Today I’m talking garden catalogs and the seeds we buy every year– in other words, the ones we won’t garden without!
Now, I’ve mentioned before why I love starting plants from seeds, even when my garden is small, but let me quickly reiterate the reasons:
- You get to pick the varieties, not the nursery, which enables you to find veggies tailored to your families tastes and your garden’s climate.
- You get to determine when you plant your seeds or your transplants. If you want to experiment and plant something early with a cover, you can. And contrary to common sense, the stores often bring out plants before they should be planted (case in point: last year the tomatoes were out in abundance at a local store at the end of April, only to be completely damaged by frost the day I was at the store…). But when you grow your own, you decided when to harden off your “babies.”
- You get to save a few bucks. Even in a smaller garden it makes more sense to buy a packet of seeds for $2-$3 than a couple of plants for $2 each. When you really save, though, is the next year when you don’t have to buy that variety of seed at all. Save the seeds properly, and they last 3 to 5 years!
OK, now that I’ve given you my seed-starting pep talk, on to my three favorite catalogs I order from every year, plus one I’m hoping to order from this year:
1. Pinetree Garden Seeds. While they’re not local, I’ve ordered the bulk of my seeds from them for more than 10 years, mainly because they offer smaller packets (perfect for the home gardener) at smaller prices. They’ve got great customer service and a nice selection of seeds as well as bulbs, roots, and some fruits. Their seed is not organic, but they don’t sell any GMO seeds and try not to sell any treated seed. In addition, they’ve got some nice books at great prices and a selection of soap-making supplies at discount prices, too.
Here are some of my favorite seeds I buy from Pinetree:
- Emerite Pole Bean. LOVE it- I don’t know why more catalogs don’t carry it! It is a filet-type pole bean that is good as a small filet, but keeps it’s tenderness (and stringless-ness) even when left to grow 8-9 inches. The one thing about this type is that it seems to wind down in the dog days of August and you wonder if it’s done…but watch out! As soon as the rains come again, the beans start producing like crazy and don’t stop until cut down by frost. I harvested these all the way into the first week in November when the Blue Lake poles were a only a dim memory!
- Pinetree Lettuce Mix (and also the Winter Lettuce Mix). Most reasonable price (500 seeds for $1.35) for a great mix of lettuce to grow in the cut-and-come-again method.
- Cheddar Cauliflower. If you’re going to grow your own, you might as well get the fun colors! This seed is expensive, but I can get 12 seeds for $1.95 here versus $6+ for 50 in another catalog. If I were wanting to grow 50, that would be the (slightly) better deal- but 12 is just good for me and $1.95 is great.
- Quickie Corn. It’s only been available a few years, but I will buy it every year because it’s the earliest corn (64 days) with the best flavor (for an early corn) I’ve found. I like to have a few rows of these to get us into the corn season while the main crop is still growing.
- Brandywine & Pruden’s Purple Tomatoes. Can. not. live. without. these.
2. Nichols Garden Nursery.This is one of our local nurseries- just up the highway in Albany. They don’t have as big a selection as some, but I know their seeds and trials are tailored to my area. They have decent prices, are a family-owned company in business for more than 50 years, sell no GMO seeds and use local farmers to help produce the seeds. They also sell things so you can make your own cheese, beer, and tea (even the bags which I’ve done for gifts in the past!).
What I like to purchase from them:
- Garlic. Good prices and nice selection, including Elephant garlic.
- Tricolor Mix Baby Belle peppers. I’ve got to have these in my garden! They have very few seeds so you can bite into them without getting a mouth full- but most importantly they’re small enough to ripen to yellow, orange, and red even in our wet, cool climate!
- Oregon Giant snap pea. Sweet, good, and a reliable producer.
3. Territorial Seed Company. This is our other, larger, local nursery. They actually have a store about 20 minutes south of us that I try to get to in order to save on the shipping. Even if you don’t plan to order from them, I encourage you to get the catalog because it has the most detailed seed-starting and growing information of any catalog out there. Their seed packets are fairly large and on the more expensive side, but many varieties are offered as organic seed and they sell no GMO or treated seed and do extensive trials on all the varieties they sell.
Every year I order at least some tomatoes from them because I want the varieties that have proven themselves in our climate:
- Cherokee Purple tomato. My favorite heirloom- beats Brandywine in my book, but since Cherokee starts producing earlier and then pretty much finishes up when Brandywine is starting to come on strong, they’re a good combo!
- Jolly Elf grape tomato. The best I’ve found so far: not too small, produces over a loooong time, and not so sweet that all the tomato-yness is taken out.
4. Seeds of Change. All organic and heirloom (though I feel that traditional hybridization-which is NOT genetic modification- has a place in the garden for the disease-resistance and flavor improvements they offer) with lovely pictures – I fairly drool when this comes in the mail.
What I’m looking to purchase:
- new tomato varieties
What are your favorite seed varieties to plant?