Arrival of seed catalogs is cue to start drafting a master garden plan

New Year's Day has come and gone so now we can start to look for those gay "specials of the season," the seed catalogs, plus the spring garden magazines, in the mailbox.

Nothing looks so good to the temporarily household digger-of-the-soil as these gay butterflies which bring encouragement and information and which point to the delights of the approaching season.

While the seed catalogs blow the bugle, rousing us to an exciting new garden coming up fast, it also sets in motion the necessary and happy business of at least thinking about making "the plan" -- calculating how many onion sets it will take to plant the space next to the garage, whether two packages of seed limas will be enough for a family of five, and so on.

It's also advisable to give a thought to what your family looks for in the garden before you start planning. If nobody at all is interested in okra (or whatever), why waste the space growing it?

Inside the seed-catalog covers, ablaze with color, we are reminded of every possible choice, from bulbs to shrubs, radish seeds to spray guns, acacias to cabbages to zinnias, and yard-long beans to elephant garlic. Let's not forget the roots and plants as well as the seeds. They're all there.

One great thing the seed catalogs are famous for is setting up the desire to try out something new.

Probably a good way to go is to rule out more than one or two trial plants each year. Whenever you try out something new, try to give it preferential treatment. It's plain that it wouldn't be in the catalog if a lot of garderners didn't think well of it, so it's up to the individual grower to give it a fair trial. It may turn out to be a favorite.

Interspersed among the seed catalogs are the beautiful spring gardening magazines. Actually, it's not possible at first glance to decide which is the more attractive.

The seed catalogs are all for displaying the best and giving you what you want, while the magazines try to raise garden lore to new heights of enthusiasm with articles which deal with both the old standbys as well as introducing some lesser-known plants, methods, and ideas.

Both the catalogs and the magazines have been put together with great care.

There will be how-tos on such subjects as "How to have an herb garden on top of the refrigerator" "How I grew tomatoes in bushel baskets and plastic bags," and "You CAN grow corn on a penthouse terrace."

"Early" and "instant" apply to many interesting methods and to nearly every garden subject. All ideas have been worked out by the authors or someone they choose to write about, and all are eagerly studied and appreciated by the gardener who is winter-isolated and waiting to try (at least vicariously) each innovative plan and idea set forth.

Agronomists, even the backyard type, work long and late, dig hard and deep, but wish as much as anyone to find the way to a bountiful harvest.

The magazines help to realize these desires and also explain how to handle predatory bugs, droughts, floods, and animals in the garden, as well as how to choose shrubs with edible berries for coaxing friendly birds to nest in your areas.

There will be stories on greenhouses, hanging gardens, and getting the most out of a single fruit tree. The Mother Earth News is not a too visually colorful publication, but it is thick with meaty information covering just about every possible angle of gardening and related topics.

Horticulture magazine is rich in color and is full of helpful ideas and information. Even though Family Food Garden magazine has a newspaper format -- no slick paper and no great color - still it is chock-full of all that's needed from the practical approach to gardening. Then there are Organic Gardening magazine and Flower and Garden, plus many others.

As the larges grows, magazines and seed catalogs are filled with page after page of bright spring weather. Who could ask for more?

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