for each season.  I pick a focus plant and will try several, different varieties to see how they do.  Some years I’ll grow ten different kinds of tomatoes, other years it’s all about unusual herbs.  This year I’m going all in for corn.  I have resisted planting corn in the past, because it takes up so much space and let’s face it, corn is cheap.  However, with the whole GMO issue now on our garden steps, I feel that organic, non-GMO corn should be in the forefront of my garden plan.  In reality, I do have the space; I just have to prepare the soil and put up a fence to keep out the wildlife.  It’s a major task, but a worthy one, so I’ll move ahead this year and get it done.

I have thought about growing other grain crops such as quinoa, millet, wheat, etc. Those catalogs…they entice me.  However, my biggest worry is that those crop seeds will scatter to the, “wild side,” and disrupt the fragile ecosystem of our area.  Anyone that travels the roads of the California coastal areas and sees the persistent fennel and blackberry plants choking the sides of the highways, knows how an innocent planting can get away from the confines of the home garden and take off on its own, creating a major eco-nuisance.  Corn, on the other hand, should be a little easier to control, compared to some of the other, smaller seeds, that could be easily carried afar by the winds and birds.  My fingers are crossed.

So, my task now is to find the organic garden catalogs with the best corn seeds.  We use corn for so many things, so I’ll need different types of corn: sweet corn for eating, popcorn, (the hubby’s gotta have that,) milling corn for polenta, flour and tortillas and last, but not least, feed corn for my chickens.  I’ve started my quest and have already found several catalogs that offer non-GMO, organically grown, corn seed.  (So THERE, Monsanto!)  I’ll be posting a list of my personally approved, organic garden catalogs and seed companies on another page for reference.  The list is constantly being updated, so please check on it from time to time.

Before I go, I just want to stress on how important it is to grow your own food and more importantly, the significant impact that our small, seed companies have to the organic gardener.  Without these passionate, entrepreneurial spirits, we would be stuck with just a handful of seed choices from only a couple of mega corporations that frankly, do not have our best interests in mind.  Their offerings would most likely be non-organic, or Non-GMO options.  So, I hope that you will join me in supporting these smaller seed companies and organic garden catalogs by giving their seeds a try.  A pack of seeds is a cheap investment in continuing seed diversity and assuring personal food choices. It’s the least one can do.

Keep growing…

~ C


Fall…A new beginning in Northern California…

People often say that spring is the beginning of the growing season and a new year, but here, in the Mendocino Range of Northern California, I most certainly believe it to be Fall.  The heat of the summer is finally over, the tall grasses turn brittle and grey, the sunflowers have all dropped their seeds from their towering stalks and the skies open up…the rains start to fall…ahhh….let the, “serious weather,” begin.

Grape Leaf in Autumn
Grape Leaf in Autumn

With the rain comes new life.  I always look forward to the first day that I see the new sprigs of grass emerging and anxiously await the uprising of the local, wild mushrooms.  It is a time when forgotten greens and herbs spring forth.   We light the wood burning stove for the first time and curl up with a bowl of steaming risotto and a glass of local wine and nestle in with the critters to plan the new growing year.  I love Fall, for it is surely a most special time of year.

During this season, there is still plenty of harvesting to do.  This morning, I found one, lone, overlooked cluster of grapes on our vines, glistening from the morning precipitation and begging not to be forgotten.  The tomato vines are laden with fruit and the unpicked apples are now falling to the ground, waiting to be pressed into cider.  Melons are sweetening up, artichokes continue to produce and the black, kale plants have reached waist-height and are loaded with nutritious leaves.  (Much to our chickens delight.) Alas, the pumpkins are on the late side this year, with only a slim possibility of maturing by Halloween.  Ya can’t win them all.

Young Pumpkin In November

With autumn also comes some retrospective views.  What worked, what didn’t and why?  Would I plant those Furry Boar, or Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye tomatoes again?  (Most definitely…they’re awesome!)  Do I really need so many sunflowers in the veggie garden next year?  (Nope…they take up too much room and rob nutrients from other crops…however, they ARE beautiful and joyous.)  I MUST make more compost!!!  It’s never too early to start.

Turning to the future, I’m making my preparations.  Today, I ordered more fruit trees and grape vines to plant from my favorite, online, tree and shrub nursery, One Green World, in Oregon.  Tomorrow, I plan to go through some of my coveted seed catalogs to pick out my, “must have,” seeds, even though I still have boxes of unused seeds from the last, few, previous , not to mention my DIY saved seeds.  The women in the family are all planning a trip down to Richmond, to visit Annie’s Annuals & Perennials Nursery.  I’ve even picked out a greenhouse kit to put up this year…a lifelong dream of mine.  The Mantis rototiller needs a tune-up and the hand tools need sharpening and oiling.  And yes, I’ve already started collecting leaves and chicken straw for those compost piles…it’s a never ending task and it’s a new beginning.

So…garden on.  I’ll leave this post short, as I want to just get this blog underway.

~ C