This morning, my 2-year-old daughter made me very proud. She found a seed catalog, a pillow, and a blanket, climbed up onto the couch, and proudly proclaimed she was going to "read a book." I guess I'm training my kids early.
Whether you are a novice seed catalog user, like my daughter, or have purchased quite a few seeds through the mail, there are always a few tips to help make the transaction easier.
The first thing to do is to become familiar with some of the common terms. One that can be seen more and more frequently is the phrase "pelleted seed." Seeds that are very small, and therefore difficult to handle, can now be purchased in a pelleted form. These seeds are coated with substance to make them larger, and easier to plant. You will probably get fewer seeds per packet, but the ability to hold and plant one seed at a time may outweigh the cost difference!
Other seeds will state they are treated. This means the seeds went through a heat or chemical treatment to kill any possible fungus. Some fungal diseases can be transferred through the seed. Most organic seeds are untreated, but you can carefully treat seeds at home using a hot water bath to kill fungal spores. See next weeks column for more information on this.
Another possibility when purchasing seeds is to find varieties that have been bred for disease resistance. If you know powdery mildew, rust, or another disease is often a problem for you, look for cultivars that state they are disease resistant or tolerant. Varieties may vary between seed catalogs, so review several to find the best choices for your situation.
And, finally, don't get too carried away. I find my seed catalogs very tempting during the winter months! Seeing all the wonderful photos of summer vegetables and flowers makes it easy to overestimate what I can actually fit into my garden when spring comes around!
Anne Lenox Barlow is the horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450; Essex County, 962-4810; and Franklin County, 483-7403. E-mail your questions to askMG@cornell.edu.