It’s fast approaching spring (I know, not fast enough!), and it’s not too early to start thinking about this year’s garden. It’s hard not to, really, considering all the seed catalogs that have been arriving in the mail lately.

I have been bending pages and circling plants in the best catalogs (those that offer organic). I don’t consider paper catalogs especially sustainable when today everything can be ordered online with just a click of a button, but it’s a guilty pleasure in which I still indulge. Each year I like to try at least one new plant, squeezing it in where I can.

The garden in my backyard is actually quite small, but I try to pack in as many herbs and veggies as I can while still leaving room for our two big dogs. What I’d like to do this year is to start converting the front yard into garden, as well. All of these lawns are simply wasted space and water when you think about their potential for food production. The issue here is how to do it in such a way as to still be pleasing to the eye (and neighbors), and how to protect what is planted from passersby. (At my home, for some reason, many people, including mail delivery people, walk across the lawn rather than use the sidewalk, not to mention the hordes of marauding children at Halloween!)  Lately, I’ve been looking through several books to find ideas and tips for transforming a front yard into something more productive, and -frankly- more sustainable.  I’ve listed a few of my favorites here, but hope that anyone reading might have suggestions as well.  *If you do, please list them in the comments section.*

 In the meantime, I recently received my Gardens Alive! catalog and have been flipping through it, happily dreaming of spring. I love that they always include a great gift coupon, saving lots of money on orders, and I thought I would share one with you!

I’ve ordered from them many times and have never been disappointed.Aside from ordering seeds online, there is also the a great bartering system called the Seed Exchange. This is something I’ve done in the past and would like to do again. If you join a gardening group, locally or online, almost all of them offer some sort of seed exchange in which members swap seeds with others, either in person or by mail. I’ve shared some of my best and most productive seeds this way, and picked up some fantastic new additions from others’ successes.

If you don’t know where to start in finding such a group, I suggest checking some of the following:

1) Yahoo Groups has over 90 groups listed that participate in seed exchanges.
2) Seed Swaps even has a search feature so you can find specific seeds of interest.
3) Garden Exchange lists a number of exchanges, including by state and by plant.
4) Backyard Gardener Seed Exchange is an open forum where you can find offers for seeds or post specific requests.
5) Emily Compost Seed Exchange is similar to the Backyard Gardener Exchange.

Talk to friends and neighbors who are gardeners, too! Most gardeners I know are more than happy to share seeds, tips, plants and sometimes even a bit of muscle. Be sure to return the favor when you can!