Sunday, November 09, 2008

It's Time to Start Planning Next Year's Garden! Online Seed Sources & Helpful Growing Tips

Seven Kinds of Basil Seeds Started on My Potting Bench 6/12 (Late!)

The Internet is an amazing resource for cooks and gardeners, but I'll never give up my cookbooks or seed catalogs. I refer back to my seed catalogs often throughout the year, checking for information on something I currently have in the garden (usually because I didn't bother to write it on the plant marker—if I even bothered to make a plant marker), looking for other varieties to try when something does well, investigating new things to grow (last week it was okra—I've decided to go from zero to three kinds next year) or sometimes just simply daydreaming. There's nothing better than curling up on the sofa or in bed during a snowstorm with a pile of seed catalogs and letting your imagination grow wild.

That said, I have to admit that Johnny's Selected Seeds, a wonderful employee-owned company in Maine, has done something very cool: they've put their entire 2008 paper catalog online. You now have the ability to browse through page by page just as if you had the book. You can even place your order right through the virtual catalog, too. It's slower than flipping through the paper version, but that's probably partly because my Internet connection isn't very fast. And it's definitely easier to search for stuff.

I'm a big Johnny's fan and have always been pleased with the seeds I've started, organic hardneck garlic I've planted (more about this one of these days!), and tools I've purchased from them—all of which come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Their catalog is one of my favorites because it's packed with growing tips and all sorts of helpful information, and I love that gardeners around the world are now able to access it. Johnny's has also started producing a series of neat how-to videos, including one on How To Use Floating Row Covers.

Like the rest of us, Johnny's has been dealing with the increasing costs of just about everything, and they're going to be raising their prices for 2009. But if you order your seeds and supplies before November 15th, you'll still receive the lower 2008 prices.

These scrawny little basil seedlings grew up & became a batch of my favorite lower fat, full flavor pesto (seeds started 6/12, transplanted into individual plugs 7/22, went into the garden in August).

I think the earliest I've ever managed to get my seed orders together was New Year's Eve, but saving money does give a girl incentive. Of course I still have dozens of packes of seeds from last year (including something like 40 varieties of tomatoes—counting the seeds I saved myself) that never got planted. Not that this has ever stopped me from ordering more.

Many of you know that my two other long time favorite seed sources are Pinetree Garden Seeds (also in Maine) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located here in Missouri. Pinetree specializes in smaller seed packets for the backyard gardener, with many costing less than a dollar—which is nice since those seed orders can really add up quickly! The seeds are top quality and they offer lots of interesting heirlooms. They also have a good selection of bulbs, plants, nifty garden products (I always seem to find some new gadget or tool I just have to have), and often bargain-priced books.

Baker Creek offers an amazing variety of rare and unusual seeds from around the world, all very reasonably priced. They also hold two seed and plant festivals each year at their southern Missouri farm that feature well known speakers from around the country. In addition, they operate, the world's largest online gardening forum that has thousands of members who make up a "hip community of heritage gardeners, natural foodies, and seed savers."

Gardens Alive, a company that sells "Environmentally Responsible Gardening Products that Work" (and the ones I've tried do) also has lots of useful information on its website. Their online library covers everything from squirrels to starting seeds indoors, and their Insects and Disease Guides might just save your supper (or your sanity).

What's your favorite seed catalog or seed company? Know any great gardening related websites? One of the things I love most about having this (often sadly neglected) garden blog is hearing from you—about your garden successes, your failures, the important things you've learned, your funny stories, or simply what's going on in the garden or what your weather's been like. So please do tell!

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and letting your sheep (even if it's just a few of them) into the garden because it has more thick, lush grass growing in it than anywhere on the farm is always a bad idea. Always. (Don't ask—though I might tell you later so I'll have someone commiserate with me. Not that you'd ever dream of doing anything that stupid. Again.)


  1. Thanks for sharing about Pinetree Garden Seeds. I often end up with too many seeds and would do better with a smaller $1 pack.
    I also enjoyed Johnny's online catalog when I placed my order a couple of weeks ago.

  2. My favourite is Urban Harvest ( They're local to me, and they run a nursery store near the beginning of the season, so I can pick up anything I don't get started myself.

  3. I have ordered from Seeds from Italy
    Grow Italian,

    Heirloom Vegetable Seed Warehouse
    Heirloom Vegetable Seed Warehouse,

    and from BKHS.

  4. Hello! Delurking to put in a good word for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange ( For any of your readers in the southeastern United States, they offer great seeds, great prices, and great service.

    Thanks for sharing your favorites!

  5. I'm going to be the corporate Yes man here and say that I still order my seeds (albeit the organic ones) from Burpee. The site is super searchable, the seeds are reasonably priced and the packets all come with detailed plant and care info.

    Also, thanks for the Gardens Alive referral - I re-ordered my neem oil so that I can retame the friggen squash beetles.


  6. I love edible landscaping, and my favoite nursery for that is Raintree Nursery in Morton, WA. Since I live in southern Oregon, I can grow anything that they can, and it's a great website to browse.
    So why didn't my basil do much this year? My rosemary, sage and thyme are gorgeous.

  7. We order from Harris Seeds a lot, but I have to say that the Totally Tomatoes catalog has entertained me for many long winter hours by the woodstove.

    I would like to hear your sheep story. Because I can already see the wheels turning in my husband's little shepherd mind when he sees the winter oats growing in the garden. I just have a bad feeling about putting the sheep in there at all. Maybe you can give me some ammunition to dissuade him.

  8. Hi Susan, My long-time standby (and yet another cooperatively owned Maine seed company (what is in the water up there?)) is Fedco Seeds. They recently internet-ized too, though their catalog is not one to miss. No photos, the descriptions are much more helpful than in any other catalog I've found. I often find pictures in other catalogs of interesting things (Baker Creek, SeedSavers, etc) then look it up in Fedco to hear what it's really like. It's encyclopedic.

    Also the Seed Savers Exchange catalog has awesome flowers (all open pollinated).

  9. I also am a big fan of Pinetree, specifically because of the smaller seed counts you can order. Why don't more companies do this? I'm so tired of having extra seeds just sit around aging to the point of being useless.

  10. I've ordered from seed savers exchange and liked their product very much. Also, I have just discoverd Renee's Garden Seeds ( has ALL of their 2008 seed stock 50% off until 11/20. It's a smaller woman owned company with a lot of specialty varieties of veggies and flowers. They have a great website with a lot of great information. I may have been a *bit* ambitious with my order. But half off for a seed junkie, that's asking for trouble. Happy growing!

  11. I too like Pinetree, Fedco and Johnny's. Another that I really like is Seeds Trust out of Idaho: At my local garden center I buy a lot of Lake Valley Seeds. The Fragrant Path out of Nebraska has a wonderful little catalog and they're finally on line:
    I'm a member of Seed Savers Exchange ( and have gotten some interesting plants from the member's only yearbook.


  12. Hi! I enjoy peeking into your blog from time to time--when I have the time, LOL!
    I just wanted to pop in to invite you and your readers to participate in the giveaway I'm having over at my blog~ ~
    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Fedco! Great catalog, commentary, political satire, and of course, great seeds at co-op prices. Also, check out their tree catalog. Did I mention no Monsanto/Seminis products?

  14. I love the catalog from A Cooks Garden great recipes along with their seeds and some useful tips & supplies. I am now wishing for spring!

    For a vacuum sealer, I have stepped gently into that & am using the inexpensive Reynolds sealer that uses special ziplock type bags that you vacuum out. It is easy to store & meets my limited needs.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!