Catalogs get me through the winter

Published 5:45 am Saturday, December 2, 2017

I recall the days when seed catalogues came in the mail nearly every postal day during the month of February. A few of them jumped the gun and did their mailings in January but, for the most part, the seed suppliers waited until they figured potential customers were itching to get into their gardens before they sent out their offerings and a few even waited until early March when they figured you were actually ready to get serious about gardening.

Needless to say that, when I was growing up on Blair Branch, seed catalogues commenced arriving just in time to replace last year’s Sears-Roebuck, Spiegel’s and Montgomery mail order catalogues as the outhouse substitutes for Charmin.

But my how times have changed. I’ve been getting 2018 seed catalogues in the mail since back in September and I’ve already lost or tossed at least 3 that I wanted to mention this week.

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A few readers may recall that, back in the 1980s, when my kids were younger than most of their own kids are now, I ran a service in this column that we called The Great Seed, Sporting Goods, and Risqué Underwear Catalogue Scam. Actually, now that I think about, I’m reasonably sure the “Seed Scam” columns only ran in the London, Kentucky Sentinel Echo.

We called it a scam even though it was a very legitimate and fun little project that kept the kids busy during the inevitable, in those days, snow days that canceled school. I offered, in the column, to put readers’ names on a mailing list and send it out to at least 30 companies that published such catalogues. All you had to do was send me your address and whatever postage stamp was required to mail a letter. The only scam involved was the notion they were getting away with they thought was mischief really made the project appealing to the kids.

Before they outgrew it, we were accustomed to having upwards of 400 names on the list every year. Postage increased at least three times before I finally ran out of the surplus stamps we accumulated. I recall one year we mailed Christmas Cards, using two stamps, which was quite a bit more than necessary, but it was the only way the stamps were ever going to be used. For years, after we stopped doing it, readers would either write or call wanting to know when the “seed scam” was going to start. And a couple of times, after I explained that my help had moved on to more interesting endeavors, I had readers offer to drive from London to Paint Lick to help get the mailing out.

Nowadays you don’t need a stamp to get seed catalogues in the mail. You can subscribe online and most of them are absolutely free for the asking. If you don’t have a computer, I can’t imagine that you don’t have a friend who does and they really aren’t much of a friend if they are unwilling to spend less than 5 minutes to order some catalogues for you.

But you’d better do it fast because we found out last year that most companies stop mailing them out in mid December.

Here’s a list of some that I can’t seem to live without, not just for their products but for their expert growing tips and advice: R.H. Shumway’s Seedsmen is easily my favorite and where I found the Lazy Wife fall beans (they call em Lazy Housewife) seed that we’d lost over 40 years ago and fell in love all over again in 2017. Totally Tomatoes has well over 200 tomato and pepper varieties that you can’t find elsewhere. K. van Bourgondien’s has the best and best priced selection of Dutch Bulbs, lilies and other perennials I’ve yet seen. Vermont Bean Seed Company has an incredible offering of hard-to-find bean seeds. Pinetree Seeds is worth the effort just for the photos, as is Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed Company and Burpees. I’ve ordered from these and numerous others and I personally vouch for their excellent service and customer satisfaction.

Seed company mail ordering is a multi-billion dollar industry. Just type seed catalogues into your search engine and you can stay busy the rest of the day. I’ve gotten to the point that seed catalogues are about the only thing that get me through the winter.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.