It’s the end of an era for seed catalogs

This is the time of year when gardeners around the country normally order their 2023 seed catalogs. At least that is what many are planning on doing. However, in keeping with the notion that we need to live in a new kind of gardening world or risk having no world in which to garden, I say now it is time to make a 2023 seed catalog, not order them from others. In fact, this effort should become an annual part of every gardener’s winter routine.

Wait! Wait! Didn’t I used to annually rant (and rave) about the need for the gardener to curl up by the fire and peruse the latest from Burpee’s or Parks, Territorial and Johnny’s? Didn’t I push ordering seeds, studying cultural information and drooling over pictures, not to mention the thrill of getting a catalog out of the mail box? I know. I know.

Let’s face it, however. In today’s world, mail-order seed catalogs are a waste of paper, the catalog house’s time and are limited in use when compared to what you can do when viewing on a computer or pad. The pictures are more drool-worthy, the cultural information is often supplemented with hyperlinks to get more of it, and there isn’t the unnecessary waste of physical resources, including envelopes and stamps.

Besides, no one wants to produce a paper seed catalog when they can skip the cost and effort and get just as much detail into your hands via the web. We all have access to the internet (or someone who can help us). This is where the new routine starts.

The idea is to approach viewing online material from two different directions. The first is the traditional method (with a twist). You merely enter the names of your favorite catalogs into your search engine (that is the twist) and call up them up. My standards for Alaska are “Johnny’s Seed,” “Territorial Seeds,” “Renee’s Nursery” and “Baker Creek” (the only paper seed catalog I will allow this year, though even here I urge you to use the web version which is exactly as good). It is so easy; I don’t even need to list their web addresses or their exact names and you don’t have to pull them from a list in this column and type them in!

The other approach is to search by specific type of seed or plant. Type “delphiniums” or “pod peas” or whatever your interest into your search engine and voila (French? I am trying to add some culture here this year) a whole list of catalogs to peruse, images to click on and more cultural growing information than I could ever hope to write up in a column. You might even find YouTube videos related to your inquiry which is again, way more than you could ever hope for with paper catalogs.

The other half of this new catalog equation is to collect information by making your own garden column notes. Create a new document in whatever program you use or start a PDF (better if you are with me on this). Then copy things you want to keep from individual web pages and paste them into it in your own document. Copy the web page for the source so you can just open your catalog document and go right to the page again. This is much easier than dog-earring a paper catalog or keeping a paper list.


Oh yeah! I forget to mention that you can also order seeds and plants online, too. Of course, you knew that, but I note this because most of us really don’t need to go through that exercise anymore either. For one thing, most are more than willing to subsist on whatever we can get off of local seed racks. These days, if you look around, you will find packets of Territorial, Renee’s, Ed Hume and Denali seeds on racks right here in Alaska. Best of all, by purchasing locally instead of from “foreign lands,” you will be doing another thing that is good for Alaska and this world.

[Resolve to start gardening with an emphasis on sustainability]

I realize that by insisting readers start using the internet instead of the U.S. Post Office for seed catalogs, I am forgoing three or four easy January column subjects. Still, as noted last week, all gardeners need to change how we garden, not just those who are still using chemicals. The new words are “Is it sustainable?” Paper catalogs are not.

Some would say it is a new world in which to garden these days. I say it is our only world and we better start treating it like it is. Seed catalogs? Let this be the end of an era.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

Christmas Tree Recycling: Through Jan. 11, “live” Christmas trees should be dropped behind the barriers marking designated areas at these Carrs/Safeway locations -- Anchorage (all locations), Eagle River and Palmer. Please, no wreaths, decorations, plastic strings of lights, etc.

Recycle holiday string lights and bulbs: Through Jan. 15 at the Anchorage Recycling Center: 6161 Rosewood St. or Total Reclaim: 12050 Industry Way, #10

Alaska Botanical Garden: Did you Join? Check out to see what is being offered to the public, with discounts and first in line for members only! Join today. There is a year full of activities waiting for you and yours.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.