Seed Catalogs

Seed catalogs help sow garden dreams

By Martha Swiss ©2012
Penn State Master Gardener

Seed catalogs used to arrive during the long gray days of January, their glossy pictures promising gorgeous blooms and bigger and better vegetables. Now the catalogs start filling the mailbox in November and December. We might have a moment to admire the cover, or look at the first few pages to see what’s new, but most often they get tossed on a pile to await closer inspection until after the new year.

There are so many seed companies vying for your hard-earned money. How to choose among them? Twelve of today’s finest seed vendors are profiled below, in terms of choice of seeds offered, reputation for quality and service, and additional attributes, such as information provided, gardening supplies offered, and heirloom, organic, or non-genetically modified seed products sold. Website addresses and phone number are provided for each so you can view their online catalog or contact them to obtain a print catalog.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Started by the proprietor when he was 17 years old, Baker Creek offers an astonishing array of heirloom, non-genetically modified seeds for tomatoes, lettuces and greens, melons, squash, and many other vegetables, as well as flowers. If you are looking for new and unusual varieties to try, this is your seed vendor. Beautiful catalog with large color photos of plants and produce., phone: 417-924-8887


seed packet

Harris Seeds

Harris Seeds has been around since 1879 and they serve home gardeners as well as professional growers. In addition to a wide variety of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, many of which they trial and develop, Harris offers transplants and gardening supplies. The featured product on their website is Worm Power, a certified organic fertilizer produced by earthworms., phone: 800-544-7938

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

For more than 100 years, this company has specialized in edibles--vegetables, lettuces, herbs, garlic--and also offers many flower seeds. Their catalog and website are beautifully illustrated with colored drawings and provide a great amount of horticultural information and recipes., phone: 860-567-6086


Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Established in 1973, Johnny’s is an employee-owned seed company in Maine. They offer seeds for growing vegetables, medicinal and culinary herbs, flowers, cover crops, pasture mixes, and fruits (fruit plants are also available. Their online video library provides instruction on growing a variety of plants as well as how to use various garden tools., phone: 877-564-6697

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Pinetree sells very reasonably priced smaller seed packets that are great if you don’t want too many seeds. They offer a nice selection of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, plus a wide assortment of gardening supplies, books, and gardening craft supplies such as soap-making materials., phone: 207-926-3400

Renee’s Garden Seeds

Renee Shepherd personally selects the terrific line of non-genetically modified seeds she offers in her online catalog. She also provides recipes and suggestions for using the vegetables and herbs she sells. Beautiful watercolor drawings illustrate the plants. No other seed company provides such detailed and accurate information on their seed packets about how to germinate, grow, and enjoy each plant. Renee’s has a fundraising program to help non-profits raise money by selling seeds., phone: 888-880-7228


Sand Hill Preservation Center

This small, family-operated company grows about 90% of the heirloom vegetable, grain, and flower seeds, as well as sweet potato slips (plants) they sell. They also sell chicks, in case you are interested in raising chickens. Orders must be pre-paid by check (no credit cards) sent by mail only., phone: 563-246-2299

Seed Savers Exchange

This non-profit organization enables gardeners and plant collectors to save and share heirloom seeds in an effort to preserve our garden heritage. Operates the 890-acre organic Heritage Farm in Iowa where many of the plants are trialed and on display., phone: 563-382-5990

Seeds of Change

For over 20 years, Seeds of Change has offered a large selection of organic seeds, including heirloom, traditional, and rare seed varieties. They also sell apple trees, rhubarb plants, asparagus crowns, and tools and supplies. The company has recently branched into offering organic foods, which can be purchased at several local retailers (check website for one near you)., phone: 888-762-7333


Stokes is another well-established seed company that has been operating for more than 100 years. Their offering includes vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, flower plants, and gardening supplies. Over 60 vegetable varieties have been added for 2012. Stokes also offers custom seed packets sold as wedding favors., phone: 800-396-9238

Territorial Seed Company

Located in the Pacific Northwest, Territorial grows much of the organic, non-genetically modified seeds they sell. Their print and online catalog offers an impressive variety of vegetable and herb seeds, garlic and onion bulbs, seed potatoes, and fruit plants, as well as gardening supplies. New for 2012 are grafted vegetable plants., phone: 800-626-0866

Thompson & Morgan

Since its origins behind an English bakery in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has become one of the oldest and most reputable seed companies in the world. They offer a terrific assortment of annual, biennial, and perennial flower seeds, as well as vegetable and herb seeds, and garden supplies. All orders ship free until February 10., phone: 800-274-7333



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