Last updated on February 27th, 2013
(Note: here is the 2013 edition of this article.) AS I’VE SAID BEFORE, I rarely buy annual, perennial or vegetable seeds from local vendors. Why? Because their selections are limited to what will fit on a rack. Take, for example, petunia seeds. The local big-box store might sell 3 basic varieties (if you’re lucky). But visit an on-line seed specialist like Summerhill, and you will find 61 petunia varieties, including the delightful ‘Shock Wave Rose,’ pictured above. The following seed-sellers get most of my business:
Diane’s Flower Seeds. Diane Linsley offers open-pollinated, heirloom perennial, annual, and vegetable seeds. Seeds have been tested for germination. Her columbine collection is extraordinary; I winter-sowed several varieties one year, including the stunning, blue ‘Alpine.’
Summerhill Seeds. I already mentioned Summerhill’s petunias, but their hollyhocks are equally impressive. You can buy them in mixed or individual hues. I had to restrain myself with these, for I wanted them all. I settled for ‘Apple Blossom,’ a 7-foot variety with fully double, soft-pink blossoms.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds. You can have a field day on this site, too, whether you are looking for flowers or vegetables. Last year, I couldn’t resist Johnny’s lime-green variety of Love Lies Bleeding, nor his extra early, ‘Premium’ peas.
Pinetree Garden Seeds. If you need seeds at low, low prices by all means visit Pinetree. This is the place to buy seed potatoes, onions, artichokes, and bareroot raspberries and blueberries. Their online catalog is far from glitzy, but who cares? Packets of flower and vegetable seeds are often under $2.00.
Renee’s Garden. Love cottage gardens? So does Renee Shephard. I winter-sowed her double cosmos ‘Rose Bon Bon’ last year, and enjoyed the rich, romantic, frilled flowers from spring through frost. You might like her knee-high sweet peas, in mixed tones of salmon-rose and soft mid-blue, which grow to only three feet. Renee’s love for flowers and vegetables becomes obvious when you visit her website.
Seeds of Change. My friend Randy introduced me to this company which sells only 100-percent organic seeds. I’ve already placed an order with them for ‘Nutri-Bud’ broccoli, ‘Golden Giant’ amaranth, and ‘Roma’ and ‘Amish’ paste tomatoes.
Seed Savers Exchange. This non-profit group of gardeners is dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. I rely on them for almost all of my heirloom veggie needs. I can heartily recommend their ‘German Pink’, ‘Golden Sunray’, ‘Italian Heirloom,’ and ‘Striped Cavern’ tomatoes — for these performed brilliantly here last year.
Now it’s your turn. Who gets your seed money?
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Donna B. says
Oooh, Diane’s looks like a great place for flowers… I adore columbines! The “Magpie” variety looks awesome!
I usually order from Botanical Interests, Renee’s Garden, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
That, and collecting from nature… There’s a bog plant, tiny with white flowers and speckled leaves – I keep trying to catch it when it goes to seed [I don’t like digging up natives] but they dissapear into the summer! I shall be more viligant this spring…!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Donna B. – I have the same trouble with Primula japonica seeds. These ripen in July — just when I’m too busy with other garden chores to collect them! Fortunately, reader Beverly sent me seeds that she’d collected from her own pink primula (she’s obviously more on the ball than I am).
I’ve heard wonderful things about Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Will have to check them out.
Happy New Year, Kevin–
Your site is such an inspiration! You didn’t mention my favorite seed supplier (though Johnny’s and Pinetree are right up there!). I purchase most of my seeds from Fedco, a cooperative here in Maine with several divisions–seeds, trees and shrubs, bulbs, perennials, seed potatoes–all sorts of goodies at excellent prices–especially if you have a large order–works really well if you have a few friends who all order together. I can’t believe I haven’t ordered yet, myself–it’s usually the first thing I do after Christmas–I’ll blame it on the unusually mild weather, though that seems to have finally ended, brr!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Mary – I just downloaded Fedco’s seed catalog…great stuff. Glad to read the company is suing Monsanto.
The weather has thrown me off schedule a bit, too. Normally I start winter-sowing between Christmas/New Year’s. But with temps in the 50s I could not get into the mood. Now, however, temps have plunged to below-freezing and seed-sowing is well under way…outdoors!
Donna B. says
Primula’s seem to be that flower I’m unable to grow… /sigh
Baker Creek is amazing – but if you do the Seed Saver’s Exchange you’ll have to weigh the differences in their veggie varieties! Since they’re quite similar…
Although I have to commend Baker Creek for their catalogue – it has some of the most gorgeous photos of veggies. None are glamourized or false, showing imperfection on the fruit is probably one of my favorite things about their photos.
That and the color-separated chart of the different kinds of squash is a pleaser.
This is really helpful. I haven’t grown flowers from seeds in a long time and it’s good to have your recommendations. It’s also amazing to think about how many things I’ll be able to grow (fingers crossed!) for what I’d have spent for a few mail order perennials plants.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Alice – Absolutely! And since so many perennials require cold-stratification in order to germinate, the best time to sow them is…now!
badger gardener says
RH Shumways is my favorite. First, because it is located in Wisconsin, as am I. But also because a few years back I received their catalog at Christmas at the same time I also received a gift of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I did not open a page of either until that Feb. when I knew I would have jury duty. And so as far from the garden as you can get, sitting in a jury holding room, no windows, in the middle of an urban center, i fell in love with vegetable gardening allover.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
badger gardener – You were very wise to save the catalog and book for civic-duty-time. How nice to find beauty when your surroundings then were…well, perhaps not so beautiful. Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one my favorites.
Thanks for the tips on Diane’s and Renee’s garden seed sources. I’ve used the others on a regular basis along with Peaceful Valley. I’ve operated a non-profit food bank garden for 6 years and rely on organic heirloom seeds as is our charter and Peaceful Valley (groworganic.com) Seed Savers, Johnny’s and Seeds of Change are among my favorite suppliers. Thanks for all the tips, it really helps to find like minded people doing and sharing great things.
Sandy Hutchison says
Diane’s Flower Seeds is the source of many of the perennials and biennials now prospering in my garden. For vegetables, I love Fedco. This last year I ordered organic seeds from them and noticed they really did perform better for me, certainly well enough to justify the extra expense. My other favorite is the Hudson Valley Seed Library (http://www.seedlibrary.org).
There will be a local seed exchange at the Sand Lake Town Library in Sand Lake, New York (Rensselaer County) Saturday, January 21 from 2-3pm. Swap or share seeds with other local gardeners, or just show up to talk about spring!
I just ordered my vegetable garden from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It should be interesting to grow and eat vegetables from the late 19th century seed stock. Wish me luck this year!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Kazza – And, thank you for all the good work you’re doing operating a food bank garden.
Sandy Hutchison – Thanks for reminding me of Hudson Valley Seed Library. I shall investigate. Thanks also for the tip regarding the seed-swap in Rensselaer County. The co-operative extension there has asked me to give a talk for their annual “Spring Day,” which, as I recall, is March 10. Maybe you’ll stop by?
Cathy – I think you’ll have great fun growing and eating 19th century veggie-varieties. Last summer, I devoted my own entire kitchen garden to such heirlooms, from beans to tomatoes. The ‘de Farcy’ green beans were especially productive, and the ‘Nutri-Bud’ broccoli, although slow-going at first, made enormous heads!
I order from the ones mentioned above, except Hudson Valley. Johnny’s has
70 kinds of pelleted seeds this year.
One not mentioned yet that I love is Sand Hill Preservation.
and Seeds of Italy for broad beans and greens.
Cheryl Alloway says
My favorite favorite ~ Hudson Valley Seed Library! Definitely check them out. Great folks, great heirloom seeds and great art!!! And they’re local, right here in Ulster County.
Hope to see you at the Rensselaer County Spring Day. Just learned you’ll be joining us in Ulster County for our Garden Day too (April 14th). What great news!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Cheryl – Yes to Hudson Valley Seed Library. And yes, I’ll be speaking in Troy in March, and then in Ulster County in April. Look forward to meeting you at one (or both) of these events!
Amanda M. says
Sow True Seed in Asheville, NC! All products are open pollinated! It’s like my candy store. Check out their website.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Amanda M. – Thanks for turning me on to this great source. A candy store, indeed!
kim schmidt says
This year I decided to use D. Landreth Seed Company (http://www.landrethseeds.com/). My husband’s aunt heard about them on NPR, ordered several catalogs and passed one on to me. What I love about the company is that they are more local to me (I’m in NJ, they are in PA) and I love helping out a seed company that was close to having to close down. Last year I bought from Seed Savers.
Deb Nelson says
Amanda, are you from Asheville? I am just outside of Asheville in Weaverville. I love Sow True seeds, they are the only ones I have bought this year. A little bit more pricey than some of the others but not much and they are local, I love that. Happy gardening neighbor!
For heirloom seed, you can’t beat Baker Creek, as mentioned above. And in addition to Summerhill, I also like Swallowtail Gardens:
There is a really vast selection at especially lesser known varieties. This is a great resource for those who like rare and unusual flowers! Mostly perennials but some annuals too.
I see the urls included in my last post didn’t show up. So, the company I was talking about with vast selection-especially lesser known varieties is Specialty Perennials at hardy plants.com.
I often get Hart’s seeds (hartseed.com), which has a good selection of heirloom varieties. This year I’m doing their ruby-red nasturtium “Empress of India” (Tropaeolum minus) and purple morning glory Grandpa Ott’s (Ipomoea purpurea). Oh, and the sunflower Velvet Queen (Helianthus annuus). I can also get the Franchi Sementi from Italy for peas, tomatoes, and greens. at the local garden center. Franchi has a wonderful red curly leaf lettuce “Lattuga Lollo Rossa” that I’ve has success with. Thanks for the winter sowing tips!
Love Pinetree Garden seeds. I’ve been buying from them for years and have been very satisfied. They also have great gardening books on sale, but buy early or you won’t get them.
I was wondering (since this is my first year at really doing any vegetable/herb. etc gardening) For each season, when is it a good time to buy seeds from the above mentioned places? I just bought some seeds from Green Acres Garden Center here in Sacramento, CA for Fall and the butternut and pumpkin have already sprouted! (8.17.12) I want to support my local nurseries, but at the same time I do not want to support Monistaro and company….
S. Taylor says
My seed money goes to Seed Savers Exchange. No GMO’s in my garden!!!
J. Smith says
I was surprised to not find Fedco from Maine (www.fedcoseeds.com/) included in your list, Kevin, as it pointedly avoids offering seeds from Monsanto. Check into it. They are very reasonably priced and I have been completely satisfied with them. I have also purchased seeds from all the other sites mentioned but must admit that recently Summerhill has disappointed me. Packets seem to contain fewer and fewer seeds and germination rates have been very inconsistent.
I am learning so much from you! I’m out here in California and really want to try this winter seed thing, I looked up my “hardiness zone” it is 9b. My question is when it comes time to transplant your seedlings, … how does that go? are the roots tangled together? I think I read you sprinkle the seeds over the soil. If you have already covered this issue it on your site, please direct me there.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
J. Smith – I’ve heard great things about Fedco. I’m with you on avoiding any companies who do business with Seminis Seeds (owned by Monsanto).
Liz – Yes, the roots get tangled together. But here’s the neat thing: winter-sown seedlings are super-hardy, and recover from transplanting shock faster than you can say “transplanting shock.” See this post: https://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/04/transplanting-winter-sown-perennials-updated-bumped/
rebecca henderson says
I fell in love with health kick tomatoes and then found out they were produced by Monsanto….is there a comparable tomato by another seed co? I do not like Roma…I live in middle Georgia..zone 7
Warning: Seeds of Change is owned by Mars Candy Co=More ties to giant companies such as Monsanto! I’ve also read that Johnny’s sells seeds owned by Monsanto. Why not support local businesses and buy great seeds from seedlibrary.org, right here in the Hudson Valley! 🙂
Anyone out there just buy seed packets from the grocery store???
I love Totally Tomatoes which has a the largest array of tomato seeds I have ever seen at great prices.
I have used http://www.victoryseeds.com in Oregon for several years, and love their service and their seeds. Seeds of Change is closer to me, but I love the fact that Victory is a small family farm that sells seeds to support Seed Savers. They grow many of their varieties right there on the farm. And they just restarted their print catalogue after stopping it in 2008.
I discovered http://www.sampleseedshop.com this year. Remy has some great seed varieties and No GMO’s.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi everyone! I updated this post back in January, 2013. Click here for the current edition.
Just happened to run across your site today. I thought it was wonderful. So many wonderful ideas and great photos. Love the before and afters. Just curious as to how much property you own.
As far as places to order seeds, I have been ordering from bakerseeds.com (also can be found as rareseeds.com). Best place for reasonable shipping fees. Family owned business in Missouri. I have been ordering Heirloom tomatoes over the past 5 years and find their seed germination is just around 100% and the seeds are true to what they say they are regarding the varieties. Can also get seeds from wintersown.org either giving a minimum donation or not, as you choose. You get more free and your varieties of choice with a donation. Goes for vegetables and flowers as well. Thank you.
I’ve used http://gardenbuddy.org just for tomatoes but amazing selection… now i just need to wait until spring 🙂
How about High Mowing Organic Seeds: http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ ? I live in northern Vermont and typically buy their seeds from the local co-op. With the winter sowing, this is the first year I am browsing their catalog and making a whole plan – I can’t wait to get some of the varieties that aren’t the most popular ones and I can’t get in the rack at the store! I love having a local source and something I know will work for my zone. (Though I have been gardening for almost a million years, I am a very hit-or-miss gardener and wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means…try stuff, throw seeds in the ground, make sure they have water, pick the pests off…and hope for the best. If it doesn’t work…try something different next year. I am VERY excited about winter sowing, because I can’t be bothered by the effort (and energy) that goes into starting seeds indoor!
Thanks for all the new seed sources. I’d like to share one with you also:
They carry organics, heirlooms, flowers, veggies, herbs etc. Take a look.
Thanks for finally writing about >My Favorite Seed-Suppliers
It’s remarkable for me to have a site, which is useful in support of my experience.
I have not tried your number 1 or 2 but have used all of the others. I concur with the others who have recommended Fedco and Baker Creek. The Baker Creek catalog is THE most amazing catalog you will ever read. I read it like a book because the history of so many inclusions are fascinating. Even went to their spring gardening show in Missouri, about 7 hours from my home near Chicago.. It was a blast and in the beautiful foothills of the Ozarks. Had lunch there for free. Now tell me where else you can go for that. Another for organic tomato is Tomato Fest which currently has a sale on. You won’t be able to resist. Love your post and am going to try the cold start, so am collecting and hiding milk bottles so the helpful hands in the house do not discard them!
Jeannie LeJeune says
I just signed up for you news letters and I must say I like you idea of winter sowing and I know it is getting popular. I am going to try some of your milk jug seed starters and see how I do. I do want to mention that if you happen to have an “independent” garden center in your area they carry a much better seed selection. Livingston seed and Botanical Interest are carried here locally in zone 6. check it out shop local if you can.
Thanks for all the great information!
Dana Clay says
I just bought seeds from horizon herbs which are out of Oregon. Guaranteed organic veggies and herb seeds/plants. Hard to find that these days.
Bonnie Adams says
I know that I should have already completed my winter sowing in the milk jugs since I live in Zone 7 in NC, but is it too late to start the seeds now in the jugs?
I bought a bunch from “Seeds Now”… Non GMO, according to them, but how would I know??? I have never planted seeds before, but in trying to buy starter plants at the nursery on Friday, the workers looked at me like I was from Mars when I asked for Non Monsanto plants
All the time!
Patti LAW-POGGI says
I’m wondering if I should purchase seeds from the East Coast since I live in California. Would it be advisable to order nearer home? Or does it make any difference?