Skip to main content
Good Growing

Waltzing Through Seed Catalogs

Eeep!! It's December! Where did 2017 go? This time of year is always a bit melancholy but for gardeners, the sun is right over the horizon. Seed catalogs will soon be gracing mailboxes all over. I love seed catalogs – all the beautiful pictures and information to entice you, usually resulting in your eyes being bigger than your garden space.

It's so easy to be drawn in by new varieties and old favorites and with limited garden space how do you chose. Maybe you're new to vegetable gardening and aren't sure where to being. Those seed catalogs can be really overwhelming sometimes. So here's a few ideas to keep your seed selection in tune with the garden space.

  • Take the time to find out how much space you have available. Go out and measure it if you don't have that information already. This is going to be your limiting factor – each plant has a spacing requirement and if the garden is big enough you need to plan for walkway space to maneuver through the garden. Spacing requirements for each individual vegetable can usually be found in the garden catalogs.
  • Make a list of vegetables you'll actually eat. It might seem very simplistic – but it's a good starting place. Grow things that you're going to eat and enjoy eating. I am someone that always likes to try new things, so if you are adventurous – maybe add one thing to the list you want to try growing that you aren't familiar with.
  • Read through all the different varieties and cultivars. There are a lot of options available. A fun part about starting from seed, it can give you access to plants such as heirloom varieties which may not be available locally. When looking at those cultivars and varieties see what they say about disease or insect resistance. If you're a returning gardener and you know you had certain disease or insect issues previously, see if there are varieties that offer resistance. As you're going through the catalog, make a list of what calls out to you including the variety or cultivar.
  • Put the list aside for a few days and come back to review it with a clear mind. See if the list still sounds appealing. Now is the time to evaluate if you will be able to eat everything on your list. Maybe it's more that you can eat fresh, but can provide you enough to be able to freeze or can. You're probably wondering how you would know how much would be produced. Iowa State University Extension offers a free pdf that has the average potential yield of different vegetables per 10 foot row. You can find that document here:
  • Make a basic map of your garden based on the spacing information for each vegetable you listed and see if you can realistically fit it into the garden space you have. If not it's back to modifying your selections.

You might be wondering why so many steps just to figure out what seeds to order, but in the long run the idea is to only order what you want and can fit into your garden. Trust me from personal experience – it's dangerous to just start adding seed packets to your cart and then trying to figure out how to make it all fit. Take the time to plan ahead and save yourself time and money as well as having a vegetable garden that will provide you with bountiful produce all season long.