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Jan. 17, 2018 | Donna Balzer

January in the garden

Ordering seed for the horticultural season ahead

"I'll start ordering seeds soon," I think to myself, as I browse the catalogues that are filling my mailbox and inbox.

As a gardener, I don't have to wait for catalogues to arrive to get in on seed mania and neither do you.
If you have a balcony or a patio, you can dream of growing Tiny Tim or Siderno Tomatoes, Delize strawberries, Mascotte green beans or flower dragon muskmelons in pots later this spring.

And if you have a big backyard, you have probably already ordered seed and planned a big corn roast party for the fall.

But my daughter simply refuses to order seeds in advance. She prefers to browse the local suppliers – the grocery stores and garden centres. This works, obviously, but if you are looking for something unconventional, like an heirloom golden beet or a newly introduced habanero pepper, it is better to order early and order online.

When it comes to ordering seed, I always look at the new plants first. Is there something bigger, better or more resistant to drought? If so, I'll give it a try. One new habanero pepper variety fits the bill. "Roulette" is a low-heat habanero I only see offered in one catalogue – it probably won't be found at a store. Baby Tiger zucchini is another new seed I ordered this year, perfectly sized for a patio pot. Tasty, fast-growing Tiara cabbage, with its tender leaves, isn't new, but it's a go-to I love and can't live without. I won't take a risk – I'll order it in advance, too.

Once my favourites and new trials are out of the way, I make a list of other "must haves." If it needs to be started early from seed under lights, I order it early. Onions, shallots, leeks, begonias and geraniums fall into this category. The stores might be stocked later in February, but I want to start these seeds by mid-February.

This leaves old favourites, including Nantes carrots, Bloomsdale spinach, Calendula and Cosmos, to be bought locally as needed. They are common and easily started directly outdoors from April through May. No need to get them early.

I do allow a bit of unplanned space in my pots and ground for special plants that appear at the garden centres in season. Everything else is like a Boxing Day special – I want in on the action early, and I want to take a stab at it before the other gardeners have rummaged through the racks.

For heritage and locally grown seed, I can also do some impulse shopping at the Calgary "Seedy Saturday," which takes place this year on March 17.

Tagged: Garden | Gardening | Guest Column | seed | Seedy Saturday

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