Whether you're an experienced gardener, or planning your first garden for 2013, there are three seed/plant catalogs I highly recommend you request now, because they are packed with free valuable information. When they arrive, brew a nice cup of herbal tea and go through them page by page.
If you are a serious herb gardener, request a catalog from richters.com or at least visit its website. You will find answers to any question you may have about growing and uses for herbs. I learned about this company from Alana Haley, an employee at Pine Hill Nursery. Alana has her own herb farm in Ellsworth and conducts wonderful herb workshops around our area.
If you want to learn more about our native plants or add more native plants to your gardens, be sure to request a catalog from prairiemoon.com or check out its website. Vern Stephens, our speaker at the "Landscaping with Michigan Native Plants" workshop this past fall, introduced us to this informative catalog. They even have a "plant finder" tool that allows you to search for native plants by criteria that suit your site conditions: sun exposure, soil moisture, bloom time, color and height. If you noticed a time when your blooms were few and far between, you can check the "plant finder" for plants blooming at that particular time of year. If you have a plant in your garden that is not thriving, you can check the "plant finder" to see what growing requirements your plant needs and possibly find a simple solution, i.e. plants needs more sun.
The third catalog I always look forward to receiving and recommend is johnnyseeds.com. It also has a website full of wonderful information. The catalog begins each crop section with growing information. For example the celery/celeriac culture information explains that celery must be kept well fertilized and watered throughout the season and don't let the soil dry out. Other information includes growing seedlings, transplanting, harvesting and bolting. Diseases and pests that may affect celery/celeriac and treatments are also covered along with storage of your harvest, and days to maturity. Something I never knew before was included under CAUTION; in rare cases contact with the foliage on hot sunny days can cause photosensitivity resulting in a severe skin rash.
I went online to research this a bit more. It seems that healthy, green celery plants will produce higher levels of furocoumarins when they are under attack from pink-rot fungus. Furocoumarin is the same chemical produced by wild parsnip causing severe photo-dermatitis. So it appears as long as you guard against pink-rot fungus in your garden, you shouldn't have an issue with high levels of furocoumarins in your celery.
Changing the subject just a bit, if you want your Christmas tree and/or wreath to hold up longer, spray them with Wilt-Pruf prior to decorating and bringing them inside. Wilt-Pruf helps plant material retain its moisture. Wilt-Pruf can also protect your plants from harsh winter winds and salt spray from road salts.
Cydney Steeb, Advanced Master Gardener, can be contacted at Emmet Conservation District, 3434 M-119, Harbor Springs (231) 439-8977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Gardening Wit and Wisdom column runs every Wednesday.