When you’re a gardener, there’s a rhythm to the seasons. A time for sowing and for harvest, months of plenty and those of quiet; days spent laboring and weekends preserving – all these make up the year for us. As February dawns, the season stretches before us, one heralded by two things: seed catalogs arriving in the mail, and my husband taking my credit cards from me.
Late winter is the time for dreaming and setting our sights on the summer ahead. Seed companies know this, and feed our obsession with publications filled with seductive descriptions of leaves or fruit, and photographs so luscious and enticing, gardeners refer to it as “plant porn.” We might not wrap catalogs in plain brown paper, but we’re careful about where we whip them out: opening the pages is enough to set a room full of gardeners into frenzy, crowding in to get a glimpse of the promising plants.
If you’ve never ventured out of the stores and into the world of catalogs, let me lead you into temptation. In those pages are a bevy of choices, from flowers to vegetables, trees and shrubs. You’ll find choices that take a ho-hum kitchen garden and transform it into a gourmand’s delight.
There’s no need to stay with the standard “Better Boy” tomato, when Pruden’s purple, or zapotec will win your heart. Potatoes transcend russet or Yukon gold into Colorado rose, purple majesty, or German butterballs. You can grow a different bean for every type of cuisine on your table, and you’ll never look iceberg lettuce in the eye again after you’ve tastes the crisp, sweet flavor of freckles or grandpa admires lettuce.
This is why my spouse has to hide the credit cards and checkbook. I’m easily swayed into placing so many orders I outstrip the size of my garden, and so far the neighbors seem oddly reluctant to let me plow into their yards for expansion.
In the midst of catalog frenzy, keep several things in mind, the foremost of which is that the seed companies pay good writers to come up with descriptions that convince you that each and every plant in the catalog is a must have in your garden. Other factors to consider are the size of your garden, the cost of the seeds, and whether you want to start seedlings indoors, under lights.
If you’re not into seed starting, peruse those catalogs anyway; many of our local garden centers grow these varieties for you, and you’ll know what to look for when you shop. Stay in or get out, either way, get shopping. You’ll find a new world opens to your kitchen.
This post was previously published in the Longmont Ledger.