One of the neatest parts of the year is upon us – browsing the gardening catalogues for next seasons’ seeds. Now, I’m the last person to get all excited by catalogues (I have weird Sears associations), and gardening too (it’s a lot of work people), but on a damp and chilly February day there is nothing better than to day dream of summer, sunshine and fresh veggies.
There are several reasons I garden – one is the need to maintain the beautiful flower beds I inherited from the previous owners, two is the desire to learn to grow my own food and increase my independence, three is the desire to learn something new once in a while, four is the incomparable taste of produce straight off the garden bed, and five because I love to eat.
While preparing myself for the first forays into gardening I read a load of books, websites and the like. The great Gardening When It Counts was an invaluable guide into the fascinating world of seeds, from the seed growing market to seed trials which reputable companies perform. I learned seed quality, the many assets of fine seeds and how not to fail at growing them. All of this was not as boring as it may sound as Steve Solomon is an excellent writer and storyteller. He sold me on searching out fine seed varieties NOT the wee plants from your local garden centre and taught me to ensure success.
I turned to Salt Spring Seeds for a vendor because of the great variety of heirloom seeds that they carry and because they provide real taste descriptions not just the catalogue jargon that larger companies have. Then we were hit with the worst summer in history and all my yields were off, but that’s beside the point because my fewer than expected tomatoes kicked the pants off my pro gardener father-in-laws tomatoes. His were fine, but average – like very good supermarket tomatoes. Mine were a revelation. This year I am browsing their site yet again, and suffering from analysis paralysis while I do so, because their offerings are larger than ever.
How do you decide between the ‘taste surprise of 2009’ and ‘picture perfect fruit with rich sweet flavour’? Do I want rich and fruity with some zest or unsurpassed acid but unique and complex flavor? That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. I wish I could grow them all, but in all seriousness I guess I’ll just order way too many seeds and frantically try to find room for the huge plants they will inevitably become.
** By the way the beauty above is Valencia – one of the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.
*** Also check out the wonderful idea on organizing your seeds by when they should be started from Old House, Old Garden.