By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Let’s be honest: As snow blankets the ground and overnight lows dip below zero, going outdoors to garden is probably not on your mind. If you’re like me, you’re most likely keeping yourself warm by a fire.
One of my favorite things about winter, however, is dreaming about spring and the opportunity to create new growth. Aiding those dreams is the stack of seed catalogs that start arriving in my mailbox around mid-November. These catalogs tantalize my taste buds almost as much as my weekly visits to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market do. They expose me to an array of vegetables, herbs, and fruits. They introduce me to historic heirloom varieties and help me imagine what might prosper in my backyard.
For many farmers, winter is a time of rest. Perusing seed catalogs with notebooks, spreadsheets, and garden layouts nearby make that time more pleasurable.
“The catalogs are a great tool,” says Paul Arnold of Pleasant Valley Farm. “They help you see what will do well in our climate and can encourage you to try new things.”
The catalogs are booklets – often filled with photos – that describe varieties of seeds that suppliers of seeds produce for farmers, homesteaders, and gardeners. They often include growing tips, histories of particular varieties, and user reviews. You can visit seed company websites online and request their free catalogs. Most companies now offer online catalogs, as well.
Arnold recommends Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned cooperative based in Maine, and High Mowing Organic Seed Co., which is based in Vermont. Both have a strong record of producing seeds for varieties that thrive in our colder, northern climate, and are among the 370 companies worldwide that have signed a commitment to raise non-GMO seeds.
Besides Johnny’s and High Mowing, I also like Hudson Valley Seed Co. and Fruition Seeds, both of whom are based in New York, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., and the Seed Savers Exchange. Many of these companies will have representatives at this weekend’s Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s winter conference at the Saratoga Hilton, which you can register to attend to learn more about seeds as well as farming and gardening.
Visit the Saratoga Farmers’ Market 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at the Lincoln Baths Building in Saratoga Spa State Park; follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for volunteer opportunities.