In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
January, 2012
Regional Report

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Curl up by a warm fire and peruse the new seed catalogs.

Put Seed and Nursery Catalogs to Good Use

Call me old fashioned, but I still like getting those colorful seed and nursery catalogs in the mailbox. I can relax by the fire and browse through the pages, dreaming on what new plants to try this year. It puts me in the mood for planning this year's vegetable and fruit garden.

Seed and nursery catalogs are much more than a list of products the companies want to sell. They are like mini-encyclopedias of information that will tell us which plants will grow and perform in our region. This will help save us money by avoiding plants that are destined to fail with our unpredictable growing conditions.

If you are confused about which plants are annuals or perennials, reputable catalogs will tell you. Information on growing requirements, i.e. sun, shade, moisture, mature size, flower color, blooming season, and other special features can be found among the plant descriptions. A plant's ability to survive in a specific area is based on the USDA plant hardiness map, so check the zone rating.

Catalogs will tout the latest introductions and newest hybrids, though some of these can be pricey. Some of my favorites are catalogs that offer the heirloom varieties, plants and seeds from earlier era before the modern hybrids. These heirlooms are parents to many of today's hybrids but still have the desirable traits that are often lost in the breeding of the new hybrids. Though the hybrid tomatoes may be selected for more disease resistance, some lack the old-fashioned flavor of a good heirloom variety.

When it is too cold to get outdoors, but your green thumb is itching, use nursery and seed catalogs to plan this year's garden layout. Pull out the card table, a sheet of graph paper, and sketch up a plan. You can use the information about size and height to site plants so they won't be shading one another. You can design a garden effect that might include theme from a movie, i.e. a hobbit garden, or a mass of one specific color.

If your garden needs more color throughout the garden year, put the catalog information on blooming times to use. It will help you select varieties that are scheduled to bloom in succession from early spring to the first frost in autumn.

If these advantages of seed and nursery catalogs don't get you in the mood, consider the fact those colorful pictures will help you link plant names with faces.

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