Vibrant, marbled pineapple tomatoes; adorable Easter Egg radishes without a single crack, unblemished rainbow Swiss chard leaves: looking at the images of vegetables in seed catalogs can be inspirational but also disappointing because you know that none of your homegrown veggies will ever look like this. The kaleidoscope of those images is an effective tactic, though: it makes you buy more seeds than you need. It also makes you buy seeds for vegetables that you’re probably better off buying as seedlings.
While I have been gardening for almost two decades now, I’m still not immune to those temptations. But following a set of clear criteria–what to grow from seed and what to buy as seedings, and in what quantity—has helped me become a much more realistic shopper for my vegetable garden.