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Seed catalogs a tantalizing peak at possibilities

SALISBURY — Mailboxes are already flowing with those colorful magazines known as seed catalogs. With their vibrant colors and exciting details, it makes every gardener ready for the growing season.

If you haven’t created your garden design, now is the time to do so. If you order sooner, rather than later, some of the seed companies offer free shipping.

I know most people want to start diving into the pages, but you really need to have a plan or garden design. Designing your garden can be fun for the entire family. You can even create a garden topic and only plant items that fit within your idea (such as pizza gardens, spaghetti gardens, soup gardens, etc.).

If you have planted in your garden in prior years, make sure for this year’s growing season you practice crop rotation. If you can make sure that no area has had the same plant family for at least three years, this will reduce your pest and disease problems.

If you are a first-time gardener, you may get overwhelmed with how much to buy and what to buy. First, you should think about what type of garden you would like. Do you want to have cool season crops or warm season or maybe both? Once that is decided, you need to have a spot picked out that receives at least six hours of full sunlight.

It is also important to take a soil sample before you plant, since it can tell you how much lime and fertilizer the soil needs. If space is limited, make sure you select plants that produces a high quantity to get a decent harvest. For example, if you have raised beds, sweet corn will not produce as well as squash.

Determining how much you should plant can be tricky, but it should be based on how many people are in your household, if you are planning to can or preserve any of the harvest, and if you are sharing with other families.

This Cooperative Extension publication helps with determining how many plants you should have per person: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag-06.html

First-time gardeners may have some confusion with seed catalogs’ terminology. Most catalogs have legends, but sometimes the words can still be confusing. Heirloom or open pollinated are two interchangeable words. This type of seed has become huge in demand since they are deemed to be “heritage” seed passed down from generation to generation, hence the word heirloom.

Open pollinated also means true to type and you can harvest the seed to grow next year’s crop and receive the same plant it was harvested from.

Hybrid seeds are plants bred for certain characteristics, they have two different parents and you cannot save the seed from them and expect the same plant.

The best way to pick your varieties is by asking friends and family or picking some varieties you have enjoyed. I always enjoy trying some unusual crops, but I never buy more than a small amount, since some will not perform as well in our climate.

It is important to check with your local Cooperative Extension agent to see what crops do well in our area. Since seed catalogs are shipped across the country, some plants do not do as well here as other areas.

For more information contact your local Cooperative Extension agent at 704-216-8970.

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