I have received several seed catalogs for 2013 in the mail already. The seed catalogs are full of beautiful pictures and luscious descriptions of plants that sound perfect…and easy to grow. This is true, to some extent, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when ordering seeds and plants for this year’s coming growing season.
Unless you have an acreage or farm (which many of you do) you might not have enough space to accommodate everything you want to grow. So make a wish list with your favorites at the top. Then set your list aside for a day or two and review it again. Prioritize what you really can grow and what your fantasy garden grows. Another option to avoid over buying seeds is to split some with a friend or neighbor. That can also help keep costs down too since you are splitting the bill.
When ordering from seed catalogs pay attention to Zone. If you only plant annuals, then the sky is the limit since annuals are intended for one season only. If you are planning for more long-term perennials or shrubs and landscape trees, make sure they are zone hardy. Since the USDA Agriculture zone map was just adjusted, I would suggest Zone 4 or Zone 5 (in a protected location) hardiness for Eastern Iowa. That said I do have some tender perennials that I pot up in the fall and overwinter inside; most survive, though some do not. If you don’t want to bother with bringing tender plants inside choose a protected spot in your yard to try them and when fall comes mulch heavily.
Keep in mind light requirements. Don’t order full sun plants if you don’t have at least 6-8 hours of full sun each day. If plants don’t receive proper sunlight they won’t bloom, won’t be as vigorous; become more stressed and susceptible to disease and pests, eventually perishing. Full sun is 6-8 hours per day, partial sun is 4-6 hours per day.
We have a fairly long growing season in Iowa but make sure you choose varieties that will grow and produce vegetables or blooms in a typical summer. Most seed packets provide information for number of days to harvest. Another option would be to start seeds early indoors and plant as transplants in the spring – in fact, some plants are easier to grow this way.
Lastly consider full grown size of plants. We have all made the mistake of planting indeterminate tomato plants to close to each other. Write down and keep in mind the space that your plants will command at full width and height. Plants planted too closely together will invite disease and pests. Also think about color combinations too and make sure your larger plants do not shade smaller plants.
So once you have browsed all the seed catalogs and have decided on your final list of plants that you really can grow successfully, pick one new or wild and spectacular thing to see if it MIGHT just grow for you too!
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