When to order seeds? and favorite suppliers?

carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)November 16, 2012

It's only mid-November but as the last cold crops die back from hard frost, I am already thinking about next year's garden. Until now, I've bought my seeds at either the local hardware store or at Russell's Garden Center in Wayland. But having just read a book about Jefferson's Monticello garden, I'm considering raising some less common varieties of veggies, and need to find the seeds.

Is this too early to put in an order for seeds? I wouldn't need them until about February or March. And should I specify "organic"? Or doesn't that matter, with seeds?


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Some of the catalogs carry both organic and non-organic seeds. I like Johnny's Selected Seeds, Bakers Creek and Fedco precisely because I can get varieties of vegetables not offered in the local stores. Recently I have gotten notices via email and facebook that Johnny's and Bakers Creek have some seed on sale which I believe was packed for 2012. Fedco is closed for the season. I can only get Confection winter squash at Johnny's but I think poona kheara cucumbers are easier to find. I'm sure you'll discover some varieties that make shipping and handling worthwhile. Johnny's said there would be a price increase for 2013 so you might save a little if you order now and don't mind leftover seed.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 1:57PM
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I also rely on Johnny's for most of my seed for herbs, veggies (including leek and onion plants) and some annual flowers. Johnny's is owned by its employees and carries many veggies that will ripen in my shorter growing season, along with other varieties that do well in New England in general.

I use Woodprairie Farm for potatoes to plant as they have a wide variety of delicious spuds along with online info on which potatoes work best for which culinary uses. They are a completely organic family-owned farm.

I have in the past gotten seed from Renee's Garden Seed for their Trombetta AKA Zuchetta squash (which even DH will eat even though he isn't a squash fan) and their canning tomato Pompeii. Last time I tried to order from them, though, their site only worked with Explorer, which I don't have. That was a few years ago though, and I think I should try again or just call in my order. They also carry some flower seed. Renee's seed is untreated and some is organic.

Some years I start more of my veggies from seed, and some years I buy more plants, but I really like the wider range of varieties I can get from growing my own seed.

For my own garden, as long as the seeds aren't treated, they won't add much if any unwanted chemicals to my garden. You can decide if the way seeds are raised is important to you. For me it's more important to know my suppliers and their philosophy of farming for lowest possible impact than strictly organic.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:54AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I like Johnny's too, but I often buy more from Fedco. Johnny puts some on sale on a regular basis I check their sales. I like Fedco's philosophy and the effort they make to avoid GMO seeds. I really don't like to think about it until after the holidays and then January is so much fun to look forward to reading the catalogs and figuring it all out. But....ordering early if you are in the mood is always better.

I have been buying some organic starts from Russells for the few tomatoes and peppers I grow. Also have bought some organic starts from Whole Foods in the spring.

Trading seeds on GW is another option. I found that fun one winter.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 3:59PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I usually order in January only because its then that I am finally done with the garden and holidays and have a bit of breathing room to sit down and enjoy the catalogs.

I buy a lot from Johnny's. Several of my organic farmer and market-grower friends buy heavily from Fedco. I don't get their catalog so I just never think of them; if I ever do remember them before ordering, I would definitely order from them as I've heard nothing but good things about them, and especially their organic philosophy.

I also buy some from Pinetree (not a great selection, but good prices), and Swallowtail, which also has decent prices and often good seed counts (sometimes too much!). I also buy some from Seeds of Change and Select Seed and Territorial. Johnny's is my main supplier, though.

Last year I got a catalog (after I had done all my orders) from a company that was small and looked very promising based on their organic philosophy, and I can't for the life of me remember who they were. I'm hoping I get another catalog this year and I will try them out.

As mentioned above, some companies offer both organic and non-organic choices. For those that don't explicitly offer that choice, I guess you would have to know the company's philosophy on organic to get a feel for what quality of seed they sell.

Lastly, be aware when ordering early. Sometimes you get great prices, but the seed is from last/this year. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. I haven't found drastic differences in germination rates in my own experience, and if I can get a pack of 50 tomato seeds for half price, and I only want to grow six of those tomato plants, I have more than enough seeds to plant to make up any difference in germination, and have saved myself some money to boot. But just something to be aware of.

Oh, by the way, I also use Wood Prairie Farm for my potatoes. Not only do they have good quality seed potatoes, but they work tirelessly on behalf of an organic, healthy food system, and I like to show my support for their efforts.

Ooh, I'm getting all excited about starting seeds now, lol! Good luck and have fun!


    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 10:11AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Dee, just a reminder that the Fedco catalog is online. I assume all the seed companies are.

As for ending up with seed that might not be fresh in a sale, some seed store better (like tomatoes) than others and are worth getting on sale, others like beans and peas should be as fresh as you can get them, because they don't store as long.

Thanks for the potato supplier name. Fedco also sells seed potatoes, although I haven't bought any from them.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 5:33AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Hi PM2. While I always place my seed orders on-line, I never really actually "seed-shop" online. I love to take my pile of seed catalogs, a cup (or two!) of tea, and take an afternoon (or two, or three!) to look through each and every one, look at the photos and descriptions, make lists and compare prices, whittle down my list of $700 in seeds down to a manageable price, lol, and have everything spread out on the table. And so if the catalog isn't in front of me, I usually don't even think of that company! Even with Seeds of Change, which I buy a fair amount of seed from each year, their catalog comes later than all the rest, even after I've made my lists, and I still almost always forget them and then put in a last-minute order. I shop online for almost everything in my life except seeds. I just find it more fun the old-fashioned way!


    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 11:53AM
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spedigrees z4VT

I'm not as concerned with 'organic' as I am with 'open-pollinating/non hybrid' when it comes to buying seeds. Once purchased and grown, I usually save the seeds each year. Nothing is as frustrating as planting saved seeds the following year and having them revert back to a dim incarnation of the fruit or flower they were collected from.

I seem to be the kiss of death for online heirloom seed companies. I have placed orders with several that I was very happy with, and when I went back to place another order a year later, found them out of business. I've had pretty good luck with flower seed sellers on ebay, and have been pleased with vegetable seeds bought from Vermont Bean Seed catalog. (Like you, Dee, I shopped the paper catalog, then placed the order online.) With winter squash and pumpkins, I've often saved seeds from the actual squash or pumpkin during the previous fall.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 5:34PM
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