Growing vegetables and annuals from seeds is one of my favorite things to do, especially in the spring because I have three growing seasons ahead of me! A convenient way to do this is to purchase seeds from a local garden center or hardware store. Another option is to ask people you know who garden. They may have seeds stored up from last year and are willing to share. But, my favorite way is to order them from seed catalogs.
Ordering from seed catalogs is where the real fun (and research!) begins
There are oodles of online sources, and many are specialized in a small number of plant types. That means they will have more varieties to offer than the more generic brands—which for you equates to flowers of different heights, colors, and fragrances than you’ll ever find in the stores.
I remember when I first started planting asters and zinnias. I stuck to the seeds I found locally, there were about six types to choose from. Eventually I turned to online sources and discovered dozens of varieties, with flower petal shapes and colors I’d only seen in books. The annuals proved easy to grow, especially when I began to learn which are the easiest annuals. It was thrilling, and it turned my garden into an oasis that I knew was unique.
Plus, perusing the catalogs online or on paper is an enjoyable way to spend your free time, whether you’re kicking back on the weekend with a cup of tea or waiting in a carpool line. Want herbs? How about borage? It’s fun to try something new when you’re faced with such a vast selection.
Can you rely on the mail order seed catalogs?
The answer is definitely yes—as long as you choose the catalog wisely. The risk with buying anything via mail or online of course is reliability—and with seeds it’s hard to know in advance if the company has actually sent you the plant you asked for, or seeds that are viable (as opposed to sterile).
So, my advice is to stick to the online catalogs that have been around for years and have received favorable reviews from other gardeners. A great place to search for reviews is the free, online gardening forum called Dave’s Garden. It includes The Garden Watchdog, a guide to more than 7,500 garden catalogs, ranked and reviewed by the forum members. Once you develop a passion for a specific kind of plant, it will become invaluable because you can search by keyword.
That’s not to say the mail-order catalogs are all mom and pop operations; some are connected to large farms. I’ve purchased from both types of sellers and had great success. But I did my homework first.
15 of the Best Seed Catalogs:
To get you started, here are 15 online catalogs that are known to have great seeds and a good variety of offerings. They’re listed alphabetically, not in order of ratings.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
Based in Missouri, it specializes in heirloom plants and veggies. You can request a free paper catalog on their website.
Diane’s Flower Seeds
Based in Utah, Diane specializes in flowering annuals and perennials. I’ve ordered from Diane’s before with great success.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Based in Maine, its seed catalog specializes in organic seeds of all types.
Nichols Garden Nursery
Based in Oregon, it specializes in rare seeds and herb seeds of all types.
Park Seed Co.
Based in South Carolina, it specializes in GMO-free seeds. It’s a solid, reliable company that I’ve enjoyed buying from in the past.
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Based in California, it specializes in all types of organic seeds. It also has a fantastic range of gardening tools and products. I’ve ordered from them many times.
Renee’s Garden Seeds
Based in California, it specializes in annuals and vegetables.
Salt Spring Seeds
Based on Salt Spring Island, Canada, this company offers heritage and heirloom untreated seeds of all types.
The Sample Seed Shop
Based in New York, it offers a ton of vegetable and flower seeds, but it’s known for specializing in tomato and perennials seeds.
Select Seeds Antique Flowers
Based in Connecticut, it’s known for heirloom and rare seeds for many types of plants.
St. Clare Heirloom Seeds
Based in Wisconsin, it specializes in heirloom and vegetable seeds.
Based in New York, it specializes in flower and vegetable seeds.
Victory Seed Company
Based in Oregon, it specializes in rare, open-pollinated, and heirloom seeds of all types.
W. Atlee Burpee Co.
Based in Pennsylvania, Burpee offers everything, including heirloom and organic seeds.
William Dam Seeds
Based in Ontario, Canada, it specializes in untreated, organic seeds.
What are your favorite seed catalogs? Please leave a comment.