Ordering Vegetable Seeds: Step #3 in your annual gardening preparation
Some folks think this is the most fun – ordering vegetable seeds for a new season of gardening. Some might be asking – what happened to steps #1 and #2??? Let’s review:
- Step #1: Review last year and what worked/did not work. For us, we focused on heirloom varieties and while the product was good, Mother has some issues with longevity and caring for plants that may not be as hearty as more traditional varieties. For next year, she wants to focus on “traditional” things and on larger tomatoes. Oh yeah, she insists on kohlrabi for next year.
- Step #2: Create a plan for the upcoming season. We are a bit early for that as we are wrestling with starting seeds again or simply purchasing starter plants. We will probably do a bit of both. Having a plan is not totally necessary to begin Step #3…
Step #3 is what this blog is all about – ordering vegetable seeds. The first part of this step is determining are you going down the fully sustainable path (Organic, non-GMO, heirloom, etc.) or are you going down a more traditional path with commercial varieties. Lucky for you, we have done some research on both. A quick note here, just because you select a “traditional seed” company does not mean they don’t have heirloom, Organic or non-GMO seeds – it simply means they probably have both. On the other side, even some of the companies that are celebrated as sustainable carry some commercial varieties. We are researching all of these companies (and have ordered catalogs from everyone who has one available).
Choosing Sustainable Seeds:
As stated, you are likely to find traditional seeds with some of these companies but the list (and links) below will point you to seed sources we have found to be very focused on heirloom seeds and more sustainable seed practices.
- Baker Creek: https://www.rareseeds.com/
- San Diego Seed Company: https://www.sandiegoseedcompany.com/
- Seed Savers Exchange: https://www.seedsavers.org/
- Clear Creek Seeds: https://www.clearcreekseeds.com/
- Johnny’s Select Seeds: https://www.johnnyseeds.com/
We loved ordering vegetable seeds from Baker Creek this past year because they carry a tremendous variety. As beginning gardeners (this was our first year growing from seed) we experienced a few too many non-starting seeds and we had one very prolific plant that was not identifiable, did not bear any product and did not match any of the seeds we thought we planted. Based on a recommendation from Kevin Espiritu (#EPICGardening) take a closer look at San Diego Seed Company. We like what they are doing but will make sure if we order any seeds from them that they are strains that will thrive in the Midwest.
Using Traditional Vegetable Seeds:
As above, many of these companies also sell Organic varieties and non-GMO varieties – but seem to be better known for ordering vegetable seeds of the commercial variety. You may see the seeds from these companies in your local retail stores. We don’t want to wait that long – most of their catalogs are available now (we have already ordered ours!!!) and we want to research the best varieties to keep Mother happy and to maximize our urban deck garden.
- Burpee Seeds and Plants: https://www.burpee.com/
- Fedco Seeds: https://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/
- Ferry-Morse Seed: https://ferrymorse.com/
- Gurney’s: https://www.gurneys.com/
- Park Seed: https://parkseed.com/
Some of you may remember Park Seed – we ordered our indoor insect “catchers” from them. They have a strong supply of a lot of things for the garden – we especially like their array of items to help you start seeds indoors.
In a Bonus Episode of Thursdays’ with Mother, we will be previewing the catalogs we get and will get Mother’s input on seeds.
As you begin ordering vegetable seeds and planning for “next year” here are some tips we might offer:
- Identify the “last frost date” in your planting zone (we are in Zone 4b in Minneapolis – Mother is on the edge between 4a and 4b) as she lives a bit north of the cities. Check out the USDA Garden Zone map to get an idea of what zone you are in – see below.
- A rule of thumb in Minnesota is to wait until Mother’s Day to plant outside (this is May 10, 2020). We planted early this year and Mother’s plants were devastated by wind. Our Garden Hack of an improvised greenhouse may help solve for that.
- If you are starting plants from seeds, February will likely be your beginning month – we found that our seedlings were pretty tiny when it was time to plant them. We did not harden off our seedlings as much as we needed to (the pesky wind was un-kind to our seedlings). If you want to find this hack, check out our web site for the link to our #GardenHack playlist: https://ecogardensystems.com/media-gallery/
- If you are planning on using starter plants, we recommend shopping early to make sure you get the best plants and the varieties you want. You may need to go early (mid-April) and keep the new plants inside until the Mothers Day plant date
- Find a variety or two (perhaps from a catalog???) of an interesting item you have never grown before – whether a new variety of an old favorite (Example – the Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato was a great find for us – very hearty and an interesting flavor profile) or something completely new. This is part of growing as a gardener – extend your capabilities.
- Plan for (and purchase seeds for) your succession planting. We found out the hard way this year that ordering vegetable seeds later in the season isn’t easy. In 2018 we easily found succession planting seeds – but in 2019, they were nowhere to be found. If you bake this into your plan, then you are more in control of your own destiny.
- Check with your “community” to see what they are growing – perhaps you can work together to expand your vegetable crop through sharing. We think this is a great idea. Interested in Community Gardening? Check out our section on Community Gardening with a link to our E-Magazine on the subject.
We are so looking forward to another gardening season – and Mother is as well!