Seven seed catalogs to help you make it through winter

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So far, so good: We haven't descended into the usual deep freeze of winter quite yet. But the long nights of winter are the perfect occasion to think about next year's garden. And nothing helps you organize those thoughts like a short stack of seed catalogs to get your imagination in bloom. Browsing a website is nice, and online ordering can be easy, but there's something about flipping through a catalog that still appeals to many gardeners. (Perhaps it has something to do with the tactile nature of gardening itself.)

Luckily, today's seed catalogs not only make for great shopping and planning, they're inspiring. Here are some of the catalogs we've enjoyed in recent years, offered nice and early, as catalogs often take between two and six weeks to arrive.

Baker Creek's Whole Seed Catalog - Hey, their website is gorgeous, and offers a preview of the catalog, but has some interesting short-form content of its own, including a wonderful photo essay on the undervalued artichoke. Their stylish Whole Seed Catalog comes at a price, at $7.95, but, at 356 pages, with anecdotes and histories and more, it's almost like a big magazine. (Click here to order.) Don't like the price tag? Order their free Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog instead. It's an attractive, perfect-bound book of 196 pages itself.

The Cook's Garden
- Billed as the catalog for "gourmet gardeners," you'll find heirlooms and organics from a culinary standpoint, which means flavors are primary, herbs are vital, and there will be recipes. Order your catalog here.

High Mowing Organic Seeds - Like a lot of the more granola catalogs, not only do you get the assurance that the High Mowing folks are into healthy ecosystems and genetic diversity, but you also gain access to just plain cool stuff, such as attractive varieties, like purple potatoes, orange chard, burgundy beans, and indigo tomatoes. The website has a fair amount of advice as well, including articles that will complement your planning. Request your catalog here.

J. L. Hudson, Seedsman - A "public-access seed bank" that has operated in California for 104 years, J.L. Hudson (no apparent relation to the Detroit department store of yore) is a no-frills website that offers a broad variety of seeds, almost all heirloom. There's no eye candy in their catalog, but it's an interesting, old-fashioned booklet, peppered with quotes about freedom. The 2016 catalog should be ready soon; check the website in a week or two. Also, the whole catalog can be downloaded or printed as well.

Johnny's Selected Seeds - This is what you'd traditionally expect in a seed catalog, with a few twists that keep it up to speed with the trend toward organic and heirloom gardening. The website is loaded with pictures and easy to search. Check out their "Growing Ideas" blog. Order your catalog here.

Seed Savers Exchange - Not a seed company, but a nonprofit dedicated to the sharing and saving of heirloom seeds, this is a good first-stop shop for not just seeds but supporting the cause of seed-saving. Order that free catalog of open-pollinated seeds right here.

FEDCO - A somewhat new discovery for us, this seed house in Maine offers a quirky catalog in black and white on newsprint stock filled with funny illustrations. It also has a political cant: It's wary of privatizing the biosphere and adamant about defending our common genetic heritage. It's sort of a cross between J.L. Hudson and Seed Savers. They also have special catalogs for tubers, growing supplies, and trees that can be ordered separately. But the main catalog can be ordered by phone, by mail, or even downloaded.


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