Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ordering Seeds OldRoses Style

One of my fondest wishes has been granted. Seed catalogs no longer start arriving in October. Instead, the first catalog, Pinetree Garden Seeds, one of my favorites, arrived in the middle of November, then there was a lull of several weeks before the rest of my favorites began to show up. After years of trial and error, I have narrowed down the catalogs that I consistently use to ones that offer seed that I want to grow and have good germination rates. And the winners are: Pinetree Garden Seeds (also the winner in the Most Attractive Packaging category), Select Seeds (which now carries a selection of heirloom bulbs), Seeds of Change (love their offerings of herbs and native plants), Park Seed and Burpee.

I always tell people that I may work in IT, but I’m not a geek. I prefer to think of myself as a gardener with computer skills. I have to admit that I am a little geeky when it comes to ordering seeds. After weeks of careful perusal, I write out my order from each catalog. This takes several days because of overlap between catalogs. I check each one for the best buy on the seeds that are offered by more than one company.

Next comes the geeky part, the spreadsheets. I create a workbook for each planting season, spring and fall, each year. Every workbook has a Master List, listing every seed (spring) or bulb (fall) ordered that season followed by worksheets for each catalog the seed/bulbs were ordered from, followed by worksheets for each garden bed. All of this effort tells me what I’ve ordered, from which catalog I’ve ordered it and where I’m going to plant it. It also helps me to see if I’ve forgotten to order something.

I know that this sounds like an awful lot of work, but I highly recommend it. I have workbooks going back to Fall 2005 and I’ve discovered some Fun Facts:

Fun Fact #1: Despite the fact that my seed orders vary in content each year, they are consistent in number. I ordered 68 types of flowers and herbs in 2006, 2007 and 2008. This year ended that streak. I ordered 70 kinds of flowers and herbs.

Fun Fact #2: Pinetree Garden Seeds has moved from last to first place. I ordered 5 packets of seed from them in 2006, 10 in 2007, 11 in 2008 and 23 in 2009. I increased the number of zinnia colors that I ordered from them this year not to mention their fabulous prices on my other favorites.

Fun Fact #3: Select Seed, my favorite source of heirloom flowers held the top spot in 2006, 2007 (24 packets each) and 2008 (27 packets) but fell to third place this year with 16 packets. They have begun to carry fewer of my antique favorites and more “New Introductions”.

Fun Fact #4: While the number of cosmos varietes has steadily declined over the years from 4 to 1, the number of zinnias has held steady at four.

Fun Fact #5: I only grew one marigold for years, the variety changing from year to year. That streak was broken last year when I grew two kinds of marigolds. I have ordered the same two varieties this year.

Starting last year, I added height and any special growing instructions. The growing instructions are helpful in pinpointing good candidates for wintersowing (“needs cold stratification”) or reasons for germination failure (“needs light to germinate”).

Then in a final burst of geekiness, I place my orders online and blog the experience.

1 comment:

Srividya said...

He he I do the same thing and I still don't consider myself a geek :)