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Natural Perspectives: Planting the seeds of 2011

January 12, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray

January spells excitement for home gardeners because that's when the new seed catalogs arrive. Vic shows no interest in them, but I study each catalog with care, planning out my year's garden in advance.

Each seed company offers at least a few seed varieties that are unique to their catalog, so I usually order from a selection of companies. I am utterly seduced by the delicious descriptions and sumptuous photos of all that fresh produce. I am enthralled by odd colors in familiar vegetables or the promise of a new flavor. I am lured by promises of improved productivity.

Vic becomes interested only when the vegetables are harvested, cooked and on his plate. That isn't to say that he doesn't help in the garden. He's a real sport when it comes to the heavy work of turning over the soil. He totes bags of steer manure for me and ties up pea vines that have grown too tall for me to reach. He helps with the harvest, too. But his main interest is in actually eating the vegetables. He leaves the selection of varieties up to me.

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As a member of the Garden Writers Assn., I get a lot of unsolicited seed catalogs. I consider this a real benefit of my membership.

One seed catalog in particular caught my eye this year. It was from Comstock, Ferre & Co. of Wethersfield, Connecticut. I first heard of that company when Vic and I moved to a seven-acre mini-farm in Higganum, Conn. There we raised lambs and grew our first vegetable garden together in the summer of 1976. Every week, I watched "Crockett's Victory Garden," then a new PBS show out of Boston. The host, the late Jim Crockett, showed new gardeners like us how to make compost and grow vegetables. We've been vegetable gardeners off and on ever since.

Comstock, Ferre & Co. was a local seed supplier that had been in business since 1811. I bought some of my seeds from its racks at the local garden center. I got my other seeds by mail order from giants like Burpee Gardening and Park Seed Company. After we moved out here, I continued to order seeds from Burpee and Park, as well as Territorial Seed Company, The Cook's Garden and a few other favorites. I hadn't given Comstock much thought in the three decades that we've lived in Huntington Beach.

Over the past two centuries, Comstock, Ferre & Co. has passed through numerous owners. I was delighted to learn that the company has recently been purchased by Jere and Emilee Gettle, owners of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (http://www.rareseeds.com).

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