Garden Catalogs

My Dad and I are planning some of our garden catalog orders together this year. This serves many purposes. We inspire each other to begin planning and some catalogs offer discounts or free shipping for larger orders.

Now is the time to plan your purchases from garden catalogs. I recommend you try to place most of your orders as soon as possible. However, with the myriad of catalogs available, how can we choose which catalogs to place our order and our trust? Here are some tips to consider.

Check return policies, guarantees on plants and shipping charges. How long after purchase is a replacement possible? A customer service number should be prominently listed. Sometimes minimum orders have a large shipping charge. Be careful of companies that ship plants year around.

The size of shipped plants and bulbs should be listed. A two-year-old plant for $10 may be a better deal than the $3.50 seedling, especially for a new gardener. Place a trial order with a company before making large dollar amount purchases.

Take advantage of catalogs with specific growing information such as the light, soil and water requirements. I especially like catalogs that give the pros and cons of a plant. Some plants require very special soil conditions or winter protection. With seeds, look for the All-America Selections that have performed well throughout the United States.

Catalogs should list plant hardiness zone ratings. We are in zone 5. Some plants listed as perennials (plants that live several years in the same spot) are actually annuals in colder areas.

Before you send your order, make sure the order reflects your needs. David Robson, Extension Specialist in Horticulture, offers these suggestions. Start by evaluating the size of your garden. Has your family changed in size and what size garden does your current schedule allow? If you plan to can or freeze produce, two to four times the amount used for fresh use needs to be grown.

In figuring seed amounts, Robson mentions that seed packets and catalogs usually indicate how big a row the seed packet will plant. Keep in mind that prices for seed and supplies vary from catalog to catalog and store to store. You may want to shop around.

Many companies also have Internet sites and offer online ordering. These vary widely, but sometimes do offer useful additional information and pictures. As always, when shopping on the Internet, be sure the site is secure.

Start planning now for a great garden next spring and summer!