Where to Order the Best Seeds for Your Garden
There are so many reasons to grow from seed: First, it's more affordable than buying plants. Next, you can find a greater variety in seed catalogs than what's typically available at the nursery. The last—and maybe most compelling—reason is that watching those first shoots emerge from the soil never ceases to delight.
To know when to start planting, check the packet for each variety you're growing. It's your handy cheat sheet, and it will provide you with all the information you need like how long it will take your crop to reach to maturity, what kind of light and temperature conditions are required, as well as detailed planting instructions. But before you tear open that seed packet, identify the date of your last frost and count backwards. There are plants that can tolerate the chill, such as arugula, spinach, and kale. Others, however, like tender annuals (zinnias, nasturtiums, and brugmansia) and warm season vegetables (corn, okra, and cucumbers) will not. Sweet peas, tomatoes, and peppers might need a head start before they are moved outside into the garden. Plant them indoors first in seed flats or biodegradable pots, and then transplant them to your garden after the last frost.
And don't be afraid to experiment. Flip through the seed catalogs and try a new variety that strikes your fancy (and will work in your area), like an unusual type of eggplant or a heady-scented heirloom that looks enticing. To help you get started we've compiled this handy list of some of our favorite sources for seeds. Happy planting!
For Edibles: Row 7 Seeds
For Edibles: Edible Gardens LA
There's so many cool items to choose from at Lauri Kranz's Edible Gardens LA, but we are partial to its rocket (arugula). It's spicy and so delicious!
For Edibles: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' catalog boasts one of the largest selections of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the U.S., with many 19th-century varieties. Grow 'Russian Red' kale from the 1800s, or 'Roberie' okra from a Louisiana family in the early 1900s.
For Edibles: Hudson Valley Seed Library
Hudson Valley Seed Library's heirloom and openpollinated seeds—many of which are certified organic and produced on the company's farm near New York's Catskills—come in packages designed by various gardening-loving artists. The company plans to expand its offerings of vegetables, herbs, and flowers yearly.
For Edibles: Johnny's Selected Seeds
One of Martha's favorites, Johnny's Selected Seeds, an employee-owned business—boasts an extensive catalog, which means it can be a one-stop shop for all your potager needs. Be sure to check out the company's website, which provides information on planning and growing, as well as detailed guides on specific vegetables.
For Edibles: Wild Boar Farms
Brad Gates, owner of Wild Boar Farms in California's Napa Valley, has been crossbreeding unusual heirloom tomatoes to create varieties that are striped, multicolored, and even blue. But it's not just about their striking appearance—these tomatoes are packed with flavor, too.
For Edibles: Kitazawa Seed Company
Founded in 1917, California's Kitazawa Seed Company, which once specialized in seeds for Japanese vegetables, has expanded its offerings to more than 500 varieties of herbs, fruits, and veggies from throughout Asia (like Chinese eggplants and Thai cucumbers).
For Edibles: Seeds From Italy
The largest U.S. distributor of Franchi Seeds, Italy's oldest family-owned seed company, Seeds From Italy stocks more than 450 heirloom varieties, including Romanesco broccoli and more than 20 different kinds of chicory.
For Edibles: Monticello Seeds
Monticello Seeds sells a selection of avid gardener Thomas Jefferson's favorite vegetables and flowers, such as 'Purple Calabash' tomatoes, 'Windsor Bead' fava beans, and the appropriately named four o'clocks (the flowers open in the afternoon).
For Native Plants: Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H.
Nonprofit organization Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H. aims to preserve native agricultural varieties, including some from more than 50 southwestern tribes. Its catalog features seeds for indigenous vegetables, grains, and wildflowers. All proceeds benefit the group's conservation efforts.
For Native Plants: Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants
Protecting California's native plants since 1960, the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants sells a wide array of wildflowers, including the California poppy and blue-eyed grass, as well as seed mixes that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
For Flowers: Floret Flowers
For Flowers: Renee's Garden
For more than 20 years, Renee Shepherd, owner of Renee's Garden, has been peddling seeds geared to the home gardener. Her catalog features a helpful key with symbols indicating whether a certain variety is good for containers or is a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds, or beneficial insects.
For Flowers: Select Seeds
Specializing in antique flowers (open pollinated varieties that originated at least 50 years ago), Select Seeds' catalog offers an abundance of fragrant old-fashioned flowers and flowering vines. It also contains newer rare annuals and perennials, such as a moon-garden collection of evening scented white flowers.
Seed Starting Tip
If you're starting seedlings indoors, these slatted wooden trays—popular among British gardeners—are a great versatile tool to have nearby. Made from scrap lumber, they're also a greener alternative to the more common plastic varieties. A half-size one, about 12 inches square, is also a brilliant multitasker; build your own or buy one, and you can reuse it to tote garden supplies all season, then carry produce come harvest time.
Pretty & Simple Shoppe handmade wooden cedar tray, $40, prettysimpleshoppe.etsy.com