Monday, February 13, 2017

Seed Catalogs, My Book Report (2017)

There is nothing better on a cold, dreary winter morning than a cup of hot coffee while reading a seed catalog and dreaming of spring...unless it is a morning cup of coffee in the spring while sitting on the porch watching the planted seeds grow.

Every year when the seed catalogs begin arriving in the mail, my anticipation builds as dreams of summer gardening begins.  Normally, I don't need to buy much, but I still love reading the catalogs.  I consider myself a bit of a seed catalog connoisseur so I decided to write a book report to help any new gardeners along. Realize, these are all my own biased opinions.  I have received no money for any endorsements.  My two cents worth - is not even worth two cents.

This year's seed buying goals:
1. Replenish used up seeds.  Normally, my needs are few since I save many from the previous season; however, last fall I was forced to replant repeatedly due to the damage by the armadillos.
2.  Purchase seeds which I can't save such as carrots.  Queen Anne's Lace is growing everywhere around my yard and it cross-pollinates with carrots.
3.  Try something new!  Oh, this is my favorite.

The only kind I buy is open-pollinated (OP) because they grow to be identical to their parents and can be saved.  Heirlooms are OP seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation and will eventually improve as they adapt to their local region.

I refuse to buy:
1.  Hybrid (F1) - These are seeds from two different parents from the same species which are crossed to produce certain traits, such as a tall tomato plant crossed with a short tomato plant to produce a medium tomato plant.  If you re-plant seeds from the medium (hybrid) tomato, some will be tall and others will be short.  These are often used by large farms as monocrops so the vegetables:  will be uniform in size (easier to package), have uniform maturity dates (fewer labor costs), and storage hardiness (to withstand shipping).  None of this matters to me. I value flavor and nutrition.  There are two more expensive negatives to hybrids: they are often patented and new seeds must be purchased each year.

2.  Cell Fusion (CMS) Technology - This is a process where cells of different species are merged to create plants that do not produce pollen, only seeds.  Once I planted a sunflower from (I think) CMS technology.  It was advertised as being allergy free because it did not produce any pollen; however, no butterfly, bee, bird, or any other creature would land on it.  That is creepy so I pulled it up and burned it.

3.  Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) - TO BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS!  GMO is a laboratory process where DNA from one species is forced into the genes of another plant.  The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or humans.  Nasty, nasty, nasty stuff.  Our bodies don't always recognize this unnatural DNA and may not know how to digest it.  My personal opinion is that this is one of the causes of so many illnesses.

Baker Creek is the absolute best seed catalog.  This company is rapidly expanding into many different markets:  festivals, Youtube videos, testing new exotic vegetables, etc.  At present, they offer 1,850 varieties and all are open-pollinated, no hybrids or GMOs.  Their prices are reasonable, shipping is $3.50 for everything.  I am a "preferred customer" so I don't pay postage.  (How I got that, I don't know.  An email arrived announcing my upgraded status.)   No complaints from me.
UPDATE:  Bountiful Gardens will not be operating in 2018.
Excellent.  All open pollinated, no hybrids and no GMOs. They recommend which varieties will be best for your climate, plus they have symbols to show special traits such as which plants can tolerate winter cold.  Many of my winter garden seeds were purchased by following the "snowflake" symbol. There is also a good selection of herbs and grain crops. Their prices are reasonable, shipping is $3.50 for up to $10.00 then increases with the size of your order. I have purchased many times and never had a problem. 

Great.  Another seed company I have used frequently.  The majority of their seeds are OP, a few hybrids, and no GMOs.  Their herb selection is good and their flower selection is large.  Their prices are a little less than other companies; but, they also put fewer seeds in each package.  This is fine with me since I often want to try something new and just need a few seeds.  Shipping is $2.95 for up to $9.99 and increases as the order increases.

Even though they no longer mail a free paper catalog, this company deserves mentioning since I consider them to be the best deal for your money.  As an example, Michihli Chinese Cabbage (one of my favorites), 900 seeds sells for $1.25.  Their selection is fantastic and changes as they rotate crops. 
There are a few restrictions. Sand Hill is a small Mom and Pop Preservation Center and their main objective is saving heirloom seeds, not making a huge profit.  The seed catalog is online; however, they only take orders through the mail with payment by check or money order.  They wait for the check to clear so don't be in a big hurry.  When my printer was broken, I neatly wrote my order on notebook paper and there was no problem. There is a flat rate shipping charge of $3.00.

They have a FANTASTIC sweet potato catalog with an unbelievable choice of varieties.  Years ago I sent them a check and said I would take an assortment of whatever was leftover.  I didn't know one sweet potato variety from another so it didn't matter.  When the box arrived, it looked like they had cleaned out the greenhouse!  We (Bill) had to get the tiller out and plow up a new garden in the backyard.  I saved my favorite and still replant it every year.

Richters Herbs is the absolute best herb catalog, ever.  The picture above is from 2016 because my 2017 catalog arrived ripped apart by the mail service.  I save them because they are a good herbal medical reference source.  They sell every herb you could ever possibly want and also some you don't realize are herbs. Online they also sell dried herbs and essential oils. The prices vary widely depending on the item.  If you check Youtube, Richters' channel has informational videos.  The company is located in Canada which is why they always misspell "catalogue." Shipping to the U.S. is pricey.  In addition, they only ship when weather permits up north since they don't want the seeds or plants to freeze in the mail trucks. US dollars are accepted along with other currencies.  If you want unusual herbs, I highly recommend this company.

Every year I want to order from this company, yet I never get around to it.  All they sell are onions and they seem to know everything there is to know about them.  They use maps so you can choose the best onion for your area because of the length of sun time.  On my to-do list.

This would be a good catalog for a new gardener with no seeds at all who wants a large variety at a reasonable price.  It is a mixture of heirlooms and hybrids, no GMOs.  
Pricing is as follows:  20 packets and up: $1.99 each; 14 to 19 packets: $2.29 each; 8 to 13 packets: $2.49 each; 1 to 7 packets $2.79 each.  Shipping is a flat rate $2.95.  It has been years since I ordered from them because I usually don't need enough to get the good prices.

A disappointment.  In past years I relied heavily on this company for unusual oriental vegetables. They have slowly added more and more hybrids (no GMOs) to the point that I have not purchased from them in a few years.  Each packet of seeds sells for $3.69 and shipping is $6.50 for 1-18 packets. 

This is a new catalog I just received, looks great but will not be useful to me.  All of the OP seeds are adapted to the Pacific Northwest and other short-season northern climates.  I am in southern middle Tennessee.  

A new to me catalog that looks good.  All open pollinated, no GMOs, great pictures and plenty of information.  Prices are reasonable and shipping is $3.95 up to $15.00.

Great selection of bean seeds; however, almost everything else is hybrid or I can find it cheaper elsewhere.  

Great pictures and information but I am not their market.  It is geared toward commercial farmers who buy in bulk and need standardized hybrid production.  I can get better deals elsewhere.

Great pictures and information but I am not their market.  It is geared toward commercial farmers who buy in bulk and need standardized hybrid production.  I can get better deals elsewhere.

My name is on every mailing list out there in the world and it keeps getting resold.  I love getting new catalogs.  If it is not something I can use, I email and cancel. There are still more catalogs piled up that I have not shared, plus two more arrived in the mail this morning (yahoo).  I suppose this is enough reporting for now...unless...I decide to dig through that big pile of magazines in the other corner of the room...hmm...I need another cup of coffee.


  1. So many catalogs! I am astonished. I have none and I even don´t need any. I can get all seeds (great variety) in our village or nearby. Every year, in October, we visit a garden fair quite near to our place. There I find special seeds and plants and flower bulbs. This is always a wonderful day for us, a well-loved tradition.
    And I collect some seeds from my own garden: Parsley, dill, tomatoes,
    sweet peas and some others. I also buy some young plants (or seedlings) in spring: melons, peppers, some sorts of cabbages, stevia
    and lemon verbena. This is more economical as I just buy the number´
    of plants I need at a certain time. But that is only my personal experience. As my garden is small, I do not need so many seeds.

    1. Christel, we have garden shows like you mentioned above and I have gone to them before. They would have all types of fresh flowers right from the winter greenhouses. It would give me a bad case of spring fever. It was always so much fun but the drive was always long and the parking would be difficult. Now I enjoy the catalogs.

      Also, I want to avoid GMO's. You don't have to worry about that since they have been banned in most of Europe and I do think they are banned in Germany.

      Since you like herbs, you might enjoy the Richter's Herb company. Just click on their name above and it will take you to their website. There are so many plants I did not even know could be used for an herb. Also, they ship internationally. Am I tempting you???

  2. I loved the review of the seed catalogs. We used to get the Baker Creek on, and it is beautiful to look at, and we had success with what we grew from there.

    Territorial is my favorite. We've been ordering from there for years and years, and live only about 2 hours from the company. So, we've driven down there to buy our seeds before when we wanted an outing (it costs more than shipping to drive, so it's just for fun), and one time we visited the trial grounds during the summer, which was super fun. Their seeds grow well here.

    I do grow hybrid seeds if they have something I want, like extra vigor, an earlier harvest, etc. I don't save very many seeds, so that is not an issue for me. I also grow many open pollinated ones. I do not grow GMO's or Cell fusion seeds, in fact, I've never heard of the cell fusion seeds before, so they are either not being advertised as what they are, or we don't have them around here.

    This year, I just kept it simple and ordered from Territorial and bought a big bag full from the dollar store. There are some seeds from there that I am satisfied with, and some I am not. The price is right at 4/$1, but I like to get certain varieties from Territorial that have traits that I want.

    1. I could not imagine walking into a seed store and not buying one of everything! I would be like a kid in a candy store.

      Being so close would explain what their seeds do so good for you. You have chosen well; however, 4/$1, just can't be beat.

  3. Wow, you are a seed catalog expert! I am impressed :) Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! :)

    1. Thank you Jes, I suppose I am know-it-all when it comes to seed catalogs. If I spent more time weeding and less time dreaming, my garden might look like one in the pictures.