Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Great Heirloom Seed Sources

Here is a quick look at most of the seed catalogs I got this winter. Pretty spiffy, eh?

One of the only great garden pleasures one can get in the winter is drooling over the colorful offerings on sale for next spring. And making plans for doing more gardening, of course.

And despite what anyone may tell you about buying seeds being cheaper, my tally of payouts for this coming up spring is far...far...more than when I just bought plants.

But I don't want this to turn you off to seeds and seed starting because there is a good reason why I go overboard and you can avoid it.

I grow for beauty as much as food and I'm always experimenting with old and rare varieties that I've not seen before.

So, for anyone else it might be choosing a single eggplant variety that is right for you and then paying from $1.50 to $3.00 for enough seed to grow 300 lbs of eggplant. Or spending that much and having enough seed to grow 30 lbs for several years.

That would be the economical way to do it.

I choose the elaborate and totally spendthrift way to do it.

I chose 4 types of eggplant this year. I'll grow between 3 and 5 plants of each, leaving 90% of the seeds not used this year. But each is a beauty with distinct characteristics that make it attractive to me. I'm also growing 11 types of tomatoes this far.

Hence, the ridiculous amount of money spent.

Back to the point now: Regardless of whether or not you are doing the spendthrift method or the frugal method or some lovely happy medium, finding good seeds with good and trustworthy service is paramount.

I ordered from most of the catalogs above and have received a good part of my shipments. I've ordered everything from bare root trees to seeds to root cuttings to bulbs to various additives for my soil. Packaging, shipping and expertise are important in a company.

Nowadays, with the returning interest in open pollinated or heirloom varieties of vegetables (once people get a taste they tend to want nothing less!) seed companies are popping up all over the place and not all of them have a long history to google about.

Some of my most reliable favorites are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I know people are going to start thinking I work for them, but I don't. They are just really that good. There are something like 800 varieties of heirloom seed and they don't just have a Safe Seed pledge, they also actually test for GMO contamination in some vulnerable seeds, like corn. That is something I don't think anyone else does. If you can't find it there, you probably won't find it! They also do something I adore. He pops in freebies now and again. You never know what and how many depends on the size of your order I think, but it is fantastic to get them. Some of them are quite rare also. Germination is fantastic and no one can say their seeds aren't strong, healthy and pure.

Another true favorite is Horizon Herbs. They are just that, herbs, but they also have some other items like basic vegetables, tinctures and herb processing equipment. Their herbs are often hard to find varieties and their service is next to perfect. Very personal. They also have something called LifeLine pricing on items or collections that are considered very basic in the herbal world. Sort of like WalMart gives low price prescriptions on things that are common and essential, so do they. Their LifeLine medicinal collection was one of my purchases this year and almost all of it is must for cold and flu season. Not to mention just great tasting teas!

Park Seed Company isn't a strictly heirloom purveyor, but they do offer some of them and they have pretty good prices on the accessories of gardening life. Their service is that of a larger company, so a little less personal, but they are also efficient and they do try to ensure you get the right product in good condition. Their prices on Sea Magic (great stuff) is excellent. Where they really shine for me is strawberries though. This year I'm trying hanging bags because I really hate snails and slugs. They just freak me out. They have a great deal on those with bare root strawberries to go in them. More than enough for my purposes.

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden is where I got my seed potatoes this year and I'm not sure yet how I'll review them since this is my first year with them. But I will say they have a great selection of organic seed potatoes with some of the older varieties at superb prices. We'll see!

Prairie Moon Nursery is also a new one for me this year but I can already tell you that I love them. They aren't selling veggies or herbs or the like, but they are selling seeds for the re-naturalization of my little corner of the wetlands and riparian buffer zone. And the prices...whohee. I'd been quoted prices from $1000 to $15,000 for seeds and plants required. These guys offer them with no fuss, no muss and no markup and they are in the business of re-naturalization so they know their seed and seed purity. Love 'em! If you're looking to naturalize any part of your yard, whether wetlands or prairie, this is where you should go.

There are others I've ordered from but they can wait till I see how they sprout! Enjoy the last bit of your winter planning in preparation for spring.

1 comment:

Corinne R. said...

Hi Christy, Thanks for stopping by my blog! I have been drooling over my spring seed catalogs too. Have you checked out Seed Savers Exchange?'s an Iowa thing :).