Choosing good quality, non GMO garden seeds is the best way to get your garden off on the right foot. But how do you know which seed companies are best? There are so many out there! And what about location? Should you shop from a seed company that’s closer geographically? Let’s find out!
Should you Choose Plants or Seeds
Before you decide which gardening supply company is best, perhaps you’re wondering whether you should be buying plants or seeds. And in my Master Gardener experience, I’d say, “it depends.” Not a very specific answer, but it’s true.
If you’re an experienced gardener who enjoys the entire process of growing a plant from seed and have the time to devote to it, then absolutely start everything from seed. However, if you are a casual gardener, or one who has struggled to get certain plants to grow, then purchasing healthy plants would be a good idea.
Obviously, there are some things that you must grow from seed, such as carrots, but since these are directly sown, and don’t require transplanting, they’re altogether easier to grow, even for beginners. And always keep in mind that the variety of what you can grow from seed will always be greater than the plants a nursery or hardware store can offer.
Why Choose non-GMO seeds?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. According to the NON-GMO Project, a GMO “is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology.” For some this GMO label carries with it some fear and uncertainty.
While I’m not educated enough on GMO’s to give clear and concise direction, I do know that I prefer my fruits and vegetables as close to natural as possible. So, I tend to steer clear of all GMO’s if possible.
All of the seed companies I’ve listed below sell non-GMO seeds, since that is what I use myself in The Kitchen Garten. But what about other words that you may hear thrown around regarding seeds? Heirloom? Hybrid? Organic?
What are hybrid vegetable seeds?
Hybrid varieties of fruits and vegetables come about when two types of a particular plant are cross pollinated. The resulting plant will have certain qualities from both parent plants. This process is closely monitored and is used quite frequently by seed companies today.
While hybrid seeds can be a good addition to the vegetable garden, there is a down side. In many cases, the seed that is saved from a hybrid plant may not have the same characteristics as the parent plant. The hybridization can break down with each new generation, so saving seeds from hybrids isn’t usually recommended.
I’ve actually saved the seeds of a few hybrid jellybean tomatoes over the years. What I discovered is the fruit wasn’t as compact as that of the parent plant, but the fruits still tasted great!
What are heirloom seeds?
Heirloom seeds are exactly what they sound like. They are seeds with a lineage. Many heirloom vegetable seeds are at least 50 years old and are open pollinated. Meaning they can pollinate without help from us. Some popular varieties of heirlooms include Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, moon and stars watermelons, and rainbow carrots.
Heirloom varieties are consistent from year to year, and saving seed can easily be done. In fact, saving the seeds is how these varieties have been passed down from generation to generation. (Check out my post on How to Save Tomato Seeds.)
What are the Best Seed Companies?
- Baker Creek Seed (Missouri) – One of my personal favorites, Baker Creek is based in Missouri, and has one of the largest collections of heirloom seeds. And they offer a free (and beautiful!) catalog each year! Get yours here!
- Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (VA) – My second favorite seed company is located close to me in Western Virginia. And while many companies offer seeds that can be grown across many zones, I do like knowing that these are produced and tested in a zone close to mine. They also offer a free catalog that is full of helpful articles and tips.
- Clear Creek Seed (OK) – Last year during a huge Instagram giveaway, Clear Creek offered a free combo package of their heirloom seeds, and I was so impressed with the quality of seeds they offered and their customer service. Their site also carries other natural home products, which is a bonus!
- Eden Bros. Seed Co. (NC) – One of the larger online seed companies, Eden Brothers has an incredible variety of heirloom, organic, and non-GMO seeds. They have an incredible selection!
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Maine) – One of the oldest organic seed supply companies out there, Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a wonderful reputation, and a free catalog! Grab it and start dreaming of what you’ll grow this spring! They also carry lots of gardening supplies, so it can definitely be a one-stop shop.
- Renee’s Garden (CA) – Though I haven’t used Renee’s myself, several of my fellow Garden Coaches have, and they rave about the quality of seed from this smaller company. Renee’s also carries tins of “Scatter Garden” seeds which would make a wonderful gift to someone who loves to garden!
- Territorial Seed Company (OR) – For those in the western US, this may be the seed company for you if you want seeds tested closer to home. With a great selection and a beautiful free catalog, Territorial seeds is a great choice!
- Seed Saver’s Exchange (Iowa) – Ever been to a Seed Exchange or swap? Well imagine an exchange with hard to find heirloom varieties and quality organic seeds! Seed Saver’s Exchange also has a free catalog with helpful tips and garden helps.
- Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (Michigan) – With a wonderful backstory to how this company got started, it’s definitely worth checking out their heirloom non-GMO seeds. Also, snag a free catalog!
- Pine tree Garden Seeds (Maine) – With gardening supplies that go well beyond seeds, Pine Tree Garden Seeds has been in business for over 40 years. All seeds are non-GMO, and they also have a free catalog!
Ordering Garden Seeds Online
Being able to peruse a catalog and purchase seeds from the comfort of your own home is a help to the home gardener. I don’t begrudge the seeds that are sold at big box stores or the stands (some of are from the companies listed above) that smaller hardware stores and nurseries carry. But I do like being able to research what grows best in my zone and not make impulsive decisions. I have a large pile of seed packets that I can credit to impulse buying.
So check out these quality seed companies and try something new in your garden this spring! Be sure to comment below if you know of another quality garden seed company!