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I was moving and shuffling stacks of important papers and pamphlets around the office this morning when I came across my stack of spring seed catalogs. Over the past few months I’ve wondered a few times what ever happened to them, so I was glad to see they survived the winter and were still around. Rediscovering them also gave me the opportunity to wonder once again why seed catalog companies start sending me catalogs before Christmas. Who thinks about Memorial Day Weekend planting before we’ve even had Winter Solstice? I sure don’t.
When I was a kid I don’t remember that my mother ever got many seed catalogs in the mail or planted a kitchen garden in our yard out back. She had the place pretty well covered with all kinds of flowers and flowering trees. Most of our fresh summer vegetables came from Sonny Leighton’s roadside stand, which opened sometime in June even though the only fresh items available that early were native rhubarb and Swiss chard.
Although Father would often help Mother plant her trees and flowering bushes and do other small chores to assist in her gardening efforts, he never took interest in gardening or had what you might call a green thumb. And since he was a dentist, it was just as well. Who’d want a dentist poking around in their mouth with a strange-looking green thumb?
When I was around 10, I remember buying some packets of vegetable seeds down at Harris’ Tru Value Hardware. I was told by those who knew that – whatever else I got – don’t forget radish seeds. I had never knowingly eaten a radish and didn’t see that they served any known purpose. But I did add a packet of radish seeds to the pile, and it turned out to be a wise move.
I dug up a patch of ground in the yard and planted my seeds. Of all the vegetable seeds I planted – lettuce, celery and such – the radishes were the only things to sprout, grow and thrive. Although I don’t like radishes any more now than I ever did, I will never forget them for their help so long ago with that first garden.
This year we’re planning a big garden up to camp. Now that April is here and decent weather can’t be but seven or eight weeks away, I feel like sitting down with catalogs and ordering some seeds.
The first catalog I picked up was from a place called Deer Resistant Landscape Nursery in Clare, Michigan. I figure with all the deer tracks we have up to camp, we’ll have to do everything possible to keep those hungry critters from cleaning out our garden at their earliest opportunity.
With packages of deer repellent, deer resistant plants, 8-foot deer fencing and all kinds of books outlining the best ways to repel deer, these people seem pretty focused and determined. If I buy all this stuff I just hope the deer know enough to play their part and feel duly repelled from our garden.
The next catalog off the pile was from Ronniger’s Potato Farm in Moyie, Idaho. A friend said he had great luck with Ronniger’s and their potatoes that sport names like: Dakota Rose, Early Ohio and Irish Cobbler.
Their potatoes sure look good in the catalog, but that isn’t surprising. Ever see any plant that looked weak or under the weather (no pun intended) in a seed catalog?
What do you think will happen if I bury a few rows of Early Ohios from Idaho in ground meant for Kennebecs? I’ll let you know.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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