Burpee Seed Catalog Now that the holidays are officially over it’s time to shift gears and start thinking about the upcoming spring gardening season. While 2020 proved to be a difficult year in some ways for gardeners, the surge in popularity of both vegetable and ornamental gardening was a great boost for seed companies. This sudden demand left many home gardeners scrambling to find the necessary seeds, plants and growing supplies. I expect to see a similar trend this spring while we wait out the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine distribution a few more months. January is National Mail Order Gardening Month and the perfect time to start preparing for spring plantings.   

Have you received any seed catalogs via email or snail mail yet?  They may be arriving any day now. Traditionally, agricultural companies would send out their annual catalogs during the winter months so that gardeners and farmers could dream about next year‘s crops and order their seeds before the planting season. These catalogs were not only a source of product information, but also an educational and inspirational resource for many gardeners.  They featured stories about new varieties, award-winning plants, colorful illustrations and growing tips. The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives has a collection of over 10,000 nursery and seed company catalogs dating from the 1830s to the present day.  These catalogs offer a unique look at gardening and lifestyle trends from the past.  Nowadays most seed companies direct more of their resources into creating websites and online catalogs which enable gardeners to shop any time throughout the year. 

2020 was a lifestyle reset for many people. The demand for fresh organic produce, stress relief and family bonding experiences all contributed to the surge in gardening’s popularity.  Here’s a couple of tips to help those plants and seeds go further this year so we can all reap these benefits.  

  • Buy and plant the exact quantity of plants or seeds you need. If you have any extra, give them away or trade them with your friends. 
  • Collect the seeds from this year‘s crop for future plantings. This is extremely important if you are growing any heirloom or rare crops. For example, I have been growing the same Lumbee Cotton at the National Museum of the American Indian for the last 15 years. The original seeds were donated by the Lumbee Tribe in 2006 and their offspring are collected each year to use the following year.   
  • Donate any excess produce you may have to a food bank or share with your neighbors and friends.  

Whether you are growing plants in containers on your patio, working in a community garden plot or planting vegetables in raised beds in your yard, now is the time to scour those catalogs and get those plants and seeds ordered!