Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Seed Catalogs are Great Tools

Our newest edition of Gleanings eNews features organic seed catalogs as this month's favorite tools. Since new organic seed catalogs have just come out for the 2012 season, now is a good time to note how informative and useful seed catalogs can be when starting out your garden or farm for the year.  Really knowing what kinds of seed grow best in a particular soil and climate and when it's best to plant them can mean the difference between a successful harvest and a loss.  Seed catalogs (and the people working behind the scenes to compile them) provide more than just an indexed list of products for sale.  They represent a wealth of knowledge from decades of experience working with seeds.  If you are a farmer or gardener, taking every opportunity to soak up this kind of accumulated know-how can really put you ahead in terms of your production, regardless of whether you are growing for personal or commercial use.

A recent interview by A Way to Garden highlights one individual in the vast well of organic seed producers.  C.R. Lawn, the voice behind Fedco Seeds, is not only an expert on organic seed and production, but also was a keynote speaker at one of our past winter conferences, a co-author of the NOFA Handbook on saving seeds, and his business is a co-plaintiff in our suit against Monsanto.  In the interview, C.R. dicusses a host of topics ranging from his heroes, to the Monsanto lawsuit, to giving advice about the best lettuces, peas, and potatoes.  The following segment was particularly interesting:

Q. I have a famous garden friend who despite his expertise (and Italian heritage) lamented he could never ripen a proper crop of figs. Has any plant escaped your attempts at cultivation, or otherwise exasperated you?

A. I have never done well with peppers or eggplant. With peppers I think it is mostly that I have farmed in two windy locations and I have observed that peppers hate wind. They did much better when I built them little cages with row covers over.

I think plants know when you don’t like to eat them and they won’t grow for you. The eggplant falls in that category. Though a good chef can make an eggplant dish that I would eat, I lack that ability. The plants seem to know that and never grow for me. It doesn’t help that they prefer a great deal of heat (Maine sure was not warm enough for them most years), and they seem to be a favorite target for the Colorado Potato Beetle, which in my experience will decimate them must faster than it will potatoes.

C.R. makes a good point in this section that it's important to grow what you enjoy cooking and eating.  If you love what you grow you will have a vested interest in its success, and all that hard work will be all the more delicious come harvest time!

Have a great afternoon!

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