Seed catalogs filled with hope and joy for winter weary

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Seed catalogs trigger summer dreams during the dead of winter.

With the snow piled high and recent temperatures at record and near record lows, it’s time to think spring and gardening. Several seed catalogs arrived in my mailbox before Christmas. I gave them a quick glance and stacked them up.

Now with February and the back of winter broken (I can hope), it’s time to gather up the seed catalogs and savor the beautiful photos of ripe tomatoes, long green cucumbers, and sweet corn so fresh and yellow that it wants to jump right off the page.

Seed catalogs, somewhat like the old Sears Christmas catalogs that I fondly remember, are filled with hope and joy. The vegetables displayed set a high bar for my gardening adventures, now going on for more than 50 years.

I remember my mother, sitting by the wood-burning cook stove on a cold winter evening, paging through a seed catalog and smiling. Her mind was well into the gardening season, while the rest of her was trying to keep warm with temperatures well below zero.

It is now that I must make up my mind about which vegetable seeds to order, especially which tomato seeds. Last year I grew seven different varieties of tomatoes. With a very wet August at the farm—15 inches of rain in 10 days—none of them did well. Too much water and too much blight.

For those interested, I am speaking at Garden Expo held at the Alliant Center in Madison, at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb.9, and again at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Time to think spring. Seed catalogs can help do it.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to