Here come the seed catalogs

By Jim Janke

Editor’s note: This is a regular feature on gardening by the Haywood County master gardeners. Look for it every other week.


Does cold weather cause gardening catalogs to stuff my mailbox? Or does the arrival of so much recyclable paper cause the cold weather?

Whatever the cause, gardeners pore through these publications, looking for new flowers and vegetables, and confirming that old favorites are still available. I enjoy the planning process for next year’s garden almost as much as putting the plants in the ground, so these catalogs add to the joy of my holiday season. But I’m an engineer, so that figures.

If your mailbox doesn’t get filled automatically, here are my favorite seed and plant sources, arranged alphabetically. Use these websites to order directly, or to request a catalog via snail-mail. Other gardening friends use many other vendors and are quite happy with them, so this list is far from exhaustive.








Vermont Bean


(I buy most of my perennials,

shrubs and trees locally):

Bluestone Perennials

Jackson Perkins

Musser Forests

While you are in a planning frame of mind, do a couple of things now to make next year’s garden the best it can be. Develop a system of recording what was good, and what wasn’t so good each year. Note the seed type and variety; where and when purchased; seed starting conditions and germination rate; and a summary of its performance. Likewise record how your purchased annual and vegetable plants performed.

These notes will help you improve your garden each year. The note-taking system might as simple as a couple of written pages, or as complex as a full blown relational database on your computer. Or use one of the excellent multi-year garden journals that are available. The key is to record what you did, how well you liked the result, and be able to refer to those notes.

Then make scale diagrams of each of your annual and vegetable beds, and photocopy these original diagrams for use in planning where each plant will go. This is essential for intensive gardening, and to best use the available garden space throughout the season. These diagrams help you to avoid over-ordering either seeds or plants, because you can quickly see how much will fit in each garden area. Keep these diagrams with each year’s notes as a record of what was planted in each area.

Diagrams of the other areas of your landscape are also useful, showing the perennials, shrubs, and trees you’ve planted, and how long they’ve been in the ground. Looking at each landscaped area with the diagram in hand gives you a feel for what is working or not; the diagram is also a good place for notes.

For me the jury is still out: do I enjoy PLANNING or PLANTING more? I’m not sure.

Jim Janke is a Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828.456.3575.

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