From my very earliest memories of the pattern of the seasons, January has been seed ordering time. In our family greenhouse, the seed salesman would arrive with a glossy new catalog and tales of new improved varieties. Back then, in the early 1970s, The Ball Seed Company stands out foremost in my mind. That was before the Ball's got involved in my long time favorite Burpee Seeds. Imagine, besides the temptations of a deluge of catalogs, a door to door seeds salesman? Oh the temptations!
There are so many seed companies to choose from and over the years I've migrated towards and away from them. Historically, there have always been many mail order options to choose from, for instance, the Three Seedswomen which I've spoken of before. Many gardeners make it a hobby to study and collect historical memorabilia such as vintage seed packs or catalogs
I spend weeks, if not months, with my spreadsheets, grids and lists planning next year's garden and trying to optimize my seed orders so I can get the most seeds for the least cost. I add, I subtract, I get wild, fantastic ambitions and then I pare them down to the more realistic. At some point I inevitably feel like this....
Also important of course, is their selection. Renee's Garden has a more limited selection, but she has great varieties, useful information, and if you buy a pack of mixed varieties, the seeds are clearly marked. If you are looking for sheer variety, Baker Creek has varieties from all over the world. Often a variety can be gotten from more than one place. I keep a chart with my basics listed, and then a note as to which companies carry them. That way if I am ordering an exclusive offering, I can add some of my standard seeds to it and get the most for my shipping cost.
Another good idea is to combine orders with your neighbors. Bob and Trish down the road always order live onion plants from Dixondale, and with that company, the more you order, the lower your per item cost, so we all combine our orders. Some catalogs offer coupons for orders over $50, and if I'm a bit short, I will call my mother and see if she needs anything from that catalog.
This year's gardening resolution is to continue to simplify. However, what fun is it if you grow the same old beans over and over? This year I plan to make another try at growing cantalope. Last year the plants never amounted to anything (should have paid closer attention to those reviews) so I'm trying another variety. And I think its time for another novelty tomato. I've grown just about every color in the rainbow, so this year I'm trying the Blue Beauty Tomato. And finally, I remember once my mother had two purple bell pepper plants which grew dozens of the most beautiful purple peppers so I'm going to try the Purple Beauty pepper as well.
Here are my current top five favorite seed companies which I will be ordering from this year. And for those politically minded readers, they all claim to be Monsanto free.