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January seed catalogs are here - it’s time to start planning for spring

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: January 3, 2019
  • Published January 3, 2019

Seeds at the state's Plant Materials Center. Photographed on Feb. 14, 2017. (Marc Lester / ADN archive)

January is seed catalog month in my book. These days you just go to the internet and spend some time looking at offerings. You will find a few that have enough for you to order a hard copy to study at your leisure.

Inside modern catalogs, be they hard copies or the web versions, is all manner of information. All have cultural stuff that tell you how to grow items. Some include great histories. Some have useful recipes or tips on storage. In fact, there is so much competition out there vying for your attention and dollars, you never know what you might find. Just remember, Alaska gardeners buy locally when we can.

This year I have a bit of a dilemma. I no longer believe Alaskans should willy-nilly plant things simply because they catch our fancy. We have a responsibility to future generations of Alaskans and non-Alaskans to take care of what we have been given. Allowing non-native perennials, trees and shrubs that can escape and spread is to be avoided like the plague, IMHO.

I already have a rule that Alaskans not buy potatoes from Outside sources lest we infect local strains. No one should order exotic perennials, trees or shrubs unless they know that the ordered item will not spread. Be aware.

OK. Since we plan on starting early sweet peas, the first catalog I’ll list is Renee’s Seeds. Renee is a great friend and the source of the idea of starting these seeds early and pinching back to get oodles of flowers. If you sign up for Renee’s newsletter this year, there is a 10 percent discount.

Next, in my opinion (OK, it isn’t so humble), there is one seed catalog that outdistances all others when it comes to beautiful photographs. I speak of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It is 148 pages of the most delicious-looking veggies you have ever seen. This is a catalog you won’t want to throw out, ever. If you want it right away, you can download a PDF version.

My friends at Territorial Seeds always come up with the latest and greatest vegetables and flowers. So do the folks at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Both have lots and lots of short-season crops from which to choose. Their respective catalogs are full of all manner of tidbits designed to ensure your success with their seeds, and reading them will surely make you a smarter gardener. They are also terrific sources for short-season crops.

Raintree Nursery sells fruit trees. I include them because they have been selling to Alaskans for years and know what will make it up here. And, given my newfound fear of invasive plants escaping, I trust these people to let us know when a fruit is one that might escape. The new rule is to ask before you buy, and walk away if the plant does as well!

Logee’s is the only houseplant catalog I would list. What fun to see all the wonderful new houseplants as well as great varieties of the standbys. This is a good way to learn a lot about houseplants.

Kitazawa Seed Co. is a fun catalog. They have every Asian vegetable you could possible wok up and then some. Many of these could be grown under those lights I know you are using to keep your houseplants happy. Why not consider growing some this season as well as this summer?

Of course, there will be more next week. However, if you have a particularly great suggestion for one, let me have it! I am always looking for a good plant catalog to read.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Christmas tree recycling: Bare trees only! Designated Carr’s lots only! Thank you ALPAR and other sponsors!

Alaska Botanical Garden: Start the year out right. Join and support The Garden.

Amaryllis: Get yours out of storage and water with warm water.