Three Garden and Seed Catalogs

Bloody Butcher Corn (Seedsavers Exchange)

Gardening catalogs are the very epitome of dreambooks. Some are quite beautiful, all ripe with the promise of fulfillment in a slightly other universe, but here are the three that make late winter in the heartland a little less bitter:

Seedsavers Exchange puts out a gorgeous catalog and promotes Earth-respecting attitudes with no preaching or guilt-laying. Their online version is, to my mind, among the best designs of its kind. Their descriptions usually include a few words about the histories and sources of their heirloom varieties — makes it hard not to feel involved with the ancient epic of how “weeds” got turned into the exquisite diversity of crop plants we take for granted these days.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds is a commercial version of a labor of love. It’s a real working catalog with limited color photos but a large and well-selected inventory of standard, heirloom, and organic veggie, herb, flower, grain, and covercrop seeds. What makes the catalog special is its generosity with information. If you need a tomato that resists some particular kind of rot, you’ll probably find it here. You’ll probably find it in other catalogs, too, but won’t necessarily know it. There’s extensive cultural, climate, and harvesting info that makes me resent almost all other catalogs for their lack of same. Johnny’s really wants their seeds to grow strong and prosper.

Gardens Alive is a southern Indiana seller of products for organic/”environmentally responsible” gardening and growing. Natural fertilizers, biocontrols (they grow critters like parasitic wasps and nematodes themselves), natural lawn magic, redworms, composting accessories — a fairly thick little catalog with basic graphics and all kinds of dreams for the garden geek. Dozen-page guides to plant diseases, nutritional lacks, bugs. I get the same kind of thrill pawing through this jammed volume that I used to get with Edmunds or American Science and Surplus or the fireworks spreads, or, well, Whole Earth Catalog — It just makes my hands itch to get out there and tinker.

-- David Walker  

Sample Excerpts:

Cupboard Moth Trap. Signature Product. Our easy-to-use traps stop Indian meal moths from ruining food in your pantry. As low as $6.95 each (Gardens Alive)

Black Prince Heirloom Tomatoes. New last year! Mahogany brown with flavor. Unusual mahogany brown shoulders become orange-red at the blossom end. Color will be deeper and more pronounced in sunnier locations. Distinctively rich, fruity, tomato flavor. Relatively smooth, 3-5 oz., 3″ globes show less cracking than typically seen in most heirlooms. This is an heirloom from Irkutsk, Siberia. Indeterminate. Organically grown. Mini: 40 seeds. $2.70. (Jonny’s Selected Seeds)