Editor's note: continuation of the seed catalogue comparison articles for organic gardeners. We also have an organic gardening store here.

Organic Excerpts
Q & A
organic lawns
Arizona Worms
Catalogues I
Catalogues II
Fickle Frost
Frost Out
Genetic Engineering
Harvest Frustration
Insect Control
Keep catalogues
Midday Sun
Organic Books
Planting Dates
Succession planting



by Mort Mather

I gave addresses for my four favorite seed catalogues last week. You may have already received your copies of them and so can judge them for yourselves. Or you may be judging me and wondering why I like each.

Fedco is black and white on newsprint. They are trying to save money and they do pass the saving on to their customers so who can fault them. They make up for the lack of color with their colorful descriptions like this one for Spring Treat sweet corn:

There are a zillion new hybrid sweet corns and most of them are pretty similar in our trials; good eating but not exceptional. Rarely does a new corn zing our taste buds like yellow SE hybrid Spring Treat. Showing good cold soil emergence, Spring Treat ripens around the time of Sugar Buns, but with longer ears that are easier to pick. The real clincher that made it a consensus choice at Shooting Star Farm was its rich corny taste that we hadn't enjoyed since Intrepid. Not as sweet as Sugar Buns, but better eating quality, ear length and appearance than any other early corn.

There is a lot of information in that description. For anyone who has tried a lot of varieties the comparisons are helpful. While it sounds great keep in mind the qualifier at the end "any other early corn." I'll probably try it this year for the early corn but anyone growing only one planting should look for the best mid to late season variety.

I was only going to give one quote from the Fedco catalogue but I just can't resist passing on another. If you missed their address last week it's: Fedco Seeds, PO Box 520, Waterville, ME 04903-0520.

Black Krim (80 days) Ind. If you think a tomato should be round, red and cosmetically perfect, steer clear! Black Krim scales the heights and wallows in the depths: at its best a striking iridescent purple, at its worst a hunk of road-kill. Most Black Krims have dark green-black shoulders with pronounced catfacing. Interiors are part black, too with an unusual juicy yet meaty taste and texture… Throw away all your preconceptions and prepare for an adventure!

Since one of the joys of leafing through seed catalogues is looking at beautiful pictures of vegetables and flowers one needs a catalogue with same. For that Burpee is my first choice. Looking at those beautiful deep red tomatoes does more to raise my desire for a tomato than anything I ever see in a supermarket. I can almost feel the sun on my back, the firm roundness of the tomato in my hand and that special smell that tomato plants give off when disturbed. Is there anything more beautiful than an egg plant reflecting light from its purple-black shiny skin? Wouldn't you like to dive into that slice of watermelon consuming it until the rind was brushing against your ears and watermelon dripped from your chin?

If I had to limit myself to one catalogue it would be Johnny's Selected Seeds, Albion, Maine 04910. The descriptions are better than Burpee though not as much fun as Fedco and the pictures are evocative but smaller than Burpee. What I really love, however, are the germination guides and the planting information. Germination depends on soil temperature and the germination guides show graphically the optimum range for seed germination. Corn will germinate fastest between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit while peas will germinate from 41 to 77 degrees but when the soil gets warmer than 77 degrees, germination drops off.

Harris would have been dropped from my list this year if they hadn't started offering seeds that were not treated with chemicals. I recommend them especially for gardeners just beginning to explore varieties. I have grown most of the varieties they mark "Customer favorite" and rate most of them my favorite: Lutz beets, Lincoln peas, Provider and bush blue lake green beans, green comet broccoli, buttercrunch lettuce, zucchini elite, and buttercup squash to name a few. These varieties have been the standards by which I judge others.

Since all the catalogues are free, why limit yourself to any one?

ŠJanuary 11, 1997

Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine in 1987. He is a consultant for organizations. You can eat his organic produce at his son's southern Maine restaurant. His address is 802 Bald Hill Road, Wells, ME 04090.



Catalogues, Part I

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