Blackwelder column: Seed catalogs tempting

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2011

With the weather we’ve had lately, perusing new seed and plant catalogs provides a welcome escape for those longing for warmer days of spring.
This escape can be more relevant if we take a few minutes while perusing and make a garden plan.
Sketching out ideas or diagrams of a vegetable garden plot or planting can save much heartache later when the rush to plant arrives. Gaining input from the entire family, especially the little ones, can make vegetable gardening a fun family event. Including the kids in the planning process often sparks a lifelong interest.
Gardeners need to be realistic about the variety and amount of vegetables to be planted in the garden. Prolific vegetable crops such as squash, tomatoes, peppers or green beans are excellent choices for small garden spaces or large containers. However, vegetable crops such as sweet corn, Irish potatoes or cantaloupes demand large areas for a feasible planting.
Over-planting vegetable crops is a common problem for novice gardeners. For example, summer squash tends to be the most overplanted vegetable. A planting of four to five vines provides an ample supply for a family of four.
It’s fun to try new vegetable varieties each season. All-American Selections are usually excellent choices for those who enjoy experimentation. Be sure to carefully label new varieties, making sure to record data for later reference.
Be cautious and don’t depend on fantastic results often claimed by colorful seed catalogs. Many will feature varieties that are often exaggerated with dubious results. Some seed companies have crop data from test gardens in climates unlike ours that will not produce the same quality or quantity. The majority of vegetable varieties selected and planted should be reliable, proven, family favorites.
Seed catalogs often have a limited supply, so it is advisable to place seed orders now. Don’t forget to include flower seed along with the vegetable seed. Cut flowers are a welcome addition to the home during the growing season, providing beautiful borders around unattractive vegetables. Some species such as marigolds claim to ward off several insect species.
Stick to a viable garden plan and make notes or develop a garden diary; the older we get, the harder it is to remember the “what, how, when and where.” It’s important to keep reference notes to have a successful garden the next season.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities on Facebook or website at