Ordering Seed For Spring Planting + My Favorite Seed Companies

Feb 24, 2018

 

 

It’s that time of year again!

The time when I am glued to my comfortable leather chair in the library room paging through the three foot tall stack of seed catalogs and deciding which seeds I should plant this year.

Well, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but I do have a sizable pile of seed catalogs to look through.

The decision can be daunting – reading all of the colorful descriptions and deciding on just one variety of each kind of vegetable or flower – but it can be done!

This year it is particularly important that I choose wisely, since I will most likely have a garden tour in June (still undecided on that).

I thought that since I am already so intent on pushing through with the rest of my seed orders, I may as well write a post explaining my process.

Here goes nothing!

It all started in late 2017, when I received the seed catalogs that I had requested from various seed companies (my five favorites are listed below). If you don’t feel like receiving catalogs, you can always just search their online store (most good seed companies have websites to accompany their catalogs). I prefer to order the catalog, since some seed companies provide pictures with every plant description. This helps me organize all of my thoughts and see all of my options on one page, versus scrolling though the options on the website. I can also highlight the varieties I like and come back later to narrow down the selections to the one or two that I will end up purchasing.

Once the first catalogs started to arrive, I immediately set to work browsing and using the pictures as a guide to what each flower and vegetable variety will look like.

From there it is mostly a matter of personal preference. Below are a few questions that could help you decide what is best for your garden:

What colors appeal to me?

Are there particular vegetables that I never eat and, therefore, should not waste money on?

Do I have the space for it?

What is my soil like (an important, but often overlooked question when ordering seeds)?

What will its purpose be?

Do I have a designated spot in mind?

There are an endless amount of questions like these I could ask to help me narrow down my selections to only the most necessary and/or interesting.

Once I select the right varieties (and hopefully don’t go too far over my original budget), all I have to do is order them via the website. Most catalogs still have mail-in order forms, but who wants to fill one of those out, pay to send it in, wait several days, and then have to wait an equally long time to get the seeds back?

I know I don’t.

 

My 5 Favorite Seed Companies:

Here are my five favorite seed companies that I order from on a regular basis:

Baker Creek Seeds– Great source of heirloom and non-GMO seeds. Huge selection!

Chiltern Seeds– This UK-based seed company ships worldwide. They carry many varieties that are hard to find in the US and provide large quantities of seed per packet.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds– Good company for organic, modern vegetable varieties. Has an impressive selection of cut flower seed!

Prairie Moon Nursery– Fantastic source of native wildflower and grass seed. From my experience, the germination rates have always been above 90%.

Seed Savers Exchange– Another great source of heirloom, open-pollinated seed. They sustain one of the largest seed banks in the US – over 25,000 varieties and counting!

FILED IN:

SHARE ON:

  1. Chris Baswell says:

    Hello! I learned about your site from Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden. A pleasure to be reading you! I garden not far from Margaret, on the west bank of the Hudson River.

    You might want to explore Seeds from Italy (www.growitalian.com). Mostly vegetable varieties, from several big Italian suppliers. The per packet prices look expensive, but the packets are huge, and the Italians pack in heavy-duty, usually lined material so it’s easier to keep seeds from one year to another.

    Also, if you’re interested in Asian vegetables (especially greens, in confusing variety), there are wonderful things to discover at Kitazawa Seed Company (www.kitazawaseed.com).

    You may already know about these and leave them aside to keep your list under control.

    Keep writing! Chris

    • Travis says:

      Nice to meet you, Chris!

      I’ve heard of Seeds from Italy (they have some great seeds!), but never the Kitazawa Seed Company. I’ll have to check them out! 🙂

  2. Popping over from Margaret interview with you, and enjoying my visit. You have hit on many of my favorite seed companies too, but I had not heard of Chiltern so will be checking them out and a couple more I see from the comments above. I am sure I will be returning to see what you are up to and how your garden is growing. Currently where I live in central NY, we are covered with snow and still in winter unfortunately. Hoping spring pops in soon otherwise it will be April before I get outside in the garden. But my seedlings are started in my basement under grow lights getting ready.

    • Travis says:

      Hi, Donna!
      I’m glad you were able to learn of a new seed company! Chiltern is one of my favorites. They are slightly more expensive than US-based seed companies, but the quantity of seed in a packet (from my experience) makes up for the higher price.

      In Louisiana, snow is a thing people look forward to since it only happens once a year. The daffodils have already flowered out and the tulips are at their peak right now – it always amazes me how they can just appear out of nowhere seemingly overnight. I’ve visited New York before (Rochester area), and was amazed by the beauty of the country – what a wonderful place to live!

  3. Susie Rogers says:

    I’ve been an avid follower of Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden for years. Therefore I was intrigued when I read her latest newsletter and decided to check out your website.

    I too had not heard of Chiltern, so will be checking out that one myself. Where my family lives at present, in south central Colorado, we have many growing challenges. A short growing season, 8200 feet elevation, drying winds and erratic precipitation. Last year we installed a greenhouse to extend my growing season. As you might imagine my sole focus is on cold weather crops.

    I look forward to receiving your newsletter.

    Happy gardening, Susie

  4. Misti says:

    Joining the others as having found you through Margaret! I came across smaller nursery, woodthrushnatives.com, via the Native Plant Podcast earlier this year. Worth looking into to round out the Prairie Moon order!

  5. Sent here by Margaret. Finding incredible joy to find the 17 year old who can help too head up the next generation of gardeners. You certified at 13 if I’m correct as Master Gardener but it took me until I was 30 to do it. There’s Hope. I am now 58 and have been gardening since I’m 13 with occasional stops when I lived it rental properties. We purchased a house almost 2 years ago and I immediately started redrawing the lawn into a coastal Garden. I currently have a nursery underneath a large oak tree which will be moved into a sunny area once the leaves come on. It seems every project I take on brings its own challenges. This winter with a strange weather I lost all of my echinaceas and my tender gardenias. I was trying to see if I could get the gardenias to overwinter but it looks like I’m going to have to purchase the frost tolerant type. I’m pulling all of my front Hedges out and putting in gardenias so when you walk down the path you smell the perfume. But none of that has to do with seeds. The reason I wish to comment was to ensure that you knew about Fedco, an amazing seed cooperative based in Maine that has amazing seed choices. Being in Athens Georgia the choices that fedco makes, a lot of them shorts season varieties for the Maine growing season, work very well in the south since we really have an early growing season, a time that you don’t want to plant anything new, and a later growing season. We are 7A currently and I understand that you are on the edge of 8 so likely you have the same early and late growing season problem. When I lived on Long Island and in Upstate New York I just had one longer growing season and even after 25 years of being here I still find the two growing Seasons strange. I would love to talk sometime. I signed up for your email list so my email address is there. In closing my daughter home-schooled, she is now 20. In all that time she had only a minimal desire to know anything about plants. And somehow in the latest iteration of landscape gardening she is coming around. We spent a great evening recently going to 3 different stores to buy a limited seed purchase, basically just for things we would grow this year while we are waiting to rototill the lawn next year. I’ve never seen her that excited about seeds before. So there is hope for younger gardeners. They just have to see it in action.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for your comment, Brenda! I do have the same problem with multiple growing seasons. The way I cope with it is to plant annuals, such as Zinnias, and long-flowering perennials that will cover the lulls in between the seasons and keep the garden looking at its best year round.

  6. Debbie Onacki says:

    Enjoy your blog!

  7. Sarah Dunn says:

    Read Margaret’s blog…. Looking forward to learning more about you and your garden via your blog and your Instagram. Sarah

  8. Cary Bradley says:

    Hiya Travis! Found you through MR and am excited to explore your page and have signed up for your newsletter, thanks! I’ve been gardening since elementary school and started by helping my dad with his garden. One year he asked me to write to all the seed companies in Organic Gardening and Sunset magazines and ask for their catalogs. Back in the Stone Age I corresponded with 3 x 5 index cards; no internet yet. 😉 Loved all the colorful and intriguing catalogs that arrived and we poured over them together. Fun! Now I’ve moved across country from Southern California to snowy New England and am learning how to time transplants for the plethora of heirloom varieties we never knew about in the late 60s in those magazines. Thanks for sharing your fav seed catalogs. Please share how you came to find Chilton Seeds. Am always fascinated by how folks find unusual diversions in their paths and a company from England is pretty unique to me! Cheers my young friend. Keep your hands dirty! 🙂

  9. Kathy F. says:

    Hi Travis, I loved the photo with you in a burgundy top among the orange flowers on Margaret’s site. It immediately caught my eye and I had to keep reading. I assume this is your cutting garden. What are the orange flowers with blue green foliage? I am intrigued.

    • Travis says:

      Hi Kathy!
      This is in my cutting garden.
      Those are a variety of Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) and Sulfur Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus). One reason why the foliage was so blue in that picture was the sky above was dark blue and reflected light onto the foliage. In reality, the foliage of both plants is a beautiful dark grayish green.

      At first glance, it may look like I edited the photo, but in reality, I didn’t touch it. It was just a perfect combination that only nature could produce! 🙂

  10. Kathy F. says:

    Thank you. Another question. Tithonia is usually so tall. A shorter variety? Or do you pinch it? Or is it going to get
    tall? It was a beautiful combination with the cosmos.

  11. Carol C says:

    Greetings from southern middle Tennessee(zone 7)! And , found you via Margaret! I have a young friend (13 years old), who is sharing my interest in plants! We recently attended the Nashville Lawn and Garden show! The vendors and garden displayers were so nice to him! Upon leaving, he commented that he might have been the youngest person there!
    Enjoying your blog!

  12. kk says:

    Travis-
    HUGELY impressed and gladdened by a young person picking up the spade and carrying on. Was at the Annual Symposium of the CT Master Gardeners yesterday and it was worrying how few young people there were.
    Keep up the Good Work!!!

  13. Kathryn Parker says:

    Hi Travis,

    I do veggie gardening only. One day, perhaps (I’m 65 now) I will start a flower garden – especially the cut kind. My vision for my garden is to have flowers I can cut or eat, and plants I can eat like blueberries, raspberries, etc. I would like to plant some native paw-paw’s and get rid of the trees that crowd my acre back yard. I haven’t even tasted paw-paw’s! I am a very pragmatic gardener (certified MG – but you wouldn’t know it) and a rather lazy one, don’t consider myself a good one. I want the produce! So, I do what I need to do to get there. I buy Botanical Interests seeds because their packets give me picture, tell me when to plant, how much etc. I live in Brevard, NC near Asheville and we have Sow True Seeds here but their packets are incomplete for me. Sometimes I would like to make my big veggie garden a place for homeschoolers to come learn to garden or even other schools, but I”m just afraid I don’t know enough to help them. I have a compost pile, but it’s a hit and miss thing that my was-band takes care of sometimes. Lately, I am only planting what I intend to eat. This is good, because usually I want to try new things. Could you please spread a little of the fairy dust that makes you a master who is very interested, devoted, and motivated in gardening? Yes, of course you are doing that with this blog, etc. I do know that everyone has their passion. I guess mine is taking the veggies and turning them into fabulous, health-giving vegan raw food delights. I’ll be going to vegan raw food “cooking school” in June. It’s feels beautiful to be inspired by your passion!!! Thank you!

Comments:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

LEAVE A COMMENT