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Tips on buying seeds and planning for the upcoming growing season

Group of Seed Catalogs
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Group of seed catalogs from a variety of companies advertising their products.

It might be freezing outside, but for many gardeners and farmers their minds are already on spring. Now is the time of year when many people start planning for the upcoming growing season and seed sellers start sending out their catalogs with this year’s offerings.

Venice Williams from Alice’s Garden, is a regular contributor for our monthly Dig In! series. This month she shares some tips on buying seeds and planning for the upcoming growing season.

Although many gardeners may be excited to order new seeds from incoming seed catalogs, Williams suggests starting with seeds that may be left over from last season.

Since the germination can vary depending on where seeds are stored, Williams notes that she likes to test the germination—or viability of left over seeds.

You can do this by placing ten seeds on a paper towel, fold the towel it in half and then spray the paper towel with a spray bottle. You'll want to place it in a ziplock bag and then leave it in a warm area. In a week or so, Williams says you should know how viable the seeds are.

"That's a great determination if that entire seed packet is good. Have some fun this January. Go ahead and test your seeds and then begin to go through those catalogs in order to see what is missing," says Williams.

Williams recommends you only order organic seed. Not only that, she says seed buyers should consider the history of the companies they are buying from.

"You don't want to just shop and buy any kind of seed, you want to purchase seeds in a sustainable way and in a way that really is supporting, especially small family businesses," says Williams.

Williams says some of her favorite seed companies are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Richters and Jung Seed. She also notes the Seed Savers Exchange as another one her favorites.

"Now, Miss Annie Pearl Councilman has a story. This seed variety was given to her in the 1950s. I just love that I'm not only going to support Seed Savers Exchange, which is a nonprofit organization, but I'm also honoring some ancestral heritage and growing this heirloom seed," Williams says.

Williams also shares some fun events to help gardeners get through until planting season.

Wisconsin Garden and Landscape Expo, which takes place February 11th will be held in Madison. Participants can interact with growers and vendors as well as purchase new seeds for their personal gardens.

Another conference she mentions is Organic Vegetable Production Conference. It takes place online February 3rd, 4th and the 7th. This conference is designed for advanced growers, but Williams says it's full of wisdom and it's open to everyone.

"I encourage you to explore whether you're able to go to Madison or just be online or both. Enjoy what the state of Wisconsin has to offer in February when it comes to learning and celebrating our food culture," says Williams.

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