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Garden Variety Shopping

February 16, 2021

Jordan Durbin


For the last three years, I have made a resolution in the late winter: I shall not expand the size of my vegetable garden.  This garden is fenced with a modest picket fence, and when we moved here, it had been badly abused.  It had been used as a sandbox, a dog kennel, and a refuse dump.  Those are the only three unwarranted jobs I could readily identify.  There may have been more.  The first years of gardening were spent just trying to clean and restore some kind of proper soil, and with a healthy, worm-ridden compost pile and a number of bunnies adding their cocoa puffs to the mix, it was soon producing more than it was taking. 

Then began the great expansion.  The first year, I only added about twenty square feet.  I had some extra fence panels, and it was a relatively quick job for what I felt I gained.  Year two was a bit more complicated: it involved the emotional removal of a diseased apple tree and moving the fence a different direction.  I added another thirty feet that year.  Last season, I was certain that I would not need to move the fence lines again.  It’s not an easy job, and requires both aggressive pulling and loosening of old posts, digging post holes by hand, and lots of tamping and firming up.  New gates had to be built, beds moved, wild rabbits guarded against.  I’m sure I won’t need to do all of that this year.

Then again, I have an undying love of growing things, and I never seem to have enough room for it all.  I was throwing more garden pots in my pottery studio the other day because I already feel the press of how many different kinds of things I will be starting from seed in the coming weeks. 


Choosing Seeds

My name is Jordan, and I have a problem with seed catalogs.  It’s not that bad, and I’m certain there are people who have this disease far worse than I do.  I can control it when I really have to.   However, I’m not trying to recover from it.  This year, I only ordered from three different purveyors.  So far. 

When the snow is falling and Christmas holidays have closed out, I submerge myself in seed catalogs and websites.  I have a few places that I order from each season, chosen because they are relatively close in geographical proximity to mine and therefore most of their seeds are grown in a climate that’s also similar to mine.  There are a few vegetables that I want a very particular variety, but once I’ve checked the boxes on the seeds that I must have, the shopping goes a little wild.  I ordered at least six different varieties of nasturtiums this year. It was sort of an accident, but one I’m not unhappy about. 

Garden seeds are a very personal thing.  My mom has one variety of tomato that she’s grown for decades, but I’ve tried it and am underwhelmed.  I won’t garden without Fortex green beans, but I know plenty of gardeners who will die on the Kentucky Wonder bean hill.  My dad never wanted my mom to buy any seeds that did not produce edible food.  I, as you may have noticed, go into a blissful coma in the flower section of any respectable seed catalog and come up for air with much lighter pockets. 

In the awe-inspiring account of God breathing out creation, the first living thing as we think of life that He spoke into existence on this ball of clay was seeds.  In Genesis 1:11, God has already made light, darkness, water, and dry land.  And then!  He tells the earth to sprout!  What I would give to see that moment, when empty, barren ground exploded for the first time with green life.  Vines and moss and trees bursting from nothing.  Then again, perhaps I have seen it.  Every year while the world outside my window is white and dead, I watch small patches of soil inside and rejoice over every tiny green shoot. 

It is one of my favorite things about God that He was a gardener first, and the promise that seedtime and harvest will not cease while the earth remains is a glorious promise (Genesis 8:22).  Come what may, there will be planting and growing and a harvest. 

I’ve thought unceasingly of late about what I’m planting this year.  What things are worth growing? Are the seeds that I’m planting going to produce the harvest that the great Master Gardener wants?  I see darkness increasing around us as the world increasingly calls good “evil” and evil “good”.  I am watching anxiously for Christ’s return and praying “haste the day” of His return, and all of that has made me look critically at the garden of my own life.  Ezekiel paints a picture of all the things of earth being shadows of the things that are in heaven.  Let us then labor in the fields of these shadows, learning to grow here the things we will someday grow in eternity. 

Some bright morning when this thin earthly veil is rent, I want to be found sprouting seeds of repentance over forty-three-million murdered innocents.  I want to be well-practiced in tending wounded hearts and caring for broken reeds.  I want to plant all the good seeds of every kind that bears fruit of its own.  Like that merchant who has new treasures and old in his house let us carefully watch the soil for what is pushing its way through the crust.  We are practicing, friends. 

Putting our hand to the plow to learn what each season requires.  Let us not grow weary, for even in planting season the harvest is near.

Tips for choosing seeds for your own garden:

  1. My number one tip for ordering seeds right now is to do it quickly! A lot of seed companies are not being able to meet demand for the gardening seasons last year and this.  Also, try to look for a smaller purveyor.  They will often still have seeds available when some of the larger and more well-known catalogs are sold out. 
  2. Look for a company that is close to your growing zone. They will be more likely to have varieties that will do well in your climate and with your frost dates. 
  3. Ask a gardener! We gardeners LOVE to share what we know or even what we’ve tried but not succeeded at yet.  I’ve been known to flag down passersby that casually look the direction of my garden and give them a tour.  A gardener in your area will have a wealth of knowledge of varieties that work, and they may even be willing to share seeds!
  4. Be adventurous! I always try to grow at least one thing that I’ve never done before.  This year, I have pansies and dusty miller from seed!  I have no idea how it will go, but I know that I’ll learn something!

Some of Cultivating’s Favourite Seed Catalogues:

Floret Flowers 

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Eden Brothers

 Select Seeds

Territorial Seed Company 

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Renee’s Garden Seeds

Johnny’s Select Seeds

Floret’s Cut Flower Mini Gardening Course – Winter – How to Start Flowers From Seed

Some of Cultivating’s Favourite Plant Companies:

David Austin Roses

Stark Brothers Nurseries and Orchards

The featured image of the acorn is courtesy of the marvelous photographer and Cultivator, Aaron Burden, and is used with his kind permission. Aaron is not only a youth pastor and fabulous photographer, he is also a podcaster. Check out A Burden For The Times podcast!  

The image of the seed catalogues is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for Cultivating. 

The acorn illustration is by Jordan Durbin for Cultivating. 


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