Snow is finally blanketing the ground here in Vermont, offering a blank canvas on which to project our dreams for this year’s garden. Time to snuggle up with some vegetable and annual flower seed catalogs! Here are our favorites.
The first taste of spring: one of illustrator Bobbi Angell‘s lovely drawings in the Scheepers Kitchen Garden catalog.
Julie’s Pick: John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
Over the past few years I’ve grown my vegetables using seeds from different companies, so that I can experience an array of products first hand. The first year I combined local seedlings with Burpee’s and High Mowing Seeds, our local Vermont organic seed company. Happy with the results, I vowed to grow from seed thereafter and began to ask my colleagues in the studio which companies they preferred.
Erica suggested Seeds of Change (read her description below), which I used the second year. I enjoyed their catalogue, their commitment to being 100% certified organic, and their bright yellow reclosable/reusable plastic packets. Last year I tried Johnny’s Selected Seeds, since I was also growing many of their annuals from seed for my son’s wedding celebration at our house. I found that, because I had waited too long before ordering, I had to settle for hybrid varieties, but the results were excellent.
This year, thanks to several years of satisfaction with Scheepers’ bulbs, I’m trying their John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds™ collection. I like their combination packets and their superb illustrations, drawn by the talented Bobbi Angell, who lives nearby in Southern Vermont and has become a friend. I can’t wait to get planting!
More of Bobbi Angell’s illustrations from the Scheepers’ Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog.
Erica’s Choice: Seeds of Change
I have been using Seeds of Change for years. An organic seed company, their product is reliable and their selection is quite delicious. They also donate 1% of their profits towards “sustainable organic farming initiatives” like the New York Restoration Project and The Rice Child and Family Center, which works to educate children about gardening. Seeds of Change cultivates its own varieties, which means that its selection is one of a kind. Partly due to the temptation of their colorful catalogue, I usually make a list that far exceeds my budget, only to have to painstakingly pare it down later.
Mouthwatering images from the Seeds of Change catalog.
I was originally annoyed when a few years ago they switched from their regular paper seed packets to a bright yellow plastic, citing better storage of seed. While I continued to buy from them, I discovered that the lighter seeds, especially those of celery, Verbena bonariensis, lettuce, and carrots tended to be over-attracted to the plastic’s static electricity and often refused to leave the container with any dignity. I also wish, in terms of packaging, that Seeds of Change offered the mini packs that so many of its competitors offer. Sometimes you don’t need 25 tomato seeds of a particular variety at $3.49 a pack. They do cater to larger farms though, offering bulk seed amounts and wholesale prices.
Anna’s Tried and Tested Favorite: Renee’s Garden Seeds
If you are planning an edible blossom garden, one to attract bees, or just a few edible containers, Renee’s Garden Seeds has you covered. Her site is chock-full of resources, articles, and recipes, as well as themed seed collections. As a market grower for cut flowers, I find their selection of sweet peas unrivaled, as well as their Secrets to Sweet Pea Success and invaluable photographed growing guide. My favorite flower offerings are in the Nigella collection – both Pink ‘Mulberry Rose’ and White ‘Bridal Veil’ are hard to find elsewhere and oh-so-lovely. Renee’s is also proud to offer only non-treated, non-GMO seeds, seeds from sustainable and organic growers, and some exclusive varieties.
Renee’s Garden boasts a beautiful catalog and lovely packaging, but this company is much more than a pretty seed-packet! Anna was kind enough to give her fellow-workers Renee’s seeds as a gift, and when Jennifer planted these ‘Electric Blue’ sweet peas in the vegetable garden, they bloomed like crazy for months–right up until hard frost.
Jana’s Reliable Source: Fedco Seeds
If you have ever seen the Fedco Seed catalog you know what it is like to be entertained by vegetables! This no-gloss newsprint catalog is filled with hand drawings that have a lot of character, plenty of quick reference guides, information about GMOs, and reasons to save seeds…it’s practically overflowing with information. The layout and descriptions make me feel like I have uncovered advice that is both prized and coveted. Fedco is a nonprofit cooperative company with consumers and worker members sharing ownership. They have five basic departments: Seeds, Moose Tubers, Organic Growers Supply, Trees and Bulbs. They have a lot to offer and encourage group orders, so get together with friends, neighbors, or co-workers to order seeds, tubers and supplies…and save! Fedco also has a wonderful fundraising opportunity for your school or organization. Our school garden will fundraise with Fedco for its third consecutive year; we’ve have had huge success!
L: The cover of Fedco‘s 2012 black-and-white print catalog; C and R: colorful images from Fedco’s seed and Moose Tubers online catalogs.
Jennifer’s Old Standby and a New Source for Potatoes: Johnny’s Selected Seeds and The Maine Potato Lady
I’m loyal to Johnny’s both for its excellent quality seeds and germination results and for its enormously informative catalog. Every seed packet has detailed planting, cultivation, disease prevention, and harvest information printed right on it, which makes planting so much easier than pawing through printed materials with muddy hands in the garden. Also, Johnny’s extensive trial gardens are located in Maine, so I trust that their advice will pertain to my Zone 5 garden as well. Julie advises that one should order early for organic seeds, before they run out.
I have purchased excellent shallots from Johnny’s, but I also like to spread my modest veg garden dollars around a little among other ethical growers. This spring I’ll be buying my seed potatoes from The Maine Potato Lady, who comes highly recommended for quality and an outstanding selection of seed potatoes, onion sets, shallots, garlic, and the like. I also love the detailed advice about cover crops in their charming catalog.
Bethany’s Discovery: Comstock Ferre & Co.
Am I a lazy wife? Not even close, but I’m often short on time, so I was easily sold on this heirloom pole bean in Comstock Ferre & Co.‘s seed catalog, “Lazy Wife.” She bears clusters of pods for quicker harvest of an “exceedingly rich, buttery and fine flavored bean.” Sounds indulgent AND efficient—I love it! That find pushed me to delve further into the catalog, which is really beautiful by the way, offered as a high-res online flipbook (awesome) as well as in print. Before too long I was drunk on dreams of these heirloom seeds, their history and their promise. I love that the seeds are all from hardy northern plants grown in New England and are all heirloom varieties. Nice.
The front cover and a sample page of Comstock, Ferre & Co.’s 2012 catalog–who could resist those gorgeous retro illustrations?
What are your favorite catalogs for browsing and most reliable seed sources? Please share in the comments. Happy garden planning!