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From 6-pound tomatoes to 80-pound squash, seed catalogs offer a myriad of new veggie plants to grow

Several open magazine seed catalogs are open on a table, showing several small photos of colorful flowers and vegetable plants.
Charlie Nardozzi, courtesy
Dream of all the plants and vegetables you can grow with a trip through a stack of seed catalogs. Check regional seed companies online or request a mailed catalog. Specialty seed companies have huge varieties of favorite vegetables, like tomatoes, lettuces and squash.

While the winter chill draws you indoors and you're dreaming of spring and summer gardening, leaf through seed catalogs (virtually or in-hand). Many local and regional seed companies offer heirloom and hardy vegetable plants in hundreds of varieties.

As the winter chill draws you indoors, taking some time to flip through seed and garden catalogs can help you hone in on new plants and flowers you’d like to grow.

Most seed companies’ websites include their seed catalogs online. You can request a catalog be mailed to you, if you prefer to hold it in your hands to look through and examine up close.

Catalogs with seeds that will grow well in our region

Regional seed companies do growing trials, regardless of where the seeds are grown originally, to ensure seeds are hardy in our region.

If you're looking for seeds that you know will grow well in our area, peruse catalogs from High Mowing in Vermont, Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine, and Hudson Valley Seed Company in New York.

Catalogs with seed varieties for giant tomatoes, heirloom collards

Certain seed catalogs focus in on favorite plants and vegetables and then offer many varieties. Like Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia — a company with Vermont roots — lists 18 different varieties of collards. Try planting yellow collards, variegated collards, even “Big Daddy Greasy Green” collards.

Wild Garden in Oregon specializes in lettuces, kales and unusual heirloom varieties. The lettuce varieties alone are in the 50s.

If you're into tomatoes, try the Tomato Growers Supply Company based in Florida. They list over 380 varieties in their catalog, including heirlooms and hybrids.

One such tomato seed variety, called “Big Zach,” boasts a tomato that weighs in at about 6 pounds when harvested.

For curcubit lovers, Sand Hill Preservation in Iowa sells more than 100 varieties of winter squash. One, dubbed, “Hillbilly Banana Squash,” grows to over 80 pounds.

Why a blackberry bush might bear bitter berries

Q: The fruits on my thornless blackberry bush are bitter! The last couple batches were pretty sweet. But the many batches before that were not and the first few were inedible, despite definitely being ready to be picked and nearly falling off the vine. Do you have any ideas? - Molly, in South Burlington

A: Sweetness in berries and fruits is achieved through photosynthesis, so not having sweetness is usually a reflection of not getting enough light.

This could be due to the thornless blackberry bush being in a shady spot. Bitter berries might also be due to cloudy weather early in the season, followed by sunnier skies later in the summer.

Another thing to look at that might cause the bitter taste is how the bush is fertilized. If you're fertilizing the bushes, try not to add too much. Compost and woodchips on raspberries and blackberries is enough. Too much fertility in the plant can actually affect the berries' flavor.

And always check the soil's pH level; it should be somewhere around 6.5 to 7 for berry-producing brambles to grow best.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.