With temperatures forecasted to drop and the region at long last supposed to get some snow, it’s time to pull out the seed catalogs and plan for warmer months.
It may feel early, but don’t delay. Before the pandemic, the peak season for Hudson Valley Seed Company was mid-February through the end of April, co-owner Doug Mueller said. “It has definitely moved forward since. There was a big rush on seeds; people got in the mindset that things were out of stock and were trying to order early to get the varieties they wanted.”
As a result, January has become the new kick-off month for gardeners to purchase their summer vegetables, flowers, herbs, and more.
“January is a great time,” said Lee Reich, an avid “farmdener” (more than a gardener, less than a farmer) in New Paltz and author of several books, including “A Northeast Gardener’s Year.” “Last year and the year before there was such a run on gardening that a lot of people were out of seeds and plants. I want to make sure I get those.”
Reich orders from several catalogs, including Fedco Seeds and High Mowing Seeds. He also recommends J. L. Hudson, which was established in 1911. “Their catalog is not flashy with colored paper. It’s just black and white.” Seeds are listed by genus, not common names, requiring the purchaser to “be a plant geek,” Reich said.
January is when Hudson Valley Seed Company generally receives large orders — everything someone might want for an entire growing season. Mueller said he’s already seeing increased volume. Smaller, follow-up orders for more immediate plantings come in the summer or fall.
Though Hudson Valley Seed Company has new systems based on the increased demand of the past few seasons, a run on orders later in the year can create shipment bottlenecks. And while it currently has plenty of inventory, if a popular variety sells out, seeds by nature cannot just be manufactured to supply demand.
At the onset of the pandemic, higher demand was mostly for basic vegetables. But now that people once again trust grocery stores will be well-stocked, no one order is the same. In terms of popularity, Hudson Valley Seed Company sees a mix of vegetables and herb purchases.
“Flowers are doing well now. People are interested in different varieties as they dig more into gardening as a hobby,” said Mueller.
New this year at Hudson Valley Seed Company are items that made it through a trials program, including banana melon (giant banana shape, subtle papaya-like texture and flavor), golden zucchini, and green tiger tomatoes. “They are bigger than cherries, like mini plums. Long and slender, mottled green and red. A nice, punchy, strong tomato flavor,” said Mueller.
Also new is Glowing Ember dahlia tubers, which have dark foliage and “pinkish apricotty blooms” with long stems and a glowing yellow in the middle. Mueller considers them “striking blooms.” Fans of jalapeno flavor who don’t love heat will enjoy the new nadapeno seeds.
Reich has already ordered many seeds, including Montpelier organic bush beans, Silver Cloud cannellini beans, Scarlet Nantes carrot, and organic Green Arrow shelling peas. In the world of sugar snap pods, shelling pea varieties have gone somewhat out of vogue, but not for Reich. He also ordered Winter Bloomsdale organic spinach, arugula, Deadon organic savoy cabbage, Rosa Bianca organic eggplant, New York early organic yellow storage onions, Carmen sweet pepper seeds and a “really weird” black oyster plant called scorzonera, cultivated as a root vegetable and commonly known as black salsify.
For flowers, Reich bought a variety of calendula, some Double Click cosmos, a few kinds of marigold, Clarke’s Heavenly Blue morning glory, Empress of India nasturtiums, Shirley poppies, Autumn Beautiful sunflowers, Benary’s giant zinnias and a wildflower called cardinal.
Bishops Children dahlias in a colorful arrangement at Hudson Valley Seed Company.
Provided by Hudson Valley Seed Company
And then there are tomato seeds to be considered. Reich used to grow 20 varieties but has narrowed to the ones he thinks taste best, usually from Tomato Growers Supply Company. “I am finicky about my tomatoes,” he admitted, proudly.
While most gardeners won’t be able to pull off what Reich does, he encourages anyone willing to try. Cosmos, sunflowers, beans and Sungold cherry tomatoes are all good options for first-time gardeners, he said.
Don’t fret if you don’t have all of your plans together just yet. Mueller isn’t even sure what will be in his personal garden. He’ll likely run through the Hudson Valley Seed Company office and grab seeds last minute.
“When it ends up being your business, it is harder to have time to have it be your fun,” he said, adding, “even though it is still fun.”