Seed Catalogues

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(HOST) Commentator Henry Homeyer is already thinking about spring, with the help of that perennial antidote for the winter blahs – the seed catalogue.

(HOMEYER) If I were one to believe in conspiracy theories, I’d buy the idea that all those Russian satellites of the Cold War have been sold off…to the seed companies, that is. I like to joke that they’re up there all summer seeing who has a garden, and how big. It seems that the bigger my garden gets, the more catalogs arrive each spring.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I love the seed catalogs. They help me get through the winter, and I do find seeds for some wonderful plants I could never find for sale in a nursery.

Starting plants by seed is not for everyone. But if you don’t have a lot of money for gardening, you can certainly save by starting your own plants. A package of tomato seeds that costs me $1.29 will produce all the plants I could want, and I’ll still have plenty for the next two years. And if you want to have 100 bright red zinnias or delicate pink cosmos for cut flowers, starting by seeds is surely the cheapest way to go. But I don’t study the catalogs because I want to save money.

For starters, it’s a good way to keep away the winter blues. I like to look at pictures of fat heirloom tomatoes with names like “Mortgage Lifter”, “Striped German” or “Moskvich”. I imagine myself in the garden, taking bites of their warm flesh in the hot August sun, juice dripping down my chin. I know the snow and cold will not last forever, so at about this time every year, I send off for my seeds.

I like to cook, and by starting from seed, I can grow vegetables not readily available anywhere else. I like trying different kinds of peppers and tomatoes, and each year I buy some new varieties. Of course, vegetables picked and eaten within minutes taste better to me than anything that’s traveled across the country in a refrigerated truck. Even carrots from the local farm stand are not as good as those just plucked from my own soil. And I know how the carrot was nourished and cared for. I know that no pesticides have been sprayed on it, nor on the soil, in the 32 years I’ve owned my place.

But the real reason for starting my own seedlings has to do with the miracle I witness every spring. Think of it: I put little specks of seemingly inert matter into sterile potting mix, keep them evenly moist and, in a week, I see delicate stems emerging, each with two tiny green leaves.

So if you’re getting tired of winter, study the seed catalogs and send off for some. It’s too early to plant most things, but it’s never too early to dream.

This is the Gardening Guy, Henry Homeyer, in Cornish Flat, New Hampshire.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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