Vail Valley: Seduced by the seed catalog |

Vail Valley: Seduced by the seed catalog

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –It’s 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon in Colorado’s Vail Valley and I’ve just spent the past hour huddled under a blanket, ignoring the blowing snow outside in favor of reading my first seed catalog – from cover to cover. My reporters notebook is covered in scribbled notes of things to order from Seed Saver’s Exchange: “46 OG Five-colour Silverbeet” (certified organic chard, if you didn’t know) and “1206 Charantais” a beautiful orange-fleshed melon that has lofty promises: “Considered by many to be the most divine and flavorful melon in the world. Sweet, juicy salmon flesh.”

I’m drooling.

Or how about the Chioggia beets, No. 345. “First introduced to American gardeners in the late 1840s from Italy. Uniquely beautiful flesh has alternating red and white concentric rings that resemble a bull’s eye. Very tender, nice for eating and pickling … A spectacular variety.”

Who could pass that up? Not me.

Still can’t imagine actually “reading” a seed catalog? I probably would have said the same thing two or three years ago. But me and some friends successfully started a garden last year.

Last spring, we sifted rock and thick hunks of clay from dirt for hours on end. Back-breaking work, I tell you. We used a Bobcat to move huge boulders to the border of our 25-by-50 foot plot of land near Glenwood Springs. We trucked in dump truck fulls of “good dirt,” giant bags of manure and peat moss, trying to create soil from which vegetables would jump for joy. Then we built a six-foot fence to discourage the local critters from stealing the great bounty we imagined.

My fingernails had a layer of dirt under them for months. My whole body would ache some nights, stiff and sore from digging in the dirt and plucking teeny tiny weeds that sprouted up faster than I could pull them. My partners-in-gardening grew seeds in a bevy of small containers in the sunny windowsills of their house all spring (I live in a north-facing condo, dangnabbit), which we transplanted into the garden as soon as we thought it was safe from freezing. In retrospect, it was probably too early, but we were antsy.

We tended to the garden every weekend, fixing hoses, adjusting the watering schedule and picking those pesky weeds.

Come August and September, we had more cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, peppers, carrots, cantalope and lettuce than we could eat. We’d take turns going to the garden on the weekends and filling bag after bag with fresh vegetables.

I would rejoice in the bounty, and then suddenly get scared. How could we possibly eat all of this food? I can’t waste It! Thats when I’d start plying my friends via text message – “need more vegis?? stop by!”

It was unbelievably rewarding. I grew this, I’d say, though the nagging voice in my head would persist: Mother Nature grew it, dummy. You were just plain lucky.

Yes, that I chose my garden pals wisely: They weren’t afraid of hard work and they knew a hell of a lot more about gardening then me.

And really, I’ve romanticized things in my head a bit. Not everything came up big and beautiful. We had a handful of potatoes the size of marbles. Our first set of peas were eaten by a critter that snuck in through a hole in the fence.

Back to my seed catalog, and the garden I’m dreaming about for this coming summer. I’m ordering lots of seeds: lettuce, spinach, melons, carrots, beets and chard, but that’s not all. There’s a packet of my favorite flowers: sweet peas. I have visions of the fragrant blooms climbing a trellis placed strategically below my bedroom window at my condo in Edwards. I don’t really know if the flowers even grow here, but shelling out $2.75 is worth it on the off-chance that they might.

In a few months, we’ll plant some of the seeds – lettuce and carrots – I’ve ordered straight into the ground. Other things we’ll start inside and plant later, after the ground warms up. And for the rest – namely tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil, oregano, thyme – we’ll buy as starts from nearby Sunshine Farms, a family-owned nursery in New Castle that’ll probably start taking orders anytime now.

I admit, it’s a little hard for me to spend over $60 on seeds. But this summer, when I’m digging in the dirt, and this fall, when I’m packing my car to the brim with fresh vegetables, I can promise you this: My soul as well as my stomach will thank me.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User