The sure sign that spring is getting nearer comes in the form of seed catalogs. They start arriving in late winter, right in the middle of your 95th continuous day of gloomy, gray, half sunlight. Some catalogs have beautiful, well-lit photographs that glow with natural, golden, summery light. Some catalogs only have endless columns of descriptions of plants – blight-resistant, beautiful, compact, productive, delicious, luscious foliage, tender, long storage — all things you want in your garden. All of the catalogs are beckoning to you from a time when the days are longer and the sun is stronger. Krista calls them my seed porn. It’s a little bit of a misnomer – they are more like a child’s security blanket.
I drag them along with me when I take a long bath, and I carry them around in my bag. Stuck in line somewhere? Read seed catalogs. Bedtime stories? Seed catalogs. Dinner party conversation? Seed catalogs. Waiting rooms? Seed catalogs. Every moment of free time? Seed catalogs. Did you know you can safely grow pumpkins and butternut squash and they won’t cross-pollinate because they are different species? Seed catalogs.
My priorities this year, like most every year, are heirloom (whatever that means), open-pollinated varieties. My preference leans toward organic seed and non-genetically modified seeds. The most important thing is finding varieties that will grow well in the finicky, short Olympia season. I also try to pick out veggies that will do well in our limited space, and food we actually buy from the grocery store so we will save real money. I’m not growing zucchini this year because we only buy it like once a year. It’s not worth it. And I am sure I can trade for it come late summer if I really need some local zucchini bread. I only buy from “Safe Seed” pledgers.
Then I pick a handful of plants “just because.” Just because they are pretty, sound curious, or seem too interesting to skip. We started with a spreadsheet, checking off the things we must plant (basil! artichokes! brussels sprouts! kale! tomatoes!), and the things we’d like to plant (green tea and lemon grass, for example). Honestly, we probably won’t get to much of the “wish” list this year – the “need” list is just so long.
I’ve already brought home a pile of packets, which you can see on the table up there. From the garden last year, I saved bok choy seeds, and ground cherry seeds. I traded some seeds for black-eyed pea seeds from my longest friend, Andrea. The list of things I still have to buy is quite long, and there are so many questions: Do we need two or three or four kinds of kale? How many kinds of potatoes can fit in my yard??
I spent many hours of Valentine’s day with my bed head, and my charts and graphs and seed catalogs. Thank goodness Krista slept most of the day. When she woke up, I pressed her for answers – This Kind of Pea or That Kind of Pea?? (pointing at a page in the Territorial Catalog) and Please Pick One More Kind of Kale! (stabbing my finger at a different page, covered in inky scribbles and notes). Very Romantic, yes? I think I’m closing in on my final 1 or 2 seed orders. After that, I have to prioritize getting berry bushes in the ground, and then it should be time for the indoor seed starting to commence.
I spent most of Monday in the yard, raking up material into a new compost pile (we have two now!), digging up the rose bushes that didn’t survive the winter, turning the compost, and digging up some broken concrete I found in the backyard. The trendy word for broken concrete is “Urbanite,” like it’s some kind of new mineral. Whatever you call it, though, it’s good enough to make a pathway out of. Krista warned me against digging up the whole yard, implying that I was going to start digging up a pet cemetery. We have no idea what’s buried back there!! So I stopped digging in random places looking for broken concrete, but I’ll probably go back and risk a kitty skeleton or two for the sake of some locally mined urbanite.