This basement setup has been in operation for decades.

Now is the time that some of my more intrepid friends are beginning their seed programs. I envy them, to some degree, as I look out the window at a still-white landscape, with a new storm on the way. But I won’t be emulating them.

Another friend starts hers on windowsills at first.

For me, seeds are so front-loaded. For me, they’re beautiful packages filled with broken promises. I browse the racks every year, lost in admiration of the imagery and designs, particularly those from Botanical Interest, Renee’s, and Baker’s Creek. And the catalogs! They’re much more sumptuously illustrated than any plant or bulb catalog. (Again, Baker’s Creek.) The idea must be that consumers need all the extra visual stimulation. And the names! The descriptions! In a perfect world, I would totally grow the Black Nebula carrot (a stunning dark purple drink when juiced, and when a squeeze of lemon is added, turns bright pink), Glass Gem corn (on the cob they resemble strands of glass beads), and the Columbine Rocky Mountain Blue (dazzling pale violet and white, long-lasting blossoms; delicate, beautiful, blue-green foliage). In the world we have, I would undoubtedly fail.

Baker’s Gem Glass corn

Why? I lack the technical expertise to set up a growing system, the patience to deal with the ongoing trouble-shooting, and—most important—the unobstructed sunny garden space needed for whatever seedlings survive the germination and early growing process.

Baker’s Black Nebula carrot

This is not a big problem—in fact I only think about it during these quiet, late winter days, too early for plants or bulbs. I can take comfort in the fact that two good friends are growing seeds and have offered me some of their no-doubt successful results. A neighbor maintains a basement greenhouse that produces hundreds of seedlings, mainly annuals; another friend has a smaller operation, but has chosen some really interesting heirloom varieties from Select Seeds. Good luck to them and all the seed speculators out there!