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What’s in Your Catalogs?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

All winter long, starting in January begins the annual flight of vegetable and fruit tree catalogs to your mailbox. It used to be you get a vegetable catalog or a fruit catalog. Many catalogs now contain something for everyone, including the garden gadget addicts. There are now catalogs offering heirloom vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit trees all together. These heirloom varieties can be some of the best tasting and or more unusual looking fruits and vegetables we get to eat. They are called heirloom since they have had no or very little traditional breeding. This can mean that along with the great taste, you will have more disease problems with them too. If the problem is foliar diseases, then making sure the plants have the best growing conditions possible, you can limit the problem until you have been rewarded with those fruits and vegetables. If the variety is very susceptible to our soil diseases, then work very hard on crop rotation along with good growing conditions.

With all the breeding work going on, our vegetables can take on new colors that are a bit outside the lines. Consider a blue potato or perhaps the more acceptable colors of green peppers, yellow, red, purple, orange and more. It used to be that Swiss chard was green, now in shades of pink, orange, yellow, gold, white and purple. Newer varieties have a much more slender stalk and can be used to brighten up salads or cooked as you would use spinach Small fruits can be other plants besides strawberries and raspberries now. Plant breeders have had good success transforming the smaller fruiting shrubs too like currants, gooseberries and aronia into performing plants for the home garden. You will find heirloom and new cultivars of our perennial vegetables. Rhubarb and Asparagus are great additions to the garden as perennial crops if you have room.

Catalogs can also offer varieties of apples that we certainly do not see at the grocery stores. You can find ten or more kinds of apples at the store, yet there are well over 100 varieties of apples that could be grown. Check out the varieties of apples offered at your local orchard and you will get an idea of just how diverse apples can be. Now go looking for the gardening gadgets.

If you start your own seeds, gardeners will find a source of pots, seed starting soil mixes, markers, and more. You get to start your seeds in flat, individual cell packs as you see when you buy your annual flowers, or even expanding pellets. Pots can be out of plastic or an organic fiber. Some of the accessories that make starting your own seeds easier include warming mats in sizes from one six pack to a full tray. Other items you will find include plant stands with growing lights and self-watering trays. You will also be able to pick from a variety of temporary structures for outdoor use to grow out and harden your vegetable plants before they go into the garden.

There is always hand tools galore offered. You will find the traditional ones right along with a modern, ergonomic version. Some more useful and used more often than others, so choose wisely.

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