It is January. Here in the Willamette Valley the freezing fog has settled in and shows no signs of lifting. But now is the time for gardeners to dream of summer. Snuggling into a warm blanket on your couch with a cup of tea and this year’s seed catalogs, imagining the possibilities can be one of the most enjoyable parts of gardening. On the other hand, it can lead to going way overboard in buying seeds and ending up with a lot more seeds than you can plant in one or even several years. (Seeds of most vegetables will stay viable for 2-5 years if kept in cool, dry conditions.) Erica, over at Northwest Edible Life, recently wrote a great post on how to pick your vegetable seeds without going crazy. It is a really great guide, so check it out if you feel like your seed buying might get out of control.
That post got me thinking about a couple of additional tips and my favorite places to buy seeds. First of all, many seed catalogs sell seeds in the wrong amounts. For example, a regular sized packet of bean or pea seeds won’t contain enough seeds and a packet of tomato seeds will contain way too many seeds. If you find you have too many seeds of some types or want to try out different varieties to see what works in your garden, try finding a seed swap. In many towns and cities there are public seed swapping events once or several times a year. If you can’t find a seed swapping event in your town, you can swap seeds online, or just exchange seeds with gardening friends in your neighborhood. Talking to other gardeners in your local area can be a great way to discover varieties that work well in your particular climate and soils.
Finding varieties that you love and want to grow year after year can also save money and make sure you don’t waste seeds. So here are my favorite seed catalogs, along with descriptions:
Johnny’s Selected Seeds: This catalog supplies home gardeners and small commercial growers, includes organic and open pollinated seeds as well as hybrids. The catalog has lots of useful information growing like the best varieties to try in pots or in cold weather.
Pinetree Garden Seeds: Their seeds are affordable and they have a wide variety of seeds. The catalog includes unusual varieties organized by place of origin. Many traditional European varieties are bred for taste rather than long shelf life.
Territorial Seeds: This one I have started using since I moved to Oregon since they are an Oregon based company and so have many varieties suitable for our cool weather and short summers.
I would also recommend supporting some of the non-profit seed saving organizations. They are doing good work saving heirloom and open pollinated varieties. Many of these groups are specifically working with to preserve locally adapted varieties. Here are a few I happen to have heard about:
Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah Iowa
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral VA
Native Seeds/SEARCH, Tuscan AZ
I would love to see a regionally specific list of seed sources, but often seed catalogs sell seeds that have been grown all over. What other sources are out there for great, locally adapted seeds?