Believe it or not, now is the time to start thinking about spring planting and the gardening season. It’s that time of year when all gardeners must start to plan and purchase seeds for the upcoming season. Come February it will already be time to start pepper, tomato, and basil seedlings. Spring is right around the corner, and there is nothing better to do on a cold, dreary, winter’s day in the warmth and comfort of home than look at seed catalogs and imagine the fecund beauty that is spring.
Spring gardening begins with the purchase of seeds. The best practice for planning is to create a list of vegetables or fruits that you would like to grow, starting with the ones that you’ve had success with in the past or know are fairly easy to grow. Some that are very consistent in Chester County are: those in the green family, onions, beets, lettuces, radishes, potatoes, and squash. These are your staple crops and very productive without much maintenance. After that, get creative. Think about what you like to eat. And finally, about what will be good for canning and storing. You won’t regret these crops and the time and effort that went into them next winter when you are still partaking of homegrown products. Some vegetables that are a must for winter storage are: potatoes, winter squash, corn, basil (for pesto), cucumbers (for pickles), beets (for pickling), spinach, tomatoes, and onions. Of course, you also have to keep in mind how much time and space you have for gardening.
When purchasing seeds, be sure to look for varieties that prosper in your climate zone. Search for hardy strains that have been proven to be successful over many years. New-fangled, hybrid varieties may be a little too experimental and untested to be successful.
Looking at seed catalogs is inspiring. Every year, I try something new, usually because I see a pretty picture in the catalog. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t, but there is nothing wrong with experimentation when it comes to growing. And you never know when that certain type of berry bush or particular strain of tomato proves to be the tastiest or most productive.