The Joys of a Seed Catalog

Believe it or not, but the first sign of spring is already upon us. Officially, we may have a few weeks of winter left, but I think the mail has a more compelling argument than the first robin, and we’ve already had several deliveries. The yearly influx of seed catalogs has begun.


There’s nothing quite like being quarantined indoors with a stack of publications chock full of the possibilities of what the next year will bring:  We’ll remember that we do appreciate precipitation, when it’s warm and soft, and we don’t have to shovel it.  We know it will be possible to find tomatoes that aren’t pink rocks masquerading as produce. It won’t be long before snow-drops replace actual snow, followed by crocuses and dandelions that are the first nourishment for our dormant bees. Looking through the catalogs, we can imagine how we can augment the bright green canvas that emerges after our days get longer and sunnier. 

With enough imagination, the bright pictures and exuberant descriptions transport you to a future where your sunflowers become charming bouquets instead of deer food, your beans are all straight and slender (and don’t come on all at once!), the greens don’t bolt, and tomato worms and diseases find someone else to plague this year. Close your eyes and you can almost smell the spicy scent of marigolds, or feel soft petals brushing your skin. 

Now, I am not one to wish winter away. I was happy to return to Ohio, where we have at least four distinct seasons (more, if you count “mud” and “road repair” separately), in lieu of the perfection of California summers, and the mild rainy days of their winters.  I really do prefer the biting cold to biting insects, and wind burn heals sooner than sunburns. But the idealistic future I can hold in my hand is almost always more compelling than living in the moment, when, at the moment, it’s grey and brown and windy and muddy…

I know I won’t be the only one enjoying a chance to escape reality for a bit, but once we’ve moved on from our reverie, there are a few ways to enjoy this time preparing for spring.  I’ve noticed tubing in the woods, a sign that the syrup-makers aren’t going to be caught unprepared for the season. In a few weeks, the salamander migrations are likely to start—no matter what the groundhog has to say.  It’s no longer as dark when I leave work, and I swear I’ve seen some over-eager daffodils starting to poke through the flowerbeds. Nature is waking up, and even with snow in the forecast, it’s invigorating to be out in it!

If you need something active and hands-on to get back in the saddle, pruning smaller trees and shrubs should be done soon, because it won’t be long before they start setting buds. Now is a good time to plan for frost seeding, if you want to rejuvenate pastures, hay fields, or bare areas. Ohio Februaries usually are a good time to establish some frost seeded clover or hardy grasses—And those milkweed seeds for your pollinator patches!  While you’re at it, now is the perfect time to start seedlings inside for your spring gardens, like brassicas and lettuces, and flower varieties that may need a little longer to get going.

In our office, we are preparing for  the Farm Service Agency’s “Ladies of the Land” get together on March 20th --Call the office to make your reservations!  The SWCD tree sales have begun, which will certainly get you in the mood for planting.  I know classes for fertilizer and pesticide applicators are scheduled, and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) trainings and Master Gardener classes will be underway soon as well.   

So, for a little longer, we’ll wear our rose-colored glasses, along with sweaters and gloves and Carhartt’s, and just imagine the possibilities that our growing season will bring. Soon, the catalogs will be put in the recycling bin, we’ll get down to business, and all of a sudden, we’ll be raking leaves and sighing about all the things that didn’t get done. But even if your veggies don’t look like the pictures, you know you’re already looking forward to doing it better next year

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Karen joined the Holmes SWCD in January 2016.  A current resident of Wooster, Karen splits her time between Holmes and Wayne counties, and the “home farm” near Bellville, Ohio. Since joining the staff, she has been involved with a variety of tasks within the office, including soil testing and nutrient recommendations, water sampling, conservation planning, field days and educational programming.  She is on the state committee for the Ohio Envirothon, and is working with the multi-county water quality stewardship program, Credits 4 Conservation.  She spends Tuesday mornings at the Farmerstown sale barn to increase SWCD’s presence in southern Holmes County, and she has taken charge of the MWCD cover crop cost-share program.  The wide range of conservation projects, outreach, and technical assistance that the Soil and Water office provides is the main reason she looked for an opening in this field, and Karen considers herself extremely lucky to have found the perfect position in Holmes County.  She can be reached at 330-600-3107 or