By Don Trotter




Seed Catalogs and The Coming of Spring Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome to the time of year to comb through all of those wonderful, marvelous seed catalogs and planting guides in order to plan for a splendidly colorful and tasty spring and summer 2002. But the coming season is also changed by some of the events of 2001.

The seeds and bulbs, plants and trees that we will be ordering from mail order nurseries and seed producers will be subjected to the same scrutiny as is all of the other mail traveling back and forth across the country. This means that some things could possibly get a pretty severe dose of radiation in order to keep the mail safe from boneheads who would choose to alter the way this country handles its mail. Yet these machines are tooled solely for ‘stamped’ mail, and are mostly being sent to areas of concern like Washington, D.C.

Today I spent the better part of an hour, pressing the pound key on my telephone, listening to a litany of menu choices on the United States Postal Services’ customer service line. When I reached a very helpful individual at the customer service center in the lovely state of Kansas who was pining for his upcoming vacation to the Caribbean, presumably to escape the biting cold of the Great Plains this time of year, this person put me in contact with a Mr. Mike Cannone, media liaison, and spokesperson for the Postal Service.

Mr. Cannone went on to share that the Postal Service is, in fact, working with the purveyors of plants and seeds through the mail system in order to figure out what safeguards need to be in place to ensure that we don’t receive dead, or worse, contaminated (by radiation, or stupidity in the form of someone attempting to make a larger statement about this country) plants, bulbs, or seeds. These reassurances were comforting to someone who orders seeds through the mail each year in order to get some of the more fun flower hybrids that can only be found in catalogs for some reason. “Most of the seeds that pass in the system are in the bulk mail flow and at present the only irradiated mail is in the letter flow,” Cannone added. “And since most live plants flow in the priority part of the system, they are also currently not at risk of irradiation.”

Well, that made me feel a little better about this season and the current state of the security of our plants and seed, but what about the future? Are the obvious changes that we’ve experienced as a people over the last several months about to be furthered altered? Such a fundamental thing, as receiving living things by mail is not specific to mail order companies. How about the transfer of seeds and pollen through the mail by organizations like Zoos, Botanical Gardens, and species conservation efforts? Apparently no threat exists at this time, and since I’m a big fan of the present, I’m not going to “go there” as the Springerese speakers would say. However, I do have one contentious harangue.

If the human(s), if we can call them that, who perpetrated or may be scheming to perpetrate further acts of lunacy via the U.S. Mail think they have made any changes, well, they have. Today, organic gardeners all over the country are presently up in arms wondering if the seeds they so value, and anticipate, with visions of giant sunflowers and delicious snow peas will be viable when they arrive. According to Mr. Cannone, they will be “this year.” Curiosity dictates, however, that all we need is another act of abject inhumanity to possibly make it so we, the gardeners of this country will have a heck of a time getting our “new additions” via the mail system as it exists. It is my hope that such acts do not occur, but we have little control over the angst of certain individuals. Maybe we would make walks in a garden, like our walks, mandatory for all people as a method to keep us all calm and appreciative of the gifts that nature provides without asking for our undivided xenophobia or intolerance.

Next time, we’ll be discussing some very good techniques for pruning your fruit trees so you can enjoy a “bumper” crop of fresh, nutritious ambrosia when the weather gets warm again. See you in the Garden!

Got Questions? E-mail the Doc at   Don’s columns appear in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He is a free-lance writer and avid naturalist who lives in the coastal paradise of Encinitas, California.

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