It’s the beginning of January and everything seems fallow and sleepy. The garden is shivering through it’s second cold snap of the winter. The first came just before Thanksgiving and brought us temperatures in the teens and lots of snow (lots for Seattle, mind you: some places got 5 inches). The second we are enjoying now. I say enjoying because I’m sitting in a warm room with a hot cup of coffee and a veritable glut of seed catalogs.
We placed an actual order to Territorial Seed Company late last summer for our garlic, as opposed to buying seeds off the rack at the nursery. I think the seed catalog people must know when that happens (“Hey, Bob! Looks like we got a live one with big dreams and a valid credit card number here! Hook ’em and reel ‘im in!”) because right around Christmas the seed catalogs started marching in. Every day another amazing catalog arrived; it was as if General Burpee had ordered them to surround me and not back down until I agreed to give Treviso one more try.
I received: The Cook’s Garden Catalogue (their spelling – they must be classy) from Warminster, PA; Pinetree Garden Seeds from New Gloucester, ME; Burpee Gardening, also from Warminster (a lot of seed grown in Warminster, is there?); Abundant Life Seeds and Territorial Seeds, both out of Cottage Grove, OR, and I got TWO copies of Raintree Nursury’s Fruit and Ornamental Edibles Catalog.
These catalogs are all full to bursting with beautiful pictures and descriptions that make everything sound irresistible. But guess what, I’m going to resist. I’ve been spending these short winter days planning, inventorying what I already have and culling out the really old seed and the varieties I just don’t care for, and there’s very little I need. Because I keep my seeds cool and dry most of them will last several years longer than the seed packet indicates, so it’s foolish to spend money on seeds I don’t really need.
As fun as the descriptions of tomatoes and soy beans and corn sound in the East Coast based catalogs, I know there’s little chance that their selections will ripen for me anyway, so I stick close to home for my seed.
Territorial Seed is by far my favorite seed house, primarily because they conduct their own field trials in Oregon and can accurately report on how a given variety will really perform in the Maritime Northwest. I know if they say a tomato is early, it’s got a good shot in my garden even in a cool year. I know if they call a cabbage overwintering it can stand up to our coldest winters and persistent drizzle. The drizzle is the real trick – winter varieties bred for Northeast root-cellaring instead of Pacific Northwest in-ground holding will rot away or succumb to molds and mildews when confronted by our mild but long and wet winters.
So as I sit here with my coffee and my catalogs, it occurs to me that all the garden planning, calendar making and growing research I do to help make our little homestead in the suburbs fruitful may be of use to other Maritime Northwest gardeners out there as well.
Northwest Edible Life is about sharing the information I learn and the planning tools I develop for my own mini-homestead with like-minding folks. It’s about growing our own, cooking from scratch, enjoying our family and friends and trying to live a bit more consciously and a bit more slowly. It’s about my life, on garden time. I hope you’ll let me know what you think.1