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Intrepid Urban Farmer: The Beginning of the Beginning!

The River City News is proud to introduce this new regular feature column, "The Intrepid Urban Farmer". Every couple weeks, our local expert will offer tips, stories, and more for the urban gardener. Questions for The Intrepid Urban Farmer? Email:

It’s the beginning of the beginning! Now is the time of year when all good gardeners get to work.
The seed catalogues have made their annual appearances and have stirred first thoughts and ideas about what your garden will be like this year. It’s time to start the process of sorting through which catalogues you will be ordering from.
First, you must know that seed catalogues are like rabbits. Place a few orders (maybe three or four), and before you know it, five catalogues one year turn into FORTY a scant year later!
Sorting through these is a project unto itself. The thing is, it is worth going through each and every one because each is worthy in some way. You may find just the type of squash you were looking in only one! Others specialize in tomatoes or even beans. Still others have great tools and plant supports that are exactly what you had in mind.
The absolute best catalogues are also valuable reference guides worth keeping and referring to again and again. 
Once you have sorted your catalogues into two piles, one pile you will order from and the other you will distribute to willing victims (a gardening addiction can turn you into a pusher). You can then start the process of visualizing your new year’s garden.
What type of space do you have available? Will you start your own seedlings? Or will you be content to purchase bedding plants. Some catalogues have plants that they can  send to you. Local greenhouses have plants, but perhaps you are looking for something little more specific. Catalogues are your source.
Also, many vegetables are direct-seed, meaning that you plant them directly into the ground where they will grow for the season. The best catalogues will explain this difference to you. 
Be aware that there are many, many people out there that are doing the same thing that you are. You have competition for the more desirable plants and seeds. Don’t drag your feet! Place those orders early! Don’t wait for the end of March (which is the time to start seedlings), and expect to get what you want. I speak from personal experience.
If you are a beginning gardener, the most important thing to do is BEGIN! Select seeds that appeal to you, but don’t overdo it. Don’t order more than you can realistically plant, care for, and harvest. You will make mistakes; you will have successes. It is all part of the process and that is how you learn. Gardening is a long term hobby. You get better at it as you go along. You will need to. But that’s a story for another day.
Seasoned gardeners know what I am talking about. In gardening, beginner’s luck is a real thing. 
The bugs and blight haven’t discovered you yet.
Here is a list of my favorite seed catalogues:
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
955 Benton Ave.
Winslow, Maine 04901-2601
This is an excellent catalogue. Reputable, excellent resource of information. If they can garden in Maine, with its short growing season, they know what they’re doing.
Territorial Seed Company
P.O. Box 158
Cottage Grove, OR 97424-0866
Another great catalogue with excellent selections and great information. Practically a one-stop reference guide.
W. Atlee Burpee & Co.
300 Park Ave.
Warminster, PA 18974
This is the mother of all seed catalogues! My grandfather always ordered from this one and it’s not a complete season unless I pay tribute to his memory with an order from it.
Totally Tomatoes
334 W. Stroud St.
Randolph, WI 53956
The name says it all. Peppers too!
Have a great planting season, and be sure to order something new that you haven’t tried before. Be intrepid!
The Intrepid Urban Farmer will appear at The River City News twice a month. Look for it!
Photo: Community garden in Mainstrasse Village