Online Garden Seed Resources

Today we are going to talk about seeds! Vegetable, fruit, and flower seeds to be specific. Starting most plants from seeds is not difficult, it just takes some time and a bit of care.

Before I go on, if you are interested in learning more about starting seeds inside, you can see my post about that - Seed Starting Indoors 101. Or if you want to try starting seeds early outdoors with mini diy greenhouses, you can see the Let's Go Hobby post on Winter Sowing.

Onto the seeds. So, how about all those terms you hear about or see on seeds packages like heirloom, organic, hybrid, or GMO? What do these terms really mean? Let's break it down:

Heirloom Seeds - 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 must from suppliers, must have had cross-pollinating plants grown 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.

Organic Seeds - Seeds from plants that were grown using organic methods. No harsh chemical pesticides or genetically modified plants. Seeds labeled as "organic" have to be certified (and pay for that certification). So, sometimes plants are grown in an organic way, but because the farm hasn't been certified, it will not be labeled as such.

Hybrid Seeds - 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.).  These 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. 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, it will be interesting to see if the new plants end up looking the same next year!

GMO Seeds - Seeds 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. 

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 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 seed suppliers. Which one you choose, will depend on your interests so I've included a small snippet about each link.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Ah, I  almost forgot to mention the Let's Go Hobby post about seed storage and organization, you can see that post HERE.

2019 Garden

Here's to a great seed starting year for us all! 

Happy Gardening!

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