After many hours of possibly making the process more complicated than it needed to be looking through seed options, I’ve selected plant varieties for Arcadia Farms’ 2013 season! This is an exciting time for a gardener – exploring the vast world of possibilities as you imagine what your upcoming garden could become, what it could yield. There are so many varieties and sometimes making a choice between what would be prettiest and what would be most productive is an agonizing trade off.
Deciding what to grow is made one step easier for me by our members. All of our CSA members provide us with a list of veggies they love, veggies they hate, and veggies they’re willing to try when they submit a completed Membership Application. Last week I spent quite a bit of time digesting (pardon the pun) those preferences to amend the original garden plant I presented to you in this blog post last fall.
Based on customer preferences, the Main Garden will now look like this and the Fenceline Garden will now look like this. (Click on the links in the previous sentence to see a visual representation of what the gardens will look like in spring. Keep in mind that you’ll need to zoom in quite a bit – like 400% – to see the details.) I also have some succession plans for replacing crops that will be fully harvested early in the season, such as lettuce or peas. More on that when the time is ripe. (Get it???) I’m eager to share info with you on all the varieties we’ll be growing, including information on where to buy the very same seeds we’ll be using. I’ll also talk about a seed-starting plan so you know what to plant, when to plant it and where to plant it (indoors or direct-seed). But alas, I’m not quite ready to share that info now. (I’ve been way to busy drooling over photos of heirloom tomatoes and plugging price-to-seed-count numbers into my what-should-I-buy spreadsheets!)
All the same, I recognize that if I’m thinking about what to plant this year, you probably are too. I’m not ready to spill the beans (get it???) on everything I’m planting, but I most certainly would like to help your search by sharing some tips on where to get seeds. So without further ado (and no more tasteless food-puns… did I say tasteless??…) here is a list of some of my favorite sources for seeds. You probably know of even more seed sources – please share your thoughts, reviews and sources in the comments section below!
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds is owned and operated by Scott and Julie as (in their own words) “a labor of love.” Their “about” page explains that they have “chosen to grow heirloom vegetables for a variety of reasons. Better taste, better nutrition, disease-resistance, independence, and self-sufficiency all play a role.” However, the “heart” behind their operation is to honor the traditions and influence of their grandparents who passed gardening knowledge and passion on to this couple. Scott says “that connection with the past, more than anything else, is the reason we love heirloom vegetables.” Annie’s has a good selection (if you can find it with one of these other vendors, you can probably find it with Annie’s too) and I love that they are a Michigan-based company (Clarksville, MI). I’ll be doing business with Annie’s whenever I can.
Wedel’s Nursery, Florist and Garden Center
Wedel’s has a rich history of serving the horticultural needs of the greater Kalamazoo area. Founded in 1946, the business has evolved through many stages and locations to become the amazing garden center that stands today at 5020 Texas Drive. As a newbie gardener, I found the staff to be very helpful and approachable. In addition to seeds, Wedel’s sells many gardening supplies, including organic potting soil. Although you can buy online directly from any of the vendors I’ve listed in this post, you can also find many of them in person at Wedel’s (think: no shipping!). I’ve purchased Botanical Interests, Hart’s and Seed Savers Exchange seeds at Wedel’s. If you’re new to gardening, have questions, want to avoid shipping and want to support a local business, you should stop by Wedel’s.
My first garden consisted primarily of Hart’s seeds. I still find that they have some of the best germination rates of all the seeds I start and I’ve always been pleased with the resulting crop. I appreciate that Hart’s is committed to selling only non-GE (genetically engineered) seeds. You can be assured that all of their seeds are open-pollinated seeds. Their packaging isn’t nearly as appealing as some of the other vendors listed here, but don’t let that fool you about what’s inside!
I’ve grown many crops from these seeds. The packets provide lots of growing tips and usually include recipes on the inside! Lots of heirloom varieties and they also offer some organic seeds. I especially enjoyed their Easter Egg Radishes.
Victory seed places an emphasis on maintaining seed quality and providing quality customer service. They have packaging and growing procedures in place that help them meet and often exceed industry standards for quality. In their own words “our goal as an organization, is to provide you, our friends and customers, with the highest value for your money — a good selection, reasonable prices, high quality open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, and responsive customer support.” They seem to have a good selection, great prices, and helpful growing information on each crop which has helped me determine which seeds to purchase based on my needs.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
I have not yet planted seeds from Baker Creek – 2013 is the first year I’m buying from them. So far, I’m impressed. Their selection is amazing and I appreciate the informative “blurbs” they provide about each plant. Gardener reviews are also great – several of them helped me decide what to purchase and what to pass over. Their website is beautiful and they offer additional products and services, including an Heirloom Gardener Magazine. Their “About” page says “We do not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis. We boycott all gene-altering companies. We are not members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization! We work with a network of about 150 small farmers, gardeners and seed growers to bring you the best selection of seeds available! Many of our varieties we sell were collected by us on our travels abroad.”
Seed Savers Exchange
Maybe this is childish, but one of the reasons I like buying from Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is that their website and catalogs have such amazing photos! But there are more grown-up reasons to buy from SSE, like the fact that they are dedicated to preserving America’s gardening heritage by “saving and sharing heirloom seeds.” This non-profit organization is all about preservation of heirloom, unique seeds so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. In addition to seeds they offer cooking beans, books, workshops and seed-saver gatherings.
Burpee Organic Seeds
Burpee seeds are everywhere. Meijer. Wal-Mart. Walgreens. Everywhere. They have a good variety of selections and are usually very economical to buy. I personally don’t like the fact that it’s sometimes hard for me to tell by their packaging if seeds are genetically engineered or not. However, I have purchased and grown some non-GE, organic seeds from Burpee and have been satisfied with the results.