February is just about upon us, and it’s that time again to start pouring through the seed catalogs and planning this year’s garden. And every year there’s more and more and more to “pick” from (sorry, couldn’t resist!), as breeders develop varieties with increased disease and heat/cold tolerance, dwarf sizes for smaller spaces, and higher yields. For example, between Baker Creek Seeds and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I count no less than 35 varieties of okra! And that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the choices of tomatoes! So how does one go about narrowing down the list of “wants”? Does disease resistance take highest priority for you? Do you order what looks cool or interesting? Or perhaps you pin the catalog to the wall and throw darts and pick varieties that way?
In any case, I put together a simple spreadsheet to keep inventory of what I have on hand, how much of each seed packet is left over from last season, and the expiration date for each seed packet (as a general rule, seed germination rates decline rapidly after 2 to 4 years). I also have notes about how each variety performed, which will guide my decisions about what to plant this year. And along those lines, I tend NOT to plant the mainstream varieties that you find at Home Depot, Lowes, Southern States, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with them, but most of those are hybrids, and while hybrids do usually offer better disease resistance and heat/drought tolerance, I like the idea of planting open-pollinated heirloom varieties that have been passed down for decades, as well as being able to save seeds from the last of the year’s crop, and use those seeds to plant next year’s garden. And that’s something you can’t do with hybrids, because you likely will not get the same variety as what you originally planted. Plus, heirlooms just look cooler! Who wouldn’t want to try tomatoes like this?
But I digress. I’ll be planting much the same as I did last year: kale & lettuce, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cukes, watermelon, and okra, but adding green beans, peas, and winter squash this time around. And when to plant which crops? Click the link below to view a schedule I put together that should make it easier to figure that out (the chart info should apply to much of the Mid-Atlantic region and the southeast).
As you’d expect, it depends on the weather. Some years, winter is reluctant to leave and you may have to delay planting out your seedlings. Other years, you can safely get them in earlier than usual. I’m hoping this year will be the latter. Nothing beats fresh, organic produce just outside your back door!