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Time for McGrath's annual seed catalog roundup

Friday - 1/13/2012, 9:56am  ET

Prime time for catalog shopping

Mike McGrath, Garden Editor

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The Deal of the decade: $100 off at Gurney's

We always clue our listeners in to the money-saving deals that some seed catalogs offer as an incentive to get people to order before the big springtime crush, but I've never seen an offer like this in my 20 plus years of garden reporting.

The Gurney Seed and Nursery Company is offering a three-tiered deal: $25 off an order of $50 or more, $50 off $100 order and an unprecedented $100 off an order of $200 or more. Yow!

And Gurney's carries everything: asparagus crowns, vegetable seeds and plants, ornamental grasses and shrubs, supplies for gardening and composting. They even have a big selection of native fruits like gooseberries and paw paws. And $100 off is a huge help for folks who needs lots of plants and supplies.

You can order online. When you get to the checkout, enter the key code 0518482 to receive your discount. You can also call them at 513-354-1491.

The Gardens Alive catalog has always been known for supplying home gardeners with innovative alternatives to agricultural chemicals like corn gluten meal for crabgrass control and herbicides that kill unwanted plants safely with natural substances like soap and iron.

Now they've branched out into garden edibles, as well as offering seeds and plants of varieties that have been specially selected for their natural resistance to common pests and diseases.

This includes the newest rage in vegetable gardening: Heirloom tomatoes that have been grafted onto specialized root stocks for better disease resistance and bigger harvests.

They have flowers, too, including the all-American rose selection "Julia Child", which of course boasts superior disease resistance.

Gardens Alive is offering WTOP listeners $25 off an order of $50 or more. You can order online or request a print catalog. When you get to the checkout, enter the key code 0155248 to receive your discount. You can also call them at 513-354-1482.

J. L. Hudson: Quirky, quality and rarity, but no phone

Always anxiously awaited by rare plant enthusiasts, bargain hunters and social libertarians is the latest edition of J. L. Hudson's wonderfully quirky "Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds."

Among their more eclectic offerings are the exotic shoo fly plant, an ornamental whose pretty blue flowers deter house flies and white flies outdoors and in greenhouses. Look for it under its scientific name "nicandra."

Also available is the luffa gourd, whose ripe fruits become bath sponges, seeds for growing cactus and aquatic plants and spores for growing ferns. This is all right alongside garden staples like hubbard squash and heirloom tomatoes with names like Nebraska Wedding and Purple Calabash.

Their quality is high, their prices are low, their germination instructions for "hard to germinate" seeds are unparalleled and their shipping cost is a mere $2 for up to 20 packets of seeds.

You can order online or request a catalog by writing to them at P.O. Box 337, La Honda, CA 94020. But you can't call them, because these off-the-grid stalwarts don't have a phone. You gotta love these guys!

Burpee wants to give you a nutrient boost

The venerable Burpee Seed Catalog always has a hook for each new edition, and for 2012 it's the "Burpee Boost Collection," an assortment of edibles selected for their extra-high nutrition levels. This includes a cucumber with five times the normal amount of beta carotene and tomatoes with enhanced levels of vitamin C and lycopene.

Although most of their boosted selections are hybrids, Burpee celebrates the world of heirlooms as well, highlighted by their new and exclusive reintroduction of the "flame thrower" nasturtium. This beautiful edible flower, introduced in their 1903 catalog, was thought to be lost to time, but now has been rediscovered over 100 years later.

You can order online or request a catalog. Call them toll free at 1-800-888-1447.

Johnny's: Seeds for every size

Like many of my fellow diggers in the dirt, I ordered the seeds for my very first garden from the Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog. The seeds were good, but it was the detailed, in-depth growing information in the catalog that really helped those early gardens grow.

The catalog has grown quite a bit in size over the years. The 2012 edition is a whopping 206 pages, but that essential information is still there to hold your hand and answer your questions throughout the season.

Johnny's carries virtually every edible imaginable in any size from small packets to pounds of seed, plus live plants, seeds for flowers and herbs, supplies. Pretty much everything!

You can order or request a catalog online or call them toll free at 1-877-564-6697.

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