Saturday January 12, 2013

Although seed catalogs started arriving in my post office box even before the holidays, now is the time when I expect a deluge of colorful catalogs promising me hundreds of kinds of seeds for new/old/flavorful/special plants. I enjoy growing vegetables and flowers from seeds, so I am the kind of sucker those companies love. It’s too early to plant things, but now is the time to drool over those catalogs and order some seeds.

Most big seed companies do not grow their own seeds on a farm in their home state. They contract with farmers in places that excel at growing a particular crop -- beans, for example, or carrots. They provide seeds, the farmer grows them, and then the farmer sells the product to the company.

I like small seed companies, particularly those that specialize in heirloom, open-pollinated plants. Open pollinated plants are those that breed true, year after year -- if you follow some basic rules about planting distances and saving seeds. I bought seeds from Hudson Valley Seed Library in New York State last year (www.seedlibrary.org) and was pleased with the performance of their seeds, and with the fact that they encourage you to save seeds -- and even to buy seeds you grew for a credit.

I like seed cooperatives that are not out to make their stockholders a lot of money. Fedco Seeds in Maine is one of those, and I have been buying their seeds for decades (