If you are still reading seed catalogs tagged with sticky notes, and trying to make a decision about what to order, you are not alone. You also have plenty of time. I dug into the pile this weekend, and have my seed order more or less narrowed down to just three catalogs: Select Seeds, Wild Garden Seeds and Seeds from Italy.
I grow mostly salad greens and these catalogs carry the unusual and hard to find varieties I adore. But as a former seed catalog owner, I thought I would offer a primer on what I look for when reading catalogs.
Writing seed catalog copy is an art and a science. Much like writing a recipe, the writer needs to be persuasive enough to convince the reader to give it a try, the format needs to be written in clear, logical steps full of detail, and there needs to be just enough information to give the reader confidence to try something new. This is not always easy to do, yet there are certain formulaic methods that provide a consistently good foundation.
Writing copy for vegetable varieties should also mention flavor. This is the most essential element to any decision that involves ordering seeds for a kitchen garden, and so often overlooked.
A well written catalog entry will always include:
- Cultivar and botanical name
- Description of the plant or flower
- Origin of the seed | Open pollinated or hybrid
- Hardiness zones
- Weeks to maturity
- Amount of seed in each packet
Good recipes also convey a unique and trusted voice, and this can be found in some of the best seed catalogs such as White Flower Farm or Kitchen Garden Seeds. I like to get to know the people behind the business, and learn where my seed comes from, because this type of engagement builds a trust between one gardener to another and leads to a more interesting horticultural exchange than simply buying seeds.
Start with a plan! Order my book, The Complete Kitchen Garden with 15 garden designs and 100 recipes for cooks who love to garden.