Companies sow seeds early – lots of them

Years ago, seed companies would start sending out their vegetable catalogs in late winter with the hopes of capitalizing on upcoming spring fever. But in some evolutionary fashion, one that has run in a parallel universe to that of Christmas, the “catalog season” creeps further and further away from the actual event.

As we have all witnessed, Christmas and holiday paraphernalia make their way onto shelves soon after Halloween, and shoppers start running credit cards on Thanksgiving evening rather than waiting until “Black Friday.” And, of course, we all cringe and complain about the “holiday creep,” but if it weren’t for the throngs of people lining up to buy their precious electronic gadgets as soon as they finish their pumpkin pie, I know the stores would not be open.

Similarly, seed catalogs now come out before Christmas (hmm, coincidence?), just a couple months after we put our gardens to bed. Now, I’ll admit it, I don’t throw those catalogs away. But as a father of a couple of kids who still feel the holiday spirit from head to toe, my “focus” is directed toward them.

Maybe it has something to do with the vast number of choices one now has with vegetables. There is the possibility that it would take a person a longer amount of time to choose which variety of lettuce (Johnny’s Seeds currently has 121 choices) or tomatoes (Territorial Seed Co. offers up 108 options) to grow than to wrap every Christmas gift. And, of course, each description reads like a romance novel, trying to convince someone in Southwest Colorado who lives at 7,500 feet that even they can grow sweet corn. So if one were to read the catalog, cover to cover, it could potentially take until spring.

As I have mentioned before, multiple errors have taught me that it is a much more efficient use of garden space to grow what you, or your family, like to eat. While I love rutabagas, and I am often saddened by the lack of love (even in the aforementioned seed catalogs) they receive, they take up a lot of space in my raised beds, and on more than one occasion, some have sat in the vegetable crisper way too long. We grow crops that we tend to eat often (carrots, lettuce, squash, beans), preserve (tomatoes, beets) or store (potatoes, onions, garlic). Even with that conservative approach, the family always likes to throw in a couple wildcards: watermelon radishes, rainbow carrots, and, hopefully, in 2013, they choose shishito peppers. But like so many of our gardens, mine is limited in space, and when you factor in the essentials – squash, zucchini, tomatoes – the square footage is greatly reduced.

So choose your crops wisely and map out your garden before you plant. Before ordering your seeds (or buying your transplants) know how much space you actually have and how much space each crop really takes up.

Share seeds, because most of us don’t really need to plant 250 radishes.

Oh, and start preparing for Valentine’s Day – it’s only 34 days away! or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.