Article and Photos by ELIZABETH FIEND
Although there’s still a chill in the air and a bit of winter to come, if you want to do a garden this year, start now. That’s right. The key to gardening is to be on top of everything. Gardening is based around the weather and the weather waits for no man — or woman.
You probably have a growing mound of garden catalogs by now. A few arrive in my mailbox every day.
Overwhelming! If you don’t have catalogs, try buying a mail-order plant ONE time, and you’ll be flooded with garden catalogs for the rest of your life.
What I do is just thin out from the very beginning. If you try to look through every single catalog, you’ll be paralyzed by too many options. So you must weed out from the start.
Divide the catalogs into categories like flowers, seeds, landscaping, accessories. I grow a lot of soft fruit, so I set aside catalogs that sell fruit as well.
After you’ve divided the catalogs into categories, start with the Buy Local philosophy. Sure, buying local helps dollars grow in your own neighborhood economy, but there’s another reason why this is a good idea. Buying a plant from a nursery located in an area that has the same ecology as where you plan to plant the plant is some extra insurance that it will grow happily in your yard. Yes, that plant from the nursery in New Mexico is gorgeous but face it, it’s just not going to take root around here even if the phrase “hardy enough for colder climates” is tossed about in the catalog’s description.
I live in Philadelphia and there are some big nurseries right here in my state. You can’t get much more local than that. Plus by buying local, you’ll be kinder to the environment by saving fossil fuel with a shorter transport to your garden. There is one major downside to the buy local thing when it comes to mail order. The Feds. When you make a snail mail or Internet purchase from a company located in your home state, yikes, you’re going to be charged sales tax. Still, I do it.
Of course, not all the plants I desire can be obtained from Pennsylvania nurseries. So I move out geographically, just not too far. I also make a political decision and NEVER buy from a company associated with evil GMO company Monsanto. Instead I look for companies that have good work conditions, and care for the environment. Check out this article from the Organic Consumers Association for more info.
You know about the hardiness zones right?
The hardiness zone, or just zone, was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Zones are based on the average annual minimum temperature over a five-year span. Numbers are assigned and graphed, they make undulating bands across the map, much like you see on a weather forecast map. Zone 1 is the coldest, here in Pennsylvania, we’re Zone 6. (Yeah, the zone thing is starting to get a little thorny right now due to global warming, but we won’t get into that today.)