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Ordering from Seed Catalogs

Melissa is the assignment editor and contributing writer for SheKnows Home and Living. While other little girls were playing dress up with Barbie, Melissa was busy remodeling Barbie's house. She now lives out her dream covering design an...

Seed catalogs can provide endless plant and vegetable choices for the gardener!

January is the time to snuggle up indoors where its warm and flip through the seed catalogs that have been filling your mailbox this month. The beautiful photos and hundreds of varieties can set you up for an overwhelming experience.


January is the time to snuggle up indoors where its warm and flip through the seed catalogs that have been filling your mailbox this month. The beautiful photos and hundreds of varieties can set you up for an overwhelming experience. How do you whittle down what you should grow from the overabundance of choices?

First of all, if you're planning to order seeds or plants by mail, go with a reputable company--not a fly-by-night plant retailer. Look on the catalog for clues to the company's reputations, such as the year they started doing business or if they offer satisfaction guarantees.

Once you know who you're working with, determine what plants are right for your area and when they should be planted. Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to figure out your region's zone number. Zones are ranked from 1 to 10 based on average winter temperature. Write down the average winter and summer temperatures so you'll have the info handy while you look at the catalog.

Note germination temperature requirements. These are different than the average temperature. Soil temperature usually runs slightly warmer than average air temperature in fall and slightly lower in spring. Many seeds germinate best when soil temperatures are between 50 and 60 F, which you can check for sure with a soil thermometer.

Use the region and temperature information to choose seeds, bulbs or plants that are appropriate for your region. In the catalog's plant description, not the number of days to maturity. In many cases, this is based from the germination time, not the day you plant. Depending on the seed, it could take a week or more to germinate. If you experience a short summer, for example, it may be best to order young plants instead of seeds to make sure they'll have time to grow to harvest.

Ordering from a seed catalog is something every gardener should do because the variety of plants to choose from is so much wider than you would ever find in a local nursery. Keep your regional temperatures in mind, and choose plants you'll enjoy growing. While making a decision may still be difficult, at least you'll know what will work in your area!
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