Heirloom tomatoesBaby, it’s cold outside! January’s the ideal month to browse online catalogs for vegetable and flower seeds while making progress toward your spring gardening. And there’s still time, really through the end of February, to move shrubs and plant new trees.

Online sites including Gurneys, Park Seed and Burpee offer a wide variety of new and tried-and-true seeds and vegetable plants. We’ve ordered Jersey Knight and Jersey giant asparagus roots from Gurney’s over the years; each spring we enjoy fresh-picked tender asparagus.

If you’re interested in trying come heirloom tomatoes, such as Mortgage Lifter or Cherokee Purple, now’s the time to order seeds. Check out seedsavers.com and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, southernexposure.com, national sites that specialize in promoting and preserving true heirloom and heritage plants. Vegetables, berries, fruits, herbs and flowers with storied pasts populate both sites, although Southern Exposure has some pretty interesting backstories.

Did you know that mortgage lifter tomatoes, with their large size, were developed in the 1930s by a man nicknamed “Radiator Charlie” by crossing four very large tomatoes? He sold the plants for $1 each – a high price in the 1940s – and was able to pay off the mortgage on his house.

Cherokee Purple, a sweet-tasting deeper red-purple, is another delightful heirloom tomato. Named by North Carolina tomato aficionado and garden expert Craig LeHoullier,  craiglehoullier.com, it’s a gem of the garden. He received some seeds from a grower, grew them out, and decided to name it for Cherokee Native Americans.

If you’re ordering seeds to start indoors and get a jump on the growing season, check out joegardener.com. Joe Lamp’l, a national television gardening host, offers several podcasts, plus episodes of his “Growing a Greener World” television show that give excellent instruction and tips for starting seeds in January and February.

Rick and I are giving it a try this year and have purchased LED grow lights, warming pads and fans to set up a space in our lower level. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac
Another new venture for us, the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” provides pretty accurate information about weather patterns, growing tips and long-time wisdom – plus a bit of humor – gleaned from nearly 230 years of publication. It also offers some good fireside reading on cold, wintery days. You can also order the “Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Calendar” and the “Everyday Calendar” filled with trivia, folklore, gardening advice, jokes and riddles.

If you’ve ever used the “Old Farmer’s Almanac,” please let us know your best tips from it. We can share them with readers.