Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Week 52

What to do this week:

By A.H. Hoffman Seeds, Inc.; Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

By A.H. Hoffman Seeds, Inc.; Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Now that winter is here it is time to start gathering seed catalogs, and planning the coming year’s garden. This week I am thinking about trees, bushes and berries.

It is always a catch 22 because the prices are really good now, but it may not be the best time for a financial expenditure on these larger items. The selection is also better when you order early, instead of waiting to see what they may have in the garden centers a few months down the road. One thing you can be sure of, along with other New Year’s resolutions you may be investing in this month, a good purchase now will pay off in that “better you” future we often envision this week.

One solution to the expenditure dilemma that I use is to buy with friends. This way you can often get wholesale prices or bulk discounts. Some catalogs require a minimum $800 order for a wholesale discount, and that sounds like a lot, but we are talking trees and bushes. If you go in with a group of friends, or organize a local garden club that can make the order, each of you will get a much better price for your tree. Corn Hill Nursery will give better prices for these larger orders. So will Grimo Nut Nursery, and I think their minimum is $400. There is also a catalog I am very fond of from Manitoba called T&T Seeds. They have a good selection of hardy fruit. If you place an order with them before February 15th, they will give you a 10% discount. Their shipping rates are also very low. Richters Herbs also has bulk prices. Herbs are a little off topic this week, but the bulk price opportunity brings it to mind.

It is not just a matter of trying to decide how much money you have to spend on perennials, but also how much room you have to expand your trees and shrubs and berry bushes. It is like any long term investment: paying your mortgage really off in the long run, but you don’t want to buy a house that is way too big for your lifestyle. When it comes to trees and bushes, make a plan that includes how big they will grow, and how much time you will have to invest in their care and harvest.

You may also want to bulk buy seeds — very often one small package of seeds is too much for a small-backyard gardener. January prices will encourage you. I am hoping to get together for bulk purchases for seeds, too.

I also encourage people to buy seeds directly from seed companies because you are going to get much better quality seeds than you will find at a hardware store. They will have been kept in pristine condition, they will have been germ tested, and they are going to come right to your door. You should check that the seed company specializes in product suitable for our Cape Breton climate. Those beautiful beefsteak tomato seeds that come from an Ontario catalog may not do so well here. Also, you may want to experiment with more than one source, especially if you like to support small, local seed companies. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

I encourage people to start gardening groups so resources and opportunities can be shared. There will be times when you all want to buy snap peas, so you can get that bulk, per-pound price that will result in a fraction of the cost for each of you. You will find the group useful even later in the year when you will be able to share those six-pack minimum trays of zucchini seedlings. I may be a bigger scale than you, but I do this sort of sharing with my neighbors all the time.

Featured images: A.H. Hoffman Seeds and Boatman’s Tennessee Nursery images, Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.




Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.





The Cape Breton Spectator is entirely reader supported. Please consider subscribing today!