Do you enjoy gardening? It’s estimated that 27 million people across the U.S.A. consider gardening to be a favorite hobby. Gardening is the #1 hobby in the country! It’s not just flowers either – vegetable gardens are popular across the country. In fact, one in three American households grows some of their own food.
Gardening is certainly one of my favorite ways to spend a sunny afternoon. I even enjoy the planning aspects, such as designing gardening layouts and sourcing top-quality vegetable seeds.
Planning Your Garden – Choosing the Best Seeds
I love planting, digging in the dirt,
weeding, and of course, eating the fruits veggies of my labor. Planning each season of my garden is an activity I look forward to. It’s an opportunity to try new things, and of course, apply lessons learned in prior years.
Each season, it’s good to change the garden layout to best suit the types of plants being used. I also like to try new vegetables, and unusal varieties of favorites. Because it’s not just choosing between peppers and cucumbers – most vegetables have dozens, if not hundreds, of varieties. Believe it or not, there are more than 15,000 documented varieties of tomatoes! They all have a distinct growth pattern, maturation rate, and even flavor.
You can start a vegetable garden either from seeds or starter plants. When I joined a community garden through Long Beach Organics last fall, I planned to start my first round of plantings from seed. I based this decision mostly on cost-effectiveness, as seeds are so much cheaper than starter plants.
I also like to see my veggies grow from seed to sprout to harvest. There is nothing quite like the experience of planting a tiny seed and seeing the growth process through to maturation – and then eating the produce!
The Best Seeds Produce The Best Vegetables
Vegetable seeds can easily be found in the garden section of any big-box store, but there can be a huge variation in quality. I wanted to make sure I used only high-quality, non-GMO seeds. I also was concerned that they were fresh seeds, and hadn’t been sitting in a warehouse for years. This is not to say that all of the seeds from the big box stores are bad – but there are better places to get them to ensure quality.
Fortunately, there are plentiful online sources of excellent seeds. I have compiled a list of eight reputable vendors, and I hope this list saves you time deciding on where to order so you can move quickly into choosing what to order.
Online Sources for the Best Vegetable Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company – Baker Creek was started in 1998 by a 17 year old. (Really) They now offer nearly 2,000 varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs – the largest selection in the USA. I ordered all of my seeds from Baker Creek last fall. I do think their quality and selection are excellent. The company is dedicated to promoting and preserving our agricultural and culinary heritage and carries many seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties.
According to the website, the owners “work extensively to supply free seeds to many of the world’s poorest countries, as well as here at home in school gardens and other educational projects. It is their goal to educate everyone about a better, safer food supply and fight gene-altered frankenfood and the companies that support it.”
Eden Brothers – Eden Brothers offers over 1500 varieties of 100% pure, high germination & GMO-Free seeds that have not been treated with pesticides. Their website categorizes seeds in many helpful ways – based on planting season; culinary, medicinal, heirloom, and pollinator varieties. They even let you know which seeds are best to start indoors or direct sow. This makes it really easy to find what you are looking for. All of the Certified Organic seeds meet requirements set forth by the National Standard for Organic Agriculture.
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds – Annie’s is a small company based in Michigan, that has focused on top quality seeds for last decade. Seeds are categorized under organic, heirloom, and Annie’s favorites.
Seed Savers Exchange – The only nonprofit on the list. Seed Savers Exchange aims “to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.” They’ve been around since 1975, so clearly they are making progress.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Johnny’s does not sell genetically modified seeds or breed new varieties using genetic engineering. Instead, they use traditional methods of natural crossing to create hybrid seeds that are healthy and safe. Certified organic, heirloom, hybrid, and other types of seed have been offered for 45 years. They have extensive resources on their site, including a unique “ask a grower” feature.
Groworganic/Peaceful Valley Farm Supply – does not provide exclusively organic products. They clearly state “While many of our products are either Certified Organic, or approved for Certified Organic Production, we also offer a variety of products that do not qualify for this classification. But rest assured, everything we offer must live up to our strict, planet-friendly standards.” In addition to seeds, Groworganic sells trees, mushroom kits, cold frames, and more.
Harris Seeds – Perhaps the oldest seed company on this list, Harris Seeds has been around an incredible 179 years. They sell a wide range of organic and non-organic products and are a NOFA New York-certified organic seed handler.
Burpee – possibly the best known of all seed companies. Burpee supplies a wide selection of organic products. They also have heirloom products and lots of resources for beginning and experienced gardeners.
There are so many sources for vegetable seeds, but clearly, some provide better quality than others. I encourage you to seek out fresh, organic, non-GMO, heirloom seeds whenever possible. Your garden will thrive!