The 2011 seed catalogs are valuable gardening tools
Dreaming of 2011's garden bounty? A great way to start is with seed catalogs. You'll learn a great deal.
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● Read up on the various vegetables and make sure you can provide suitable growing conditions for what you want to grow. Consider your growing zone, also known as the hardiness zone, choosing only seeds for plants that are hardy to the zone you live in. Also, keep in mind that seeds of many varieties need to be started indoors a good eight to 10 weeks before you plant the seedlings outdoors.Skip to next paragraph
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● Another important climate consideration is the temperature the vegetable prefers – warm or cool. Warm-season crops need adequate heat to germinate the seed, set fruit, and ripen. Cool-season crops can tolerate moderately heavy frost and can be grown throughout the winter in milder climates, but do poorly in the heat. For the most part, with warm-season vegetables you harvest the fruit (tomatoes, melons, peppers, eggplant, etc.) and with cool-season crops, you harvest the leaves, roots, or stems (lettuce, spinach, sorrel, broccoli, etc.)
● Grow only those varieties that you want to eat fresh. Of course, everything tastes better when eaten freshly picked, but there are some veggies that taste best consumed fresh out of the veggie patch. My list includes tomatoes, lettuce, peas, corn, asparagus (if you have the room), kohlrabi, corn salad (mache), and herbs, especially basil and thyme.
● Plant small amounts. As a beginning gardener, I planted 20 tomato plants one year. When the harvest came in, I found myself overwhelmed with tomatoes. Cutting that number by half still gives me plenty of tomatoes to eat fresh, can, share with friends and donate to the local food pantry.
● If space is limited, grow only what you can’t easily – and reasonably – purchase at the supermarket or farmers' markets. My list would include: rainbow colored carrots, multicolored beets, young leeks, numerous peppers, baby turnips, melons, okra, purple cauliflower, sorrel, a variety of radishes, interesting zucchini, edible flowers, and of course, various varieties of tomatoes – such as yellow, orange, pink, and a few heirloom.
● Finally, be adventurous and try something new each season.
Betty Earl, the Intrepid Gardener, blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's the author of “In Search of Great Plants: The Insider’s Guide to the Best Plants in the Midwest.” She also writes a regular column for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and The Kankakee Journal and numerous articles for Small Gardens Magazine, American Nurseryman, Nature’s Garden, and Midwest Living Magazine, as well as other national magazines. She is a garden scout for Better Homes and Gardens and a regional representative for The Garden Conservancy. To read more by Betty, click here.