2013-02-07 / Columns

Garden Thyme

By Beth Binkowski bethsgardenthyme@yahoo.com

A male red crossbill dines on sunflower seeds while a female perches on my shoulder. A male red crossbill dines on sunflower seeds while a female perches on my shoulder. When the winter doldrums set in, the glossy seed catalogs stuffed in the mailbox are a welcome sight. Well, maybe not to our mail carrier. Another bright spot on the bleak winter landscape—the birds at our feeders eating us out of house and home.

The cheery little redpolls flit around my head as I fill the feeders urging me to hurry, hurry! And we have new visitors this year; for the first time red crossbills decided to stop at our buffet. Both are tame and trusting birds, so I thought I’d try to feed them up close and personal. It worked! Fred snapped photos from the comfort of his heated shop while I sat like a statue (frozen) in 6° weather. It was worth it. What a thrill when the first bird landed on me! Sitting with the birds quickly became addicting. It’s also a good excuse to put off unpleasant chores—must go hang out with the birds.

I hate to shop. I’m a misfit when it comes to shopping. I fear one day the fashion police will come knocking at our door and haul me off to fashion rehab. Put me in a mall and I get the deer-in-theheadlights look. Pure panic. But turn me loose in a bookstore or nursery and that’s a different story. Heaven. The same goes for “shopping” the seed catalogs.Ah, lead me not into temptation…

The catalogs’eye-popping photos of —Amazing! Bumper crop! Blooms forever! No-fail! Goof-proof!—plants are so enticing it’s hard to resist. I keep reminding myself to focus on varieties that are disease resistant, heat-tolerant, high yielding, mature early and appropriate for our planting zone. That, in itself, is a pretty tall order.

Burpee has an interesting new potato called masquerade. It looks like a purple and tan billiard ball, but at $19.95 for 10 mini-tubers, I think I’ll stick with my russets, yukon golds and vikings. I might have to try their new SuperSauce Tomato described as a roma with aroma—one tomato fills an entire jar!

Purple cauliflower is on my wish list; rumor has it that bugs aren’t as attracted to it as white cauliflower, and it doesn‘t require wrapping. Another attractive cauliflower is the cheddar hybrid. It’s a brilliant orange with betacarotene content 25 times higher than white varieties.

There are no snazzy photos in Meadowlark Seeds catalog out of Casselton. They just offer seeds for our northern climate at great prices. Most seed packages are $1. The money raised from the sales of Meadowlark Seeds is used by the Central Cass DECA Chapter for Leadership and Career Development Conferences. (DECAis a high school organization designed to promote education in the field of marketing.) Call 1-800-493- 7333 for their catalog (I spoke with a polite young man who has a friend from Linton and I taught his friend’s younger brother in second grade. You can always find a connection in North Dakota!) or go to their website at www.centralcass. k12.nd.us.

Another interesting North Dakota seed company is Prairie Road Organic Seed from Fullerton. They don’t offer a print catalog, but you can order by calling 1-701-883- 4416 or visit online at www.prairieroadorganic.com. All of the seed is grown on their farm near Fullerton, which has been certified organic since 1977.

Dazzling new varieties with a mind-blowing name like Blue a Fuse Petunia keep tempting me, but I must remember—Weeding! Watering! Pruning! Bugs! Deadheading! Disease! Not to mention my solemn promise to scale back. But an Oscar Wilde quote keeps rattling around my brain, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it…” Maybe I should go hang out with the birds and think about it.

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