Some gardeners define autumn as the time between the last zucchini being harvested and the arrival of the first seed catalog. If that is so, then Groun
dhog Day is the unofficial start of spring. Every February 2nd, we eagerly await the groundhog’s verdict of whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter, depending on if he sees his shadow or not.
Whether the groundhog’s prediction is good news or bad, gardeners suffering from the winter blues can self-medicate by pouring through seed catalogs with tantalizing photos of fresh produce, plant descriptions and growing information. Seed catalogs are enough to make a gardener create a wish list that could make an eight year old kid’s list for Santa Claus seem like a footnote. There are many reasons to try growing your own garden plants from seed.
Starting seeds is inexpensive. Even adding the cost of seeds, potting soil or growing medium, and containers, it takes very little cash. Frugal gardeners save items like styrofoam egg cartons and yogurt cups to use for starting seeds and save even more money.
Have you ever heard of Climbing Spinach, Salsify, or Caterpillar Beans? You can choose to grow your favorite varieties or try something new and unusual, not just the best-selling varieties that are grown and sold by garden centers and greenhouses. If you are limited on space you can choose varieties marked dwarf, bush, patio, etc. which stay smaller than their “regular-sized” counterparts.
You know where your seedlings have been. You provide them with water and fertilizer of your choice and don’t have to worry about unwanted chemicals being used. Choose to go all organic or use heirloom seeds and you can have an all organic garden.
You get to harvest before everyone else! Gardening involves planning. Check your seed packet and it may say something like “Sow indoors six weeks before last frost date.” Knowing the last frost date (usually May 15th in the Lehigh Valley) allows you to count back to when you can start your seeds and then safely transplant them to your garden. You can even start a little earlier but you may want to consider grow lights for best results.
Do your homework and research varieties that look interesting to you and start obtaining your seeds. There are many local places to buy seeds if you don’t want to order online, but again, you will be restricted to what the supplier has available. If you are stuck indoors in winter, take some time to relax with a cup of tea and some seed catalogs and begin your own gardener’s wish list. Spring will be here before we know it…Happy Groundhog Day!
Lori Metz is a horticulturist and landscape designer at Carriage House Landscape Design. Suggestions for gardening or landscaping questions or problems can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.