Today we are going to talk about seeds and seed suppliers! Vegetable seeds, fruit seeds, and flower seeds to be specific. Okay, all the seeds! Starting most plants from seed is not difficult. It just takes some time and a bit of care.
Whether you are planning a vegetable garden, flower garden, or rock garden, seeds will be the most cost effective route.
First of all, lets talk about all those terms you hear about or see on seeds packages like heirloom, organic, hybrid, and GMO? What do these terms really mean?
Types of Seeds
Let’s break it down:
These are seeds taken from plants that have been passed down from generation to generation. They have not been purposefully modified in any way and are stable. Meaning, that you can collect the seeds of the plant and grow the exact same plant again.
These seeds can also be referred to as open pollinating. Heirloom seeds from suppliers, must grow plants that cross-pollinate a certain distance away from plants of the same type (i.e. they can’t grow two varieties of corn right next to each other) in order to result in the same variety being produced from the seed.
Seeds from plants that were grown using organic methods. This means, no harsh chemical pesticides or genetically modified plants. Seeds labeled as “organic” have to be certified (and growers pay for that certification). So, sometimes plants are grown in an organic way, but because the farm or company hasn’t been certified, it will not be labeled as such.
Seeds from plants of the same species that were crossbred on purpose or by chance. If seeds are listed as “hybrid” then they were modified purposefully for better characteristics (disease prevention, frost tolerance, earlier fruiting, etc.).
Hybrid seeds are not genetically modified and not harmful at all! However, if you try to save the seeds, you may get something different than what you started with.
One year I saved seeds from a spaghetti squash and upon planting those seeds next year, was surprised to find something resembling a zucchini spaghetti plant that never quite ripened. It was the shape of a spaghetti squash, but greenish and striated like a zucchini. Maybe something like this has happened to you!
By the way, according to the National Garden Association,
“Beets, brassicas, carrots, corn and squash are cross-pollinating, and so require isolation in the field to keep varieties true. Beans, lettuce, peas and tomatoes are self-pollinating, do not require isolation and are the easiest for seed-saving home gardeners to sustain year to year.”
This is great information for seed saving. I actually did save beet and carrot seeds last year, and it will be interesting to see if the new plants end up looking the same next year!
These are seeds that are purposefully modified in a lab setting to garner sought after characteristics. GMO seeds are not readily available to the home grower. These seeds are marketed to large scale farmers. Your average garden seed supply store will not carry GMO seeds.
Okay, so once you decide what types of seeds you are interested in buying, you will then have to decide which seeds you want.
Of course, the what variety of seeds you buy is largely dependent on climate you live in, individual tastes you are catering too, and perhaps – whims! I mean, who knows when the desire to try bright red carrots or yellow tomatoes will hit you!
I will say, there is sometimes merit to buying seeds locally since smaller nurseries will sometimes carry local seeds that do better in the specific climate you live in.
In my experience though, unless you live near a special (and perhaps large) seed supplier, most nurseries selections are lacking. And if you are looking for heirloom or organic seeds, they are in limited supply.
Here’s a short list of online seed suppliers. Which one you choose, will depend on your interests, so I’ve included a small snippet about each link.
Online Seed Suppliers
In alphabetical order:
- Baker Creek Seeds (aka Rare Seeds) – A large variety of heirloom seeds with many rare cultivars. Not certified organic, but most seeds are probably grown organically. They send out a basic free catalog each year if requested (which can also be viewed online). They also have a more in depth catalog with lots of fun stories, historical facts, and interesting pictures that may be sent free with a large order the previous year. Otherwise, it’s available in the magazine section at many stores in the US. This is one of my favorites. You also get extra free seeds based on how many seed packs you order.
- Burpee – A large commercial type seed supplier. Sells a mix of , heirloom, organic, and hybrid seeds as well as gardening supplies.
- Fedco Seeds – Mostly certified organic seeds. Sells in small quantities, but also in bulk for the small farmer.
- Fruition Seeds – Organic seeds which are marketed as “seeds from the Northeast.” Located in New York, they carry varieties that are better suited to shorter warm seasons and harsher winter conditions.
- Hawthorne Farm – Organic seed supplier out of Ontario, Canada. Only ships to Canada.
- High Mowing Seeds – Organic seed company out of Vermont. Ships to USA and Canada. Good variety of seeds common and rare. Largest variety of cover crops I’ve come across.
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Offers a good variety of organic, hybrid, and heirloom seeds. Operates out of Maine and will ship to the US, Canada, and internationally where permissible.
- MIGardener – Offers many unique seeds for the vegetable garden and flower bed. The packs are only a dollar! A bit less detailed information about each type on the website, but you can’t beat the price. Some people in forums have mentioned issues with tomatoes, but have said everything else they received was great!
- Park Seed – Large scale commercial seed supplier out of South Carolina. Sells heirloom, organic, and hybrid seeds plus gardening supplies.
- Seed Savers Exchange – A non-profit company out of Iowa that is dedicated to saving heirloom and open pollinated seeds (some are organic as well). They grow, save, and preserve seeds as well as distribute the seeds so that home growers can enjoy them and keep the seeds alive. As the name suggests, there is also a seed exchange program that anyone can participate in.
- Sow Right Seeds – This is a newer seed company that sells through Amazon. I’ve heard really good things about them lately. They also have a fun Instagram profile with lots of seed giveaways.
- Tomato Fest – It’s all about organic heirloom tomatoes from this supplier. A wide variety of different and fun tomatoes from a husband and wife team. They also have tomato and tomato/flower seed collections which could be fun.
Hopefully you can find some awesome seeds from one or more of the above online gardening seed stores.
And lastly, if you are interested in learning more about seed starting under grow lights, winter sowing, or seed storage and organization, you can check out my posts on those topics by clicking on the pictures below.
Here’s to a great seed starting year for us all!
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