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Specialty seed catalogs offer variety

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I have learned to be discerning when it comes to catalog shopping. I steer clear of outrageous or cheap deals. I prefer the specialty catalog where expertise reigns, providing us with both a good product and the information to grow it well.  
I shop locally as much as I can, but for some crops we must turn to the catalogs that are filling the mailbox this time of the year. I pour over the pages looking for the odd, heirloom and favorite staple, and I order early because some rare finds are often limited in supply. Companies will send seeds anytime, but plants will not be sent until recommended planting times for the zone.
Wood Prarie
Wood Prairie Farm (800-829-9765 or www.woodprairie.com) in Bridgewater, Maine has the best organic seed potatoes. They offer a wide range of varieties providing information on ideal cooking methods, harvest time, color, disease resistance and storage. Wood Prairie Farm also offers vegetable seed and whole grains like spelt, meal, ryes and wheat.   
Dixondale Farm
Texas based Dixondale Farm (877-367-1015 or www.dixondalefarms.com) has a great selection of onions, shallots and leeks. They help you select the proper variety based on day length: onions come in long, intermediate and short-day varieties. Intermediate-day works for all of Kentucky and the other two can be grown in either the northern or southern extremes.  
For the harder to find heirloom seeds and all purpose vegetable garden supplies, there are a handful of favorites.  And, if you like to cook, these catalogs can help you select vegetables based on how you like to prepare food. It is also fun to find Italian, Spanish or English varieties of vegetables that our grandmothers used in days gone by.
Fine Garden Food
In our search for fine food to grow in the garden, for  fun we pour over the pages of Johnny’s Select Seeds (877-564-6697, www.johnnyseeds.com), John Scheeper’s (860-567-6086, www.kitchengardenseeds.com) Abundant Life Seeds (541-767-9606, www.abundantlifeseeds.com), Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (417-924-8917, www.rareseeds.com), Territorial Seed Company (800-626-0866, www.territorialseed.com ), Seeds of Change (888-762-7333, www.seedsofchange.com), and Pinetree Garden Seeds (888-527-3337, www.superseeds.com).  
The Cooks Garden (800-457-9703 or www.cooksgarden.com) has the most extensive selection for the kitchen garden. I usually choose an array of lettuces:  ‘Kentucky Bibb’ for the early garden, specialty mixes for the summer salad and kale, spinach and arugula and for the late garden.
Summer annuals
For heirloom summer annuals, we like the unusual selection offered by Select Seeds (800-684-0395 or www.selectseeds.com).  You’ll find old-fashioned sweet peas, violas, nicotiana, morning glories and fast growing annual vines like the Mexican flame vine, the black-eyed Susan vine and Spanish flag.  
Gardens Alive (513-354-1482 or www.gardensalive.com) in Lawrenceburg, Ind., rounds out the list. Gardens Alive is always there when looking for something organic for the garden: neem oil, biofungicides and insecticides, natural fertilizers, weed killers and more.
(Jeneen Wiche is an avid gardener from Shelbyville. She can be reached at www.JWiche@shelbybb.net.)