Make a difference in the food system with seed catalogs

Maureen Gilmer
Tribune News Service

‘I believe that the positive power of seeds is the best way to accelerate our transition to a healthier food system,” says Tom Stearns, owner and founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds. He wants to help us all make a difference in the world with the great new 2018 catalog. A whopping 112 pages of full color veggies and flowers means the resource will be welcome on any gardener’s desk. But if Stearns has his way, it will be on everyone’s desk, urging us all to grow organic in the backyard.

High Mowing sells seed to both the consumer and market gardeners who demand tried-and-true varieties. Some heirlooms and modern varieties are not well proven or too highly specialized, so they won’t show up in these pages. That makes this a carefully juried collection that can be counted on to perform well for everyone. The key is to read each description carefully, as every word counts. There you’ll discover essentials about how to grow each plant and tips on where they do best and ways to enhance your harvest.

Order your color catalog online from the website at

Many other catalogs are available in January that are the foundation of our homegrown seed suppliers. These are well-known companies that offer a huge selection of seed with lots of great photos and detailed info.

■Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Full color glossy catalog. This is the premier catalog for beautiful glossy photography that makes anyone long to grow perfect vegetables. There is a wide range of unusual heirloom varieties for exotic winter squash and colored corn and lesser known greens.

■Johnny’s Selected Seed, Full color glossy catalog. Geared to the market grower, this is a hard-working catalog and the most informative of all. The vast amount of growing information, graphs and charts help you to learn how to optimally plant and harvest just like the farmers do.

These catalogs contain growing supplies as well, many of which are not available at ordinary garden centers. Here you will find all the modern textiles used by farmers to protect their crops from bugs, heat and cold. Called row covers or season extenders, these supplies keep your fall greens sheltered enough to harvest throughout milder winters. This is a good resource for lots of specialty organic growing supplies such as liquid fertilizers for boosting raised bed fertility.

You may decide to invest in a bottom heater. That’s just like an electric heating pad, but made to slide under your seed trays. This simulates the same conditions a newly planted seed would encounter in the warming soils of spring, which kick off rapid germination. For very cold climates, these are essential to getting your seeds up and going, despite cloudy days and cold air.

It’s recommended you buy fresh seed every year, even if you have leftovers from before. Each seed in storage reduces germination rates over time, so fewer seeds sprout. When the seed is freshly packed for the current year, you can depend on 100 percent performance.

Order your catalogs with the new year and start studying during the long post-holiday doldrums. Prepare to learn, to make the right choices and cultivate the best garden of your life in 2018.