Do some productive browsing in January

By Jean Thomson


January is the quiet season for gardeners. While house plants require minimal maintenance, the gardener?s best work can be done from an easy chair. As garden catalogs arrive, January offers time to browse.

Many gardeners already have distinct favorites, but most of us are tempted to take a look at everything. Still, some will quickly be set aside while others are reserved for a more careful reading.

I can?t stand jumbles, catalog pages that offer a mix of berries, flowering shrubs, and spring root crops. I always fear that any order I might place would arrive in a similar jumble! My ideal catalog moves alphabetically through the vegetables, then the herbs ... and so on. Another gardener may make a different choice.

Every catalog, whatever its organizational plan, will provide a mix of advertising and education. It?s your job to sort out one from the other, and it is probably safe to classify terms such as ?spectacular? and ?sensational? as lures. However, every vendor does want you to have a good gardening experience, so descriptive entries will guide you in deciding if a certain plant will meet your needs and expectations.

If you are looking for lettuce seeds, for example, you?ll want to know color, flavor, texture and days to harvest. Is a particular variety exceptionally heat tolerant or disease resistant? You?ll also want to calculate cost. This can make for challenging math as different vendors offer different packaging and pricing plans.

Gardeners who order seeds can rely on packets providing clear planting guidance. If you are fairly new to gardening, you may want to seek out catalogs that offer cultural information on insets. These are excellent, handy sources of information about planting time, watering practices, timing of thinning, control of pests and more.

Some companies will offer certain products as either seeds or plants. This is quite common for tomatoes, as an example. While the plants available in this way tend to be pricey, ordering this way can be helpful to the gardener who wants a small quantity of a hard-to-find cultivar.

If you are considering a catalog order for either seeds or plants, do take time to check customer reviews on a site such as Dave?s Garden Watchdog. It doesn?t take long to find out if a particular seller has proved to be reliable in filling orders accurately with quality products.

Many gardeners like to make notes as they go through catalogs multiple times. Even if they are not considering any early orders, they?ll have a plan for on-site shopping at garden centers in the spring. And shopping with a plan is the first step toward a successful gardening season.