Learn & Grow
By LEE REGER
Master Gardener

Seed catalogs are still dribbling in, but not at the rate of three to four a week as they were in February … and some are just pretty pictures and extravagant claims.

A good seed catalog, however, contains a wealth of information.  It will tell you how far apart and how deep different seeds need to be spaced.  Should you row-plant your corn, or plant it in hills?  Is that acorn squash a compact bush-type, or is it a more traditional sprawling vine?  What plant diseases and what insects are beans apt to be attacked by?  The catalog will also show frost zones and will recommend planting dates. They will also offer weird stuff like Asian vegetables, giant pumpkins and seldom seen, seldom used herbs and spices.

They offer different varieties of plants that have different characteristics and different maturity times. Some ‘green  beans”, and you know that they are not ALL green, are ready to pick in fifty days and some require 75 days.  Some are bush type; some are called “half-runners”; and some are “pole” beans that require staking and may produce vines as long as ten feet!  Territorial Seed actually offers more than fifty different varieties of beans, and thirty-two varieties of carrots!  Whew!

It seems that most vegetables and fruits are no longer locally grown except in the summertime when they are available from our excellent farmer’s markets.  And most vegetables are not grown with taste in mind – think of winter tomatoes!  Even “green beans” are produced with the following parameters … Can they all be harvested at one time?  Are they of a uniform size?  Do they ship and store well?  When you visit your super market, the sign says “Green Beans” not “Kentucky Wonder” or “Blue Lake”.  Just “Green Beans.”  And you wonder why they aren’t as tasty as the ones from grandma’s garden.

We urge all gardeners to look in that seed catalog, or go online and buy a small packet of three or four different varieties of bean seeds for what can be called a trial planting.