Winter is the season for seed catalogs. I prove to myself that I have good self-control by waiting until January first to order my seeds. Even so, there is plenty of time to buy seeds this year.

The cheapest way is to buy seeds off the racks in our local stores. My neighbors who do this spend a fraction of what I do and their gardens are every bit as nice as mine.

Local greenhouses have their own lines of packaged seeds; they pay attention to what works in the local area. Take advantage of their wisdom to select the best seeds for this area. The larger chain stores get their seeds from vendors who know what sells locally. Choosing from their selections should give you varieties that should work here.

The more adventurous among us can’t wait for the new seed catalogs to arrive. We spend hours looking at the pretty pictures and amazing product descriptions from the comfort of our easy chairs.

When choosing a vegetable variety, pay attention to the number of days it takes from growth or transplant to harvest and choose from the shorter day varieties. In the North Country we are blessed with the asset of having very long days but the season is short. The shorter days and cooler nights take place as long season crops are completing their maturation. I have waited for a month for sweet corn to fill out but, without summer’s heat and the long daylight hours, ears just don’t develop.

My current passion is winter squash. You can find a good butternut squash on every seed rack. They will grow here, but in two catalogs I found 12 different kinds of butternut squash ranging in size from one half pound to 5 pounds. The local seed rack will probably only have the four to five pound Waltham butternut that may be too small or too large for you.

Helping you pick a tomato variety from a catalog is a challenge; one catalog specializes in only tomatoes. You will probably end up choosing between a nice tomato variety that is early, large, tasty, and disease resistant and a pretty, 65 day, eight ounce, delicious tomato which is resistant to blight, wilt, and mildew. Both could be describing the same variety! Or you can select from a locally grown variety of plants, selected by our area experts at the nearby greenhouse. This is what I do.

Leftover seed from previous years is always a question. It depends on several factors that are explained in an excellent article in an U of MN Extension Yard article found at Along with a chart of many vegetable species, ideal storage conditions are also explained.

My favorite catalogs are those that provide a lot of growing advice. I start with Johnny’s Selected Seeds and High Mowing Organic Seeds. Harris Seeds has a big regular seed catalog and an organic option seed catalog. There are both a lot of good reading and colorful pictures in these catalogs to get us through a long winter and the inevitable muddy season that will soon be on us.

These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season but also click on “Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website for gardening information. Local Master Gardeners will respond to your questions via Voice Mail beginning April 1. Call 218-444-7916, leaving your name, number and question. Our Facebook page may also be of help to you: <;.

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