1. Avoid Purple-Podded anything, no matter how luscious the description of the flowers and delicate shading of the fruit. It is not tasty. Do not be sucked in by purple prose.
2. Consider the cooking. Cardoons, for example. What a gorgeous plant—tall, striking, like an overgrown artichoke. What a shape. What a color. Deep purple flower. Bees love it. But, what do you do with it? Even Alice Waters is stumped. Do not purchase any seed/plant that you do not know how to cook.
3. Climate is important. Just Because it appears in the seed catalog does not mean it will grow in your yard. Sweet potatoes will not produce five pounds of food for every square foot of space at the Avery Park Garden, as one garden-curious man believed. This is Oregon, not Alabama. Kale, however, might….
4. Limit Experiments. Do not order soybeans, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, and blue poppies all in one year. There isn’t room in the backyard. You don’t know what the sprouts look like (thus weed them out). You won’t be able to focus all of your positive energy on them. There will be another year.
5. Wait to Place the Order. All tomatoes sound wonderful on January first. Who can resist a “Silvery Fir Tree”? “Chocolate Cherry”? And “Japanese Trifele Black—a truly transcendent tomato”? Give it a few days. Look at the canning shelf. Remember the old friend the “Sungold”….How many small tomatoes does one neighborhood need?
6. Remember—It All Grows. There is only so much room in the beds. There are only so many tubs you can snag from the recycling bag at the nursery feet waving in the air as you stretch for the bottom. What looks like an innocent zucchini in May will take over the yard in August. Save space for it.