It’s decision time. Not my personal favorite, never having been one for commitment, but you can’t get seeds in the mail and from there into the ground and from there onto your plate unless you decide which ones you want and order them. So today’s the day.
Here are the innocent looking culprits who have kept me up late into the night fantasizing. They are all so different and wonderful and I am filled with gratitude to the people who dedicate their lives to saving and distributing heirloom seeds. I think we’d all realize, if we thought about it long enough, that diversity is the key to most everything. Healthy systems are diverse. Whether the system is a garden, an eco-system, our body, an education, or our country – even an investment portfolio benefits from variety, or so I’ve heard. Anyway, Viva Diversity!
The seed catalogs I’m ordering from this year are:
BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEED CATALOG
This is the mac daddy of seed catalogs. Jere Gettle has been gardening since he was three, started his first seed catalog when he was 17, and now has the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the US. The tomatoes alone will make your head explode. Eggplants, peppers, squash, melons, rare plants sourced from all over the globe, herbs, flowers, seriously everything. They are located in Mansfield, MO (Road Trip!) but also have outposts in Petaluma, CA and Wethersfield, CT. I wish their catalog had photos of all their vegetables, but if it did it would outweigh the September issue! I could order all my seeds from them, but I prefer to spread it around a bit. As major anti-GMO activists and educators, as well as publishers of the quarterly magazine Heirloom Gardener, they really are at the forefront of our new food movement. If you see their 356-page The Whole Seed Catalog on the magazine stand give it a look, I promise you’ll see things you didn’t know existed. And check out their excellent website: www.rareseeds.com
What I’m ordering from Baker Creek this year:
JOHN SCHEEPERS KITCHEN GARDEN SEEDS
I know John Scheepers primarily as the premier source for Dutch bulbs in the U.S., which they’ve been since the early 1900‘s. I received their Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog for the first time this year, and I really appreciate it. Great descriptive writing, sweet illustrations, and a well-curated selection make this one a new favorite. They aren’t as wholly heirloom as Baker Creek, but they are members of The Safe Seed Pledge.* www.kitchengardenseeds.com
Here’s what I’m ordering from them this year:
SEEDS FROM ITALY
Seeds from Italy are the exclusive mail-order distributor for Franchi Seeds, which is Italy’s oldest (1783) family-owned seed company. They are located in Lawrence, Kansas and run by the Nagengast family. They have signed The Safe Seed Pledge* and sell mostly OP (Open Pollinated) heirlooms. The catalog is small, but chock full of magnifico semi! They have a crazy selection of Chicory, Radicchio, Endive & Escarole, as well as tomatoes, squash, eggplant, beans, peppers, herbs, flowers, the works! Check them out online at: www.GrowItalian.com
Looking forward to these Italian specialties:
JOHNNY’S SELECTED SEEDS
Johnny’s is a highly professional, employee-run business. They have decades of experience and I can’t pick up their catalog without learning something. They have great comparative charts and photos, as well as extensive growing information for each species, all of which are incredibly helpful. They sell a lot of highly productive and disease-resistant hybrid varieties, a lot of which they breed themselves and then trial rigorously. They also sell tons of great tools and supplies. They seem more geared to professional growers, but that doesn’t mean a home gardener can’t find plenty to put on their wish list. www.johnnyseeds.com
SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE
Yet another great company. Seed Savers Exchange is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their mission 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.” To that end they operate a seed bank in Iowa that contains 20,000 heirloom and heritage varieties! As educators they conduct workshops and offer resources to advance their mission. Their catalog has beautiful photos of every variety, as well as seed saving materials and information. They have a great selection of books and this year to celebrate their 40th anniversary they are offering 40 varieties of heritage apple trees. They are member of the Safe Seed Pledge* and their website is: www.seedsavers.org
Now to decide where everything is going to go and when to start what. Never a dull moment!
*AAS: All America Selections. See http://www.all-americaselections.org for more information.
*SAFE SEED PLEDGE: This pledge was created in 1999 and has since been signed by 70 seed companies. It reads as follows:
“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”