Archived Opinion

A fine time to order seeds

One of my favorite annual events is set to take place Jan. 15. I share this information now because it takes time to mentally sort through a garden. Additionally, preparing a seed order often proves the highpoint of the gardener’s year. One should enjoy the experience for as much time as humanly possible before reality intervenes.

In my winter fancies, everything I sow germinates and grows on beautifully. Bugs never eat these plants. Early blight never comes and destroys my tomatoes. Just the right amount of rain falls, neither too much nor too little. Weeds don’t grow, voles and rabbits fail to chew, and I plant exactly what’s needed and no more. The harvest fairy comes along at precisely the exact moment she’s needed to pick the resulting bounty at the height of goodness, and she cans and freezes whatever the kitchen fairy hasn’t whipped up into lick-smacking, garden-to-table dishes.

While the dreams feel familiar, this year is actually proving a significantly different experience because I’m not planning out a market garden. Last January, I was ordering enough vegetable and flower seed to support sales at three weekly farmers markets. I’m studying the catalogs as always, but the order will be large enough to plant only a small space.

I confess to liking garden challenges, and enjoy setting yearly goals. This year, I plan to practice seed economy and true small-scale gardening.

Back to the seed order, the brainchild of my friends Ron and Cathy Arps, two superb small farmers who live and work in Sylva.

The group order will take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Jackson Street in Sylva from 9 a.m. until noon. You do not have to live in Jackson County to participate.  

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The seeds will be ordered from Fedco Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds, which Ron noted in a recent email are “two of the leading seed companies that specialize in vegetables that have been chosen for taste, such as heirloom tomatoes, as well as a selection of seeds that are organically grown and not genetically modified (GMO).”

Flower, herb and cover-crop seeds, as well as onion transplants and sweet potato slips, can be ordered.

Catalogues for both companies will be available at the event, and seasoned gardeners will be on hand to help talk beginners through the process. Better yet, take a little time and go online to and Take a look at what’s available beforehand, and jot down any questions you might have. Bring the questions along when you place an order. Bring cash or a check, too — you’ll pay that same day. The seeds generally arrive two to three weeks later, and a pickup date and time is sent out.

Many wonderful things are accomplished through this group effort. Everyone qualifies for a 24 percent discount through Fedco, varieties can be ordered that aren’t available locally, and you’re helping small farmers also get that Fedco discount — and believe me, when one’s livelihood is tied to a garden, that’s a nice way to start off the farming year.

Additionally, people who like to grow things are, of course, there. I’ve always found people who garden and farm inordinately fascinating. They talk at great and discursive lengths about those very subjects I myself find endlessly interesting and entertaining, and they never grow bored when I talk about those subjects, too.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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