Renee’s Garden: Why do I love Renee’s Garden? Well, her seeds have a high germination rate in my experience, and her seed packets are among the most informational I have ever seen. Not to mention that the packaging is BEAUTIFUL, with lovely full-color watercolor art on each and every packet of seeds.
The fact that the founder, Renee Shepherd, also is a cook helps. She has recipes using her unique varieties of vegetables and herbs on her website, and she also has two cookbooks available: Recipes from a Kitchen Garden and More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden.
The vegetable, herb and flower varieties sold by Renee’s Garden come from growers around the world, all of whom are hand-chosen for organic and sustainable practices. Many of the varieties are unique to the company, and in my experience, all of the seeds germinate and grow very well.
Evergreen Seeds: If you want to grow gai lan, bok choi, Japanese bunching onions or mizuna, you need to turn to Evergreen Seeds. If you want more than one variety of daikon radish to choose from, if you want to grow winter melon, or if you want a choice in which type of bitter melon you grow, you need to check out Evergreen Seeds. Their company is THE place you go to for Asian vegetable and herb varieties that you have tasted in restaurants, read about in books or seen recipes for in my blog.
The seeds provided by Evergreen have a high germination rate, and their seed packets, while not pretty, are QUITE informative, and I have had a great success growing with their seeds for years. This year, I am trying out many more varieties than I did previously, so look for reports later in the season as to how well the seeds perform in the garden plots.
Johnny’s Select Seeds: For a real live socialist like myself (not like our President who is just called a socialist but is obviously a capitalist) Johnny’s Select Seeds is not just a purveyor of quality seeds and innovative gardening tools, it is also a model of how an employee-owned company can be run successfully, providing good customer service while also adhering to the principles of worker-ownership. AND, they have neat varieties of seeds, like their Atomic Red Carrots–carrots that are sweet and you guessed it–bright red. (I love unusually colored vegetables, so long as they taste good.)
The worker-owners also are committed to providing non GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) seeds to the public.
The company carries all kinds of cool stuff, like a wide variety of cover crops–those are seeds you plant to grow during the fall, winter and very early spring after your garden is done, or during the summer if you let your garden bed go fallow for a season–that means not planting crops in it. Cover crops are great, because not only do they keep out weeds, they also provide nutrients to the soil after you till your cover crops under at the end of their growth.
Seed Saver’s Exchange:Oh, how I LOOOOVE Seed Saver’s Exchange. I remember loving them back when you could only get their seeds by mail order or from the Internet. Now, you can get packets of their heirloom vegetable, herb and flower seeds, illustrated with lovely photographs on the front, and covered with information on the back, from garden stores, grocery co-ops, natural foods stores and feed stores nationwide. You can even get them down the hill from my house at The Village Bakery!
The special thing about Seed Saver’s Exchange is that their seeds are all heirloom and rare open-pollinated varieties that had previously be passed down from generation to generation and traded from gardener to gardener. Their seeds represent our gardening heritage, with varieties that go back to the founding of our nation.
I don’t know about you, but not only do I like to eat my food, I like to know its history, too. I wasn’t called “The Culinary Nerd” for nothing–I am utterly fascinated by types of beans that were grown by my Native American ancestors, or the types of squash that Thomas Jefferson particularly liked.
The seeds you buy from Seed Saver’s can be harvested and saved for use next year, meaning if you buy from them and save your seeds by their instructions, your first purchase of seed from them is a one-time expense. After that, the plants, with your help, just propagate themselves year after year.
Territorial Seed: I have to admit that this is my first year using Territorial Seed’s products, but so far, I am impressed with the selection of vegetable, herb and flower varieties and their customer service. They have lots of unusual selections, including beautiful purple haricot vert (slender French snap beans) that you -know- I had to plant. (And they are coming up happily right as we speak and are about two and a half inches tall.)
Their seed packets are extremely informative and their customer service is fast and friendly. So far, so good.
Burpee: I saved the most “corporate” seed company for last, but I have to admit that Burpee has great customer service, their seeds and live plants are all top notch and healthy and they carry a variety of hybrid AND open-pollinated varieties of vegetable, flower and herb seeds. They also carry a large variety of bare-root fruit plants, from strawberries to blueberries and bramble fruits (raspberries and blackberries), and I have always had great luck with their strawberry plants.
First of all, Monsanto does NOT own Burpee–it is privately owned, though it is true that the owner is an employee of Seminis, a large wholesale seed company that is owned by Monsanto. (If you are interested in learning which seed companies sell all non-GMO seed, check out this blog post from Garden of Eatin’, an organic gardening blog based in Salem, Oregon.
GMO seed aside, most of my life, I have used Burpee seed–starting as a kid, in fact. My Grandpa used almost exclusively Burpee seed, so some of the first seeds I dropped into furrows and covered up with grimy fingers were from that company. And their seed always grows true to type, has a high germination rate and grows well. Also, their bareroot fruit plants have always been healthy and have arrived alive and happy. The same can be said for the live plants they ship.
I guess I started using Burpee seeds and plants years ago because of my experiences at my Grandpa’s farm, and then continued because I found that the company did produce quality seeds and plants. This year, however, in view of their connection with Monsanto and their distribution of GMO seeds and plants, I ordered less from them and more from my other favorite companies, though I did buy fifty day-neutral strawberry plants from them.
Their prices are higher than they were when my Grandpa used them, though, and have gotten higher each year. The other companies listed have more reasonable prices, so I feel better using their seeds instead of Burpee’s.
So, there we have it. My six favorite seed companies. If anyone has any other favorites, let me know–I’m always happy to try out new sources for good quality vegetable and herb seeds!
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