It’s that time of the year when all of the seed catalogs I’ve ordered start to arrive in my mailbox and I actually start looking forward to checking my mailbox each day.
By the time the end of March and April wrap up, I have way too many seed catalogs and my husband is looking at me shaking his head.
The benefits of seed catalogs are numerous.
If you’re stuck in a rural town or can’t make a trip to your local gardening store, then you will appreciate how convenient it is to just tally up your order list and either mail it in with a check or go online and order.
Not only that, but sometimes the catalogs offer varieties or exotic plants you normally couldn’t get from your local gardening store.
But it’s easy to go overboard imagining all the exquisite and yet unusual plants you can stock your garden with…
I remember wanting to order over 40 varieties of tomatoes one time…true story.
If you have deep pockets and enough land, you can afford to do this.
If not, then you don’t have the luxury to just add whatever appeals.
So I’m going to go over some tips you can use to keep yourself from going overboard when it comes to ordering seeds for this year’s garden.
Table of Contents
Make a List
Starting out, your list should have foods you and your family eat the most common, so if you’re always buying lots of salads or tomatoes add them to the list.
The list should also have some room for your wish list items.
These are items that you want to try your hand at growing but are not necessary.
Depending on the cost and your budget, I recommend sticking with a max of five items so you don’t go over budget, but if you managed to get all of your must have seeds and still have room in your budget, then go ahead and treat yourself!
You should also determine how much room you need to grow things so keep that in mind. There’s online calculators that will help you guestimate how much space you need to grow what you want.
Figure Out Your Growing Zone
Next, if you haven’t figured out your growing zone, you can find it here.
Growing zones are important because they show you what you can get away with in terms of growing vegetables and fruits.
Some areas are perfect for growing things like peaches and apples while other areas would make it impossible to grow these things.
Find your growing zone so you don’t end up buying a bunch of seeds or plant starts only to find out they won’t thrive in your zone.
You’ll want to check your list against your growing zone.
For items you’re not familiar with growing, you’ll want to check out the special requirements and pests that commonly affect the particular plant.
Depending on the time you have on your hands and supplies you may find that suddenly that plant isn’t so appealing to grow anymore.
Once you figure out your growing zone, I suggest writing it at the top corner of your list somewhere for easy referencing.
Be Realistic With Yourself
Remember how I said that it’s easy to get in over your head with these seed catalogs?
I wasn’t joking.
Sometimes our eyes are bigger than the plot of land you can grow on.
In this case, trying to cram so many plants onto one piece of land can be detrimental and could even increase pest and disease issues.
To avoid that, make sure that your land or gardening space can support everything you want to grow.
I don’t mean just walking out there and nodding your head with a “Yup”.
Actually go check to see if your land is capable of supporting all of those plants.
If not, then you’ll want to start working on it now before your plants arrive.
This might mean adding compost and other soil amendments to help “build” the soil.
If your land still can’t support all of the plants you want, you may have to make some sacrifices.
But that’s alright, there’s always next year!
Stick with reputable suppliers you’ve heard of and make sure you do your research.
I remember last year in one of my Facebook groups how this lady had spent over $200 on baby chicks (chickens) from a mail order hatchery and they all showed up at the post office- dead.
This heartbreaking incident isn’t limited to just chicks though, it can happen to seeds and plant starts too.
When you order from reputable catalogs, you can be sure that quality control is taken seriously so that things like cross pollination, drying, and even shipping methods and procedures are done correctly.
Don’t throw away your heard earned money, make sure your suppliers know what they’re doing!
Let’s Talk Budget
If you do everything right, you can cut your grocery budget by more than half and some of you may depend entirely on your garden to get all the fruits and veggies you need. If either of these are the case, then you don’t have a whole lot of money to spend.
This is where a budget comes in.
You and your spouse (if you have one) need to sit down and determine a good working budget.
If you’ve been gardening for a while, then consider taking a look at the last five years’ worth of invoices for your seeds and plants. Figure out the average between all five years and go with that amount for your budget.
Exceptions to this might be if you were just getting started with gardening and you had no idea what you were doing.
Once you have a figure, stick to it.
If you have a hard time sticking to the budget, then I suggest loading the budgeted money onto a pre-paid card that can be thrown away once the balance has been spent. That way, you can’t spend more than you had intended to.
Don’t forget to account for shipping costs either.
Depending on how many plants or seeds you order, this can rack up pretty dang fast.
If you’re not sure what they are, then try finding the order film in the seed catalogue, most of them will specify on this page.
Read Through Your Catalogs With a Critical Eye
I’m not trying to ruin the enjoyment for you, but this is an important step to avoid costly mistakes.
You’re going to want to compare your list that you created earlier, and start looking for plants or seeds that meet your list. So if you have tomatoes, flip to the tomatoes section and then start looking for tomatoes that will tolerate your growing zone and meet your expectations.
Example: If you want paste tomatoes, then focus only on paste tomatoes that will thrive in your growing zone.
Start writing the varieties down along with the package size you want and the price.
This makes it easier to either input the info into the order form or find and order them online.
Do this for all of your plants.
Sometimes the descriptions for the plants isn’t really helpful in determining if it would work out for you, so I suggest writing it down anyways and maybe taking a look at it on the actual website if you can.
This might also be a great opportunity to look at reviews from other customers about that plant—- definitely consider doing this if it’s a plant or variety you’ve never grown before.
Flip Through The Catalogs Again to Make Sure You Didn’t Miss Anything
You’ll need to have some self-discipline doing this though.
You’re only doing this to make sure that you didn’t forget anything important to add to your garden. This is not the time to start going crazy hog wild and adding a bunch of seeds to your list.
Only add what you forgot and move on.
Getting Your Seeds
So you’ve sent your order and you’ve been eagerly awaiting their arrival.
And just a few short days later, the yellow manila envelope or brown box carrying your seeds is now in your hands and you’re ready to get started.
If you’re going to be planting the seeds this year, it’s time to get a move on with this providing it’s the right time of the year. Most seeds can be started indoors already, so that is one alternative route if you’re chomping at the bit to get going.
If they’re starter plants, then I recommend planting them that same day in the shade or when the sun has gone down. If you can’t get to them that day, store them in a cool-ish place like your garage until you can get to them the next day.
It’s super important that you get them planted as soon as possible though.
If you’ve ordered seeds and still have some left over though, you need to be sensible about storing them.
High quality seeds can last up to a year or more if they’re properly cared for.
I suggest keeping them in their original packaging and storing them in jars or someplace air tight safe- so moisture doesn’t get to them.
Wrapping It All Up
Seed catalogs are what keep me looking forward to each summer and spring.
But if you’re not too careful, it can get pretty crazy- fast.
Keep these tips in mind to keep you from going overboard when buying seeds for your new garden this year!