Seed catalogs provide many choices for eager gardeners

Jerry Apps
Ordering seeds for the garden helps to lift one’s spirits on a wintery day.

On a recent snowy, Sunday afternoon, surrounded by seed catalogs, my daughter-in-law, Natasha, and I planned our 2021 garden. This is an annual event that we have done for years—a way to thumb our nose at winter and visit spring—at least for an afternoon.

Our first task, what seed varieties did well in 2020, which was not an especially good gardening year. And then we began listing varieties to order. First, tomatoes: The old standbys—Better Boy, and Wisconsin 55 made the new list. 

But each year we try something new. Sweet Million Hybrid Tomato, doesn’t that sound like a winner? We ordered it. Another new tomato for us, Plum Regal Hybrid—it’s got a good name. And for an early tomato, we are trying Ultimate Opener Hybrid Tomato—57 days.

We like snap beans, and Top Crop has been a favorite for years. Last year we added a purple snap bean that turns green when cooked. A favorite, especially for the grand kids. So, Velour Purple French Bush bean made the list. Black Beauty Zucchini Squash made the list. So did Detroit Red Beets, Dwarf Blue Curled Vates Kale, Napoli Hybrid Carrots, and Peaches and Cream Sweet Corn, along with Sugar Snap Peas, Avalanche Snow Peas, and a blend of Looseleaf Lettuce varieties.

For cucumber, this year we are trying Fanfare Hybrid Cucumber, Goliath Hybrid Cucumber, and Bush Champion. Radishes: Royal Purple made the list, so did Roxanne Hybrid.

Squash and pumpkins: Autumn Frost Hybrid Squash, Honeybaby Hybrid Squash, Table Ace Hybrid Acorn Squash, and Cargo Hybrid Pumpkin. 

 Finally, the special seeds: Tiger Eye Hybrid Sunflowers, and Mixed Zahara Zinnia, to add an extra little color to our garden.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Ordering garden seeds can lift one’s spirits on a wintery day.

Jerry Apps

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