Maine Gardener: In which we catalog the garden catalogs

My rule has always been that people shouldn’t look at garden catalogs until the New Year. The year that is coming to an end should be devoted to completing the fall tasks and enjoying the holidays.

I have to stop living in the past.

With supply chain issues and shortages of everything including seeds, you probably should have already placed your seed orders. I admit that I made the problem worse: I placed orders in advance.

When Fedco’s catalog of trees, shrubs and perennials showed up, I immediately checked to see if they had Red Astrachan apple trees. It was, so my wife Nancy and I had a rainy day going through the pages, selecting what we wanted and placing our order, including the red Astrachan.

Because they contain so much enjoyable information, I will spend a few cold January hours reading the other Fedco (Seeds and Supplies) catalogs and other catalogs. But if you are very disappointed if the seeds or plants you want have run out, order quickly!

Wood Prairie Farm, an organic potato farm in Aroostook County, attends the same old school as I do – or maybe it’s just suffering from delays related to the pandemic. In mid-December, the farm notified its customers via email that it was working on its catalog, which would be posted soon.

Sunflowers are among the plants that attract pollinators, according to field trials conducted by Wood Prairie Farm in Aroostook County. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Sentry

The catalog will feature a new section featuring beneficial organic flower seeds. The company conducted field trials to determine which flowers were beneficial to bees, non-bee pollinators and other insects that attack predators of potatoes and other crops. The new section includes 25 beneficial flowering plants, such as sunflowers, zinnias and nasturtiums.

As every year, Wood Prairie offers a new variety of potato, also “Baltic Rose”, which has red skin and golden flesh. Fedco is also offering ‘Baltic Rose’ for the first time.

This image is a composite design created over several years by members of the Fedco catalog production team: Laura Childs, Elizabeth Smedberg and Yvonne Montpelier. Originally, the River Conductor was a public domain image of a log reader with no background and no mountains. Montpellier transformed the logs into potatoes. Seven years later, Smedberg joined the team, rediscovered the image, and added some of the background and moonscape. This year, Childs completed the scene by adding life to the water and transforming the catalog cover image. Maine gardener Tom Atwell, for his part, appreciated the teamwork. Fedco Seed & Supplies cover courtesy of Fedco

The catalog I spend the most time with each year is Fedco Seeds & Supplies, because it’s full of entertaining goodies and so much great information. I love the pen and ink drawings, and I especially liked the potato reader on the cover.

This time, I had the pleasure of finding a list of about 50 seeds that are produced within 100 miles of Fedco’s headquarters in Clinton, and another 50 within 500 miles. It also has supplier codes, with # 1 being small suppliers including Fedco staff, and # 5 being multinationals engaged in genetic engineering. Syngenta, a manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides, gets its own number 6.

Pinetree Garden Seeds in New Gloucester is simpler than other local catalogs. With the exception of the cover, it’s printed on newsprint – as you’re holding now if you get the Dead Tree’s edition from The Press Herald – and includes clear and precise descriptions of each item, alongside it. ‘a photograph.

In addition to flower and vegetable seeds and garden supplies, it has sections on containers and the best seeds for them, bee-friendly seeds and supplies, gift items, books and – in a way. hopping they’ve been doing for years now – teas, knitting and making soaps. We order from the catalogs I mention in this column almost every year, but Pinetree is the one we go to when we find out mid-season that we need something.

Old catalogs from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Jeff Pouland / Morning Sentinel file photo

Our Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog for this year is not yet available, but their website is easy to use. Johnny’s is a leading seed company, having introduced many All-America Selection flowers and vegetables over the years. On the website, the homepage lists new varieties for 2022, some 223 items, including vegetables, flowers, farm seeds, fruits, herbs, organic plants, and tools and supplies. The company is local – it is based in Winslow. Another reason to shop there? It belongs to the employees.

Let me mention three out of state companies that Nancy and I use.

Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan specializes in antique flower bulbs. We have a collection, of sorts, of antique bulb plants on our property, many of which were from Old House. We visited the business a few years ago when our niece got married in Ann Arbor. It is a very small company, headquartered in a (relatively large) garage and with less than 10 employees, all of whom are friendly and helpful. The company offers excellent bulbs for all seasons, many of which are produced by small farms across the country, at least one of which is from Maine.

We also buy from Kitchen Garden Seeds which has a good variety of items especially flower bulbs. Located in Connecticut, it’s almost local.

Dixondale Farms, an onion specialist from Texas, has a lot of good information and I have been ordering onion plants from them for several years. This year, its catalog noted that the old reserve Copra Onion has been phased out, replaced by Patterson. I checked Fedco and Pinetree, and saw that they also dropped Copra. I missed it, but luckily we use Cipollini as a white keeper.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who gardens in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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