Gardeners: how do you ever choose?

2012 seed catalogs My bedtime reading for the last for the last couple of weeks has consisted of  the seed catalogs you see here and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.

If it’s been an especially long day, all the conquistadors begin to blur together into one vague Francisco Ponce de León de Cabeza Pizarro Cortés… and honestly? I read that book because I find it  less overwhelming than the seed catalogs.

Perennial. Annual. Biennial. Hybrid. Open-pollinated. Organic. Heirloom. Determinate. Indeterminate. Semi-determinate. Gynoecious. Monoecious. Parthenocarpic. Mycorrhizae.

My sister’s neighbor’s cousin’s friend said that this one time she said mycorrhizae three times in the bathroom mirror in the dark and then… okay, fine, sorry.

But really, it’s like a whole other language to learn and then — AND THEN — you still have to decide which actual seeds to buy. Pickling cucumbers or slicing? Cherry tomatoes? Beefsteak? Paste? Full sun? Part shade? Full shade?

Which brings me back to the title of this post: gardeners, how do you ever choose? 

I think I have finally narrowed my options down to the following:

  • two varieties of cucumber (one for slicing, one for pickling)
  • Charentais melon
  • a sweet pepper and a medium-hot pepper
  • cherry, beefsteak, and green zebra tomatoes
  • tomatillos
  • snap peas
  • string beans
  • lettuces
  • napa cabbage (hello, homemade kimchi)
  • kai-lan a.k.a. Chinese broccoli (if I can find seeds)
  • cilantro, basil, parsley, mint, and dill
  • and maybe butternut squash if I still have room


At any rate, any and all advice is appreciated. Whether I will manage to follow it remains to be seen.

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6 thoughts on “Gardeners: how do you ever choose?

  1. It is SOO overwhelming! I enjoy the initial rush but then I end up kind of hiding from them. I make lists and then more lists- what am I spending money on in the grocery store that I could be growing myself? (tomatoes, basil, spinach, salad mix, cabbage, carrots, potatoes) What would I like to have that isn’t available to me here? (ground cherries, okra, chard) Out of those lists, I pick some that are ready to eat as-is and I allow for a lot of “variants” veggies here- purple carrots, zebra tomatoes, malabar spinach- because they are tasty and fun, but they will not can or preserve as well as traditional ones… If only because they’ll look weird. Then I pick some that are specifically for canning, cooking or freezing. Don’t stagger your planting dates on these- it’s maddening to want to put up some green beans or make some pickles but you don’t have enough ready at one time.
    I focus on heirloom varieties because I like to. Sometimes I have to pick a color family or a theme in their names if I’m really not able to make the cut. My sister loves anything designed to be “smaller than average” and so she ends up w/ a lot of “french babies” as I call them. My daughter likes the giant varieties of things, so she’s got a few “big mama” varieties. The other thing is this: seed will keep for years if stored well. You don’t have to plant all of the seeds this year, you can mix and match.

    1. OMG GROUND CHERRIES AMIRITE? I am so borderline obsessed with them.

      Anyway, I tried to pick a combination of the things that I buy often in the summertime (lettuce and green beans), things I don’t usually buy because they’re like $5-6/lb (green zebra tomatoes and peas), and things I can preserve for later (pickling cucumbers and napa cabbage). Still don’t know if I’ll try pressure canning, but fridge pickles definitely and maybe lactofermented ones.

  2. Oh, I SO hear you on this one! We built a beautiful raised bed garden last spring… and so had to just do the planting kind of haphazardly as individual beds were done. This is my first year needing to do actual planning.

    It makes my head hurt. Choices and seeds and making it pretty (‘cuz it’s in the front yard)…

    :) My two girls love itty-bitty tomatoes so much we always have to plant two of them – either a grape & a cherry or else two cherry tomatoes. When we hit bumper crops of those, I’ve had excellent luck preserving them by halving them, shaking out some of the seeds & oven drying them. Then I put them in baggies with enough olive oil to keep out the air & freeze ’em. They are HEAVEN on pasta with a little parm!!!

    (Finished but empty beds here: and some in-progress stuff here:

  3. Last year we got an “accidental vegetable garden” – planted huge sunflowers & got hardly any, but seeds in our compost grew a ton of cherry tomatoes and tomatilloes! I got very excited to see what developed at the end of each day.

    So this year I want an intentional vegetable garden and have gotten some seed catalogs and have started with a big list and then will dwindle down based on: do I have a reliable way to store the item; seed price; ease to grow. The definites I want are strawberries, basil & tomatoes, oh and that red “strawberry” popping corn. My “maybe” list is the one that goes on and on. The other thing that I find hard to figure out is what I’ll try to do from seed and what I’ll buy as a seedling.

  4. PS I harvested sunflower and tomato seeds from last year, and pumpkins seeds from pumpkins we carved so I’m excited to try to plant those too. Do you save seeds from the prior year to try and grow the next season?

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