I seem to always have my mind on spring.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of winter, or at the end of summer. The next spring planting is never far from my thoughts.
I love every minute of the researching, planning and organizing that goes into our garden pre-work each year. Plotting out what I’m going to plant, choosing varieties, reading up on what’s new. This is almost as satisfying to me as actually getting my hands dirty.
It all starts when the first seed catalog gets delivered in the mail. Few things can cheer a die-hard gardener up in the dead chill of winter, when everything is dormant and covered in snow, like receiving a catalog full of seeds. It’s like spring in a book! I’ll spend many dark evenings flipping through glossy pages of tomato and spinach varieties, dreaming of warmer afternoons and rich soil washed by an abundant sun.
I know I’m not the only one who does this.
A good garden filled with good food starts with good seed, and this isn’t something we shouldn’t take for granted.
Dare I say, where you buy your seed might be one of the most important decisions you make as a grower. There are many options to choose from, but they are not all equal.
Not all seeds are guaranteed to grow. Poor seed quality will lead to germination issues (read this to learn about other issues that can lead to poor germination: 5 Reasons Why Seeds Don’t Germinate (And What You Can Do About It)
This is why I’m particular about where I buy my seeds every year. We already have enough working against us in the garden. Weather. Insects. Wild life. We have limited or no control over some of these things, so I want to make sure I’m making good decisions over what I do have control over.
And I don’t want to start the season by planting seeds that won’t grow.
You can go to almost any hardware or garden store and find seeds. Most of the time these seeds will work out okay. We bought Burpee seeds at the grocery store for years before we really got serious about making better gardening decisions. But a few years ago we stopped buying our seeds at the store and instead began to buy direct from a few seed companies. We did this for a couple reasons.
Buying direct from seed companies allows you to choose varieties that you may never have access to at the local store. A pepper doesn’t have to be just a pepper, and there are so many different varieties of hot and sweet peppers to experiment with. Why settle for the common varieties that everybody else is growing? That would be boring and wants to be a boring gardener?
Buying directly from seed companies could also save you money. Not only are prices usually more attractive, but often you’ll get more seeds per pack. You can also choose to buy in larger seed quantities, increasing your saving potential.
I already mentioned the joy in flipping through seed catalogs every winter, but the good companies will also do a good job at educating their customers (in the catalogs and online) through best practices to ensure success with their product. I find this very useful, especially when I’m considering a new hybrid. Some seed varieties are bred for disease or pest resistance, and some grow better in certain zones.
I like having as much information at my fingertips as possible when deciding what I’ll plant each year. Good knowledge equals higher success and a better gardening experience.
We’ve bought seed from several companies, but there are three that we really like. The majority of our business goes to one of these three every year.
Johnny’s Seeds – By far, we use Johnny’s the most. They are a great source for all the vegetables and flowers we grow (and so many that we don’t). In addition to seed, they also offer tools and supplies for every grower’s need, from seed trays to flame weeders. They are not always the least expensive, but their quality has always been top notch in our experience.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – These guys are probably the best when it comes to sourcing rare heirloom seeds from around the world. A good majority of our heirloom tomatoes and peppers come from Baker Creek. I’ve planted their seeds several years after purchasing and still have great germination results.
Seed Savers Exchange – Their mission to conserve and save open pollinated seed is as exceptional as the list of varieties they have to sell. They have the largest non-governmental seed bank, including thousands of rare and heirloom seeds that are safe-guarded for future generations. Not to mention they are located in Iowa, which practically makes them family (okay, maybe not).
We have used other seed companies, but these are our go to favorites. Check them out online, subscribe to their catalogs and you’ll receive a pleasant burst of spring in the mail box in just a few weeks. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
May spring come early wherever you are!
I purchased $250 worth of seeds last year from Baker Creek. My germination rate was no more than 15%. And I am no novice at this.
That’s too bad. We’ve had pretty good luck with their stuff. Although I will say the majority of what we buy comes from Johnny’s anymore.