As we near the end of January I have a pretty good idea of where I will be getting my seeds and plants for the upcoming growing season. Previously I had written about a catalog or two in particular that I really tend to enjoy. As the winter wore on though I went a little overboard in my search for the oddities of the fruit/herb/veggie world. I reached out beyond my normal scope of The Seed Savers Exchange and I thought I would weigh in on what I found to be of interest.
For those of us who happen to be involved in heirloom seeds there are a few companies that have become a bit of a stand-by in regards to product and selection. One of those companies happens to be Baker Creek. They have a solid fan base and a devoted following. I know a number of people who have had great success with them. I am sad to say that for one reason or another this year they are having serious difficulty getting their catalog out to people. Over the course of three months I have requested three catalogs and have not received one. I read a number of complaints about this particular issue on their facebook site. In fact one professional gardener had said she had requested a catalog on four different occasions. Now my goal is not to trample their good reputation into the mud because as far as I'm concerned anyone interested in making a living selling seed is alright by me. The point I am making though is that there is a real lack of customer service this year and it may serve one well to check out smaller seed banks who are interested in building their own reputation.
One such company would be Fedco from Waterville, Maine. They can be reached at (207)-873-7333 or www.fedcoseeds.com They have a great catalog. They wear their politics on their sleeve and they lean hard left which is fine by me. If that happens to be an issue for you though let me say this they have the best prices around, hands down. If someone could prove me wrong I would be thrilled because that would mean rock bottom prices. I purchased seed from Fedco for the first time this year and look forward to doing so again in the near future.
Another interesting company to consider would be Seeds from Italy, out of Lawrence, Kansas, oddly enough. They have a small selection and their prices are slightly above the norm but they do have specialty seed which can on occasion be hard to find. You can find these folks at www.growitalian.com
If you happen to be into hot peppers do I have the company for you. The Redwood City Seed Company (www.ecoseeds.com) has seeds available for the fiery Bhut Jolokia which has a rating of 60,000 on the hotness scale. That is not even the hottest offered though they also have the Tepin pepper with a rating of 64,000. To put this into perspective a Cayenne pepper has a rating of 625 or better yet the dreaded Habanero orange mustard has a rating of 15,384. You get the picture.
I also received catalogs from The Cooks Garden, by far the most expensive. But if that happens to be your thing you can find them at www.cooksgarden.com. Burpee also sent a catalog upon request and they were on the high end with their hybrids as well, www.burpee.com
I received a catalog from Johnny's Selected Seeds this year. They are an employee owned company which is nice. Their prices are not exactly competitive but they do have a huge selection of some really great produce and flowers and they also happen to have a lot of tools and natural fertilizers available for purchase. They can be found at Johnnyseeds.com
When we bought our new home a few years ago one of the first companies I ordered from was R.H. Shumway, found at www.rhshumway.com. I ended up getting their catalog again this year for the first time in a few seasons and will be ordering from them again. You can buy bulk fruit plants from them for fantastic prices.
Two other companies I think are worth mentioning would be Abundant Life Seeds out of Cottage Grove, Oregon and Bountiful Gardens from Willits, California. Abundant Life offers biodynamic seeds, which are sort of difficult to find but really worth supporting, they are a step beyond organic if that makes sense. If you are curious about biodynamic gardening check out this site, https://www.biodynamics.com Bountiful Gardens offers heirloom , untreated, open-pollinated seeds and have prices that nearly rival Fedco. I am seriously considering putting in a last minute order with these folks.
Now of course where we buy our plants is largely opinion. As I said I normally order from The Seed Savers Exchange, in Decorah, Iowa. I had a negative experience with Baker Creek but as I said I know a number of people who have been treated very well. For those of us in the north there really is not much gardening taking place this time of year so why not investigate some new seed companies to compliment your favorites and help sustainable agriculture firmly take root.
I hope this was helpful! Happy gardening!
Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead https://www.facebook.com/seedtoharvestbossyhenhomestead/ which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here https://amileinhershoestalesofastayathomedad.wordpress.com/