A Look at Seed Catalogs

10/13/2013 1:36:00 PM

Tags: Seed catalogs, Karen Newcomb

Karen NewcombStarting a new garden blog is always a bit intimidating because I don’t want to leave any reader out. I have beginning gardeners to long time gardeners who may or may not enjoy the basics of gardening. All gardeners start out the same, by deciding what they want to grow and by looking through seed catalogs. I’ve spent years getting acquainted with vegetable seeds and the catalogs that offer them. Over the years I always ordered from the same big name companies. Then I began writing vegetable garden books and soon discovered many catalogs that offered specialized seeds. These catalogs are usually my favorite because they not only offer heirloom seeds but a history behind the seed.

Years ago I began experimenting with garden beds, using a particular theme to each bed.  I’m known for my postage stamp gardening and my books reflect that small space gardening.  My late husband, Duane, was the one who started my love for small space gardening.  He, then both of us, wrote about using the French intensive biodynamic small space garden beds.

From this love of gardening and the need to know where I could find seeds that my local nursery never heard of, I created a vegetable garden website, postagestampvegetablegardening.com.

When the new seed catalogs come out I work on this site almost daily to include the latest varieties they have to offer.  This site was created for someone like me who likes to browse yearly seed catalogs yet doesn’t know where to begin and they may not know about the smaller seed companies. To make life easier go online and find all the seed companies you may be interested in and go to their website, see if they have varieties you’re interested in and order a print catalog (of course you can order online, too). As you can guess, by now the space below my desk is a stack of 2013 seed catalogs measuring close to 2 feet high. I love the information I find in these catalogs, and I do a lot of clipping for article ideas, but at the end of the year I begrudgingly have to toss them all and order the next year’s edition.  And it’s getting to be that time of year where I have to purge the stack before ordering new current catalogs.

Let me give you a brief synopsis of each catalog and their web site so sometime later this year you too may want to send for a copy of their latest offerings.  When I list seed varieties in my blogs there will always be a source with a code listed.  Each of these seed companies has a code.

Annie’s Heirloom Seed  AnniesHeirloomSeeds.com This was a new find for me and one I will continue to order from year to year.  All heirlooms this charming catalog and the owner are wonderful people to deal with.   Code:  ANN

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  rareseeds.com A beautiful catalog with lots of colored pictures.  All their seed is non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patiented.  This is a must have catalog in any gardener’s collection.  Code:  BAK

Botanical Interests  botanicalinterests.com Another new catalog in my collection.  It is a magazine-style catalog with lots of vegetables listed.  Code:  BOT

Bountiful Gardens  bountifulgardens.org  This is the continuing effort of author, John Jeavons to offer heirloom, untreated, open-pollinated seeds for sustainable growing.  Located in northern California the sustainable mini-farm proves that Ecology Action (now in 40th year) works.  Jeavons offers not only seed grown right there, but internships, workshops and tours.  Very informational catalog.  Code:  BOU

Burgess Seed and Plant Co.  EBurgess.com This company has been in business since 1912.  The catalog has lots of color photos of vegetables.  They also have garden supplies.  Code:  BURG

Burpee  burpee.com Everyone knows the name Burpee, it’s the standard in the industry and has been around a long time.  I love getting it each year.  It has lots of colored pictures and garden supplies.  They carry mostly hybrids, but are now offering heirlooms.  Code:  BURP

Comstock Seeds   comstockferre.com Another very old seed company (200 years old) that is always beneath my desk.  They carry heirlooms, non-GMO, non-patented and non-hybrd seeds.  Their catalog is chocked full of colored pictures.  Very interesting catalog that is a must in ordering.  Code:  COM

The Cook’s Garden  cooksgarden.com They offere hybrid and heirloom seeds and organic plants for gourmet gardeners.  Colorful catalog offers may different varieties, along with herbs and flowers.  Very nice catalog.  Code:  COO

Gourmet Seed International  gourmetseed.com They offer hybrid and heirloom seeds.  Noted for their Italian varieties (Bavicchi Italian seeds) and garden supplies.  If you are a lover of Italian food and want to grow with authentic Italian varieties, this is the seed company for you.  Code:  GOU

Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co.  Gurneys.com Another old established seed company that offers hybrids and some heirlooms.  It is a large format catalog with tons of colored vegetable pictures.  You can order a climate zone map from this catalog.  Code:  GUR

Harris Seeds  harrisseeds.com Lots of vegetable varieties, hybrid and heirloom.  They also have garden supplies.  Code:  HAR

Henry Field’s Seed & Nursery Co.  HenryFields.com In business since 1892 they offer hybrids and heirlooms.  Lots of colored pictures.  Code:  HEN

Irish Eyes Garden Seeds  irisheyesgardenseeds.com Large selection of potatoes, garlic, shallots, onions, and organic vegetable seeds.  Code:  IRI

Johnny’s Selected Seeds  Johnnyseeds.com Catalog full of colored photos, information and garden supplies.  Code:  JOH

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds  kitchengardenseeds.com 2013 was the first year I discovered this catalog, a company that has been in business since 1908.  They carry both hybrid and heirlooms.  Have a variety of herbs and flowers.  This one stays on my yearly must have list.  Code:  JOHN

Kitazawa Seed Co.  kitazawaseed.com I will always be grateful to this company for teaching me about Asian varieties.  If you love Asian food and want to grow a kitchen garden this is the company you need to go to.  They have been a California based business for 94 years.  They not only offer individual seed varieties but specialty garden seed packets and even recipes.  Code:  KIT

Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H  nativeseeds.org I found this seed organization this year and am pleased to recommend it to you.  This is a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of ancient crops by gathering and working to preserve their uses.  A wonderful resource for the Southwest gardener.  The seeds are a full diversity for arid lands.  All true heirloom of ancient varieties.  Code:  NAT

Neseed  neseed.com Another seed catalog I found this year.  No GMO seeds, organic seed, flower seed, herb seed, Italian gourmet seed and gardening supplies.  Code:  NES

Nichols Garden Nursery  nicholgardennursery.com Lots of garden information, vegetables and garden supplies.  Widely adapted varieties that grow well in the Northwest.  Code:  NIC

Park Seed  parkseed.com Park Seed has been around since 1868.  They carry hybrid and some heirloom seeds.  Very nice catalog.  They also have garden supplies.  Code:  PAR

Plants of the Southwest  plantsofthesouthwest.com New Mexico based that offers a few vegetable varieties.  Wonderful source for native southwest plants.  Code:  PLA

Potato Garden  PotatoGarden.com If you’re a potato lover you’ll enjoy this catalog.  All varieties of potatoes, hybrid and heirloom.  Code:  POT

Seed Savers Exchange  seedsavers.org This is an heirloom seed catalog that is a must in your collection.  Beautiful catalog with colored pictures and seed stories.  All heirloom, open-pollinated seeds that are saved and passed on from family to family or friend to friend.  They also have seed saving supplies.  Code:  SEED

Seeds From Italy  growitalian.com An American distributor of Italian seeds.  Another fine source for your authentic Italian kitchen garden.  Code:  SEE

R.H. Shumway’s  rhshumway.com 142 year-old company that produces an old-fashioned large illustrated garden guide in newsprint paper.  It’s like stepping back in time visually, but up to date in products.  Catalog tends to be confusing to read, but fun.  Hybrid and some heirloom seeds.  Also has garden supplies.  Code:  SHU

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange  Gardens@SouthernExposure.com Their mission is to ensure that people retain and control their food supply, that genetic resources are conserved and that gardeners have the option of saving their own seed.  Lots of heirloom seeds and seed stories.  They also carry hybrids.  Catalog choked full of information.  Code:  SOU

Stokes Seeds  StokeSeeds.com A seed company since 1881.  Hybrid and some heirloom seeds.  Lots of colored pictures.  Has garden supplies.  Code:  STO

Territorial Seed Company  territorialseed.com A Northwest seed company the catalog has lots of pictures.  Carried hybrid and open-pollinated seed.  Has garden supplies.  Code:  TER

Terrior Seeds  underwoodgardens.com Very nice company to do business with.  Located in Arizona they carry heirloom and open-pollinated seeds.  Subscribe to their newsletter for garden information.  Code:  TERR

The Pepper Gal  peppergal.com Specialist in hot, sweet and ornamental peppers.  Some tomatoes, pumpkins and supplies.  Code:  THE

Thompson & Morgan  tmseeds.com Lots of colored pictures.  Hybrid and some heirloom varieties.  Code:  THO

Tomato Growers  tomatogrowers.com A tomato lovers catalog.  Lots of colored photos.  They carry more than tomatoes, they offer peppers (hot and sweet), eggplant and garden equipment and supplies.  Hybrid and heirloom seeds.  Code:  TOM

Totally Tomatoes  totallytomato.com Another tomato lovers catalog.  Lots of colored pictures.  Heirloom and hybrid varieties.  They also offer other salad vegetables and garden supplies.   Code:  TOT

I’ll be adding new catalogs as I come across them.  In the meantime, why not try a new variety or two in 2014.

Kitchen Gardening with Karen is for cooks who want a smaller garden to grow new varieties right outside their door.

Copyright by Karen Newcomb

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Post a comment below.


10/20/2013 7:43:05 PM
Karen, good job with reviewing the seed catalogs. My favorite it the Baker Creek one. I too have lost a spouse some 12 years ago but I still think of her often. I'm glad you are carrying on what you and your husband have started. I have two gardens. One is four raised beds in my back yard with square foot garden design for fresh eating at the kitchen table and the other is newly expanded from 8100 to 9000 square foot open field gardening. The open field is where the squash, pumpkins, watermelons, potatoes and sweet corn is grown. ***** Have a great seed catalog purging day.

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