Buying Your Seeds

By into the rustic - 10:15 AM

Garden Seeds and Tips on How to Buy Them

Don’t impulse buy your seeds at the grocery store or hardware store. A lot of times these seeds will have died already because they got too warm by being close to a heat source or were placed in direct sunlight.

Check the expiration date on the back of your seed envelope. The year of expiration should be for next year at least. See the chart below for a guide on how long the average seed can last.

The Usable Lifetime of Your Seeds

Vegetable                                                                          Seed Life
3 yrs.
3 yrs.
4 yrs.
1 yr.
4 yrs.
Corn, sweet
2 yrs.
5 yrs.
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
4 yrs.
4 yrs.
1 yr.
1 yr.
2 yrs.
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
3 yrs.
4 yrs.
Swiss Chard
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
5 yrs.

Keywords to Know When Buying Seeds

Annual: Plants that are started from seed and produce seed themselves within one growing season.

Certified Seed: These seeds have a predictable heredity with guaranteed results.

Days-To-Maturity: This is how long from first planting will it take to harvest your crop. When selecting your seeds, choose ones that mature a little before the first frost is estimated to occur in your region.

Grows in Shade: This does not mean you can stick your plant in a dark corner and expect results. What it does mean is that this plant can grow in filtered light or light that shines through trees or leaves above it.

Hybrid: The offspring of a cross between parent varieties (usually of the same species) that are genetically different.

Likes Full Sun: Needs sun, sun, and more sun. It won’t grow well in areas that get shade for even part of the day. Most full-sun veggies need at least a minimum of 6 hours of steady light.

Perennial: This plant will grow back year after year without the need for reseeding.

Resistant: A natural survivor against disease and insects. Very hardy and strong.

Self-Seeder: It may sound promising, but in most cases this turns into an annoying weed as it scatters itself all over your garden. Such culprits are Dill and Anise whose tall stems with light seeds make a gust of wind your worst nightmare.

Tolerant: This type can put up with some diseases and insects, but it is not as strong as a resistant plant.

Treated Seed: Seeds that have been dipped in a chemical to prevent fungi growth.

These seeds may appear pink, yellow, or white in color. The chemicals are added to the seeds to prevent “soil rot”.

Open-Pollinated: Non-hybrid plants produced by crossing two parents from the same variety, which in turn produce offspring just like the parent plants.

Day-Neutral: Plants that will flower and produce fruit or seed regardless of the number of hours of sun.

Species: The units of taxonomic classification into which a genus is divided, each of which forms a maximum interbreeding group of plants that is reproductively incapable of crossing with other species.

Standard Variety: A non-hybrid variety, usually the end result of a breeding program cross, selected generation after generation until completely stabilized.

Choosing Seeds

Look for varieties that are resistant to whatever types of issues plants deal with in your area.

Try to buy from local small business seed distributors who sell only organic seeds. Now with the introduction of Genetically Modified Foods, we have genetically modified seeds for sale, which have been proven to cause health problems in humans and produce plants that do not yield any seeds. 

Also if these types of seeds are grown near your other plants, they have a way of transmitting their mutation to them, causing them to not grow seeds either. Please make sure you are very careful and look at the package to see if they mention that they are genetically modified seeds. 

Now legislation has been passed so that these companies don’t necessarily have to even mention food items or seeds if they are genetically modified, so its best to either save your own seeds or buy locally from organic growers. I personally buy locally and once my first crop was produced I started saving my own seeds. 

When searching between different varieties of seeds, look for both an early and a late variety so you can do “double cropping” or succession planting and have that type of veggie you love for the whole growing season.

Make sure to preserve the life of your seeds so that you store them in a dark and cool place. They are dormant but living things.

Seed Catalogs

Northern Climate Seed Distributors

1.) Johnny’s Selected Seeds: This distributor has a 700+ selection of vegetable seeds, herbs, culinary and medicinal seeds, and also sells garden supplies and tools. They specialize in offering vegetables that grow in cooler regions and also sell in bulk. 955 Benton Ave., Winslow, ME 04901; 877-564-6697; fax (US) 800-738-6314; fax (outside US) 207-861-8363;;

2.) Alberta Nurseries & Seeds Ltd.: This company specializes in seeds for gardens grown in areas with a short growing season. Exports only its seeds, for bulbs and grown plants these are available only in Canada. Catalog free to Canada residents, $2 to US and other countries: Retail 403-224-3544; Wholesale 403-224-3546; Bowden, ALB T0M 0K0, CANADA;;

3.) Allen, Sterling & Lothrop: Sell seeds that are adapted to a cooler northern New England climate. Catalog $1 (refunded with order): 207-781-4142; 191 U.S. Rt. 1, Falmouth, ME 04105;

4.) Good Seed Co.:Sells open-pollinated, heirloom, and homestead seeds that are suited for a cooler northern climate. Full catalog is available online or request a seed list: 195 Bolster Rd., Oroville, WA 98844; 509-486-1047;;

5.) Salt Spring Seeds: This company sells organically grown varieties of wheat, hull-less barley, hull-less oats, amaranth, runner beans, etc.: 250-537-5269; Box 444, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2W1, CANADA;

6.) William Dam Seeds: Sells short season veggies from a variety of different countries. All organically grown and untreated with chemicals. Catalog $1; 905-628-6641; Fax 416-627-1729; 279 Hwy. 8RR1, Dundas, ON L9H 5E1, CANADA;;

7.) Comstock, Ferre & Co.: Sells seeds suitable for a cooler New England climate (since 1820) for herbs and veggies. Large catalog in b&w for $3 (refunded with order); 860-571-6590; 263 Main St., Wethersfield, CT 09109;

8.) High Altitude Gardens: Known for its varieties of vegetables for higher altitudes. 180 varieties of seeds that are untreated with chemicals and open-pollinated.

9.) T&T Seeds Ltd.: Specializes in seeds for Northern cooler climates for both fruits and veggies; 204-895-9964; Fax 204-895-9967; Box 1710, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3P6, CANADA;;

Tropical/Subtropical Climate Seeds

1.) Banana Tree: Sells worldwide a selection of tropical and subtropical seeds and bulbs. Ships worldwide and all products come with some growing instructions to get you started. Catalog is available online: 610-253-9589; Fax 610-253-4864; 715 Northampton St., Easton, PA 18042;;

2.) Eden Organic Nursery Services: Seeds are open-pollinated and hybrids are available. Can purchase such items as Tobacco, medicinal plants/herbs, vines, tropical plants, and gardening accessories and supplies: 954-382-8281; Fax 954-382-8280; PO Box 4604, Hallandale, FL 33008;;

3.) Native Seeds/SEARCH: Heirloom veggie seeds from the mountains and deserts of the Southwest. Offers such unique items as sorghum of different varieties, multi-colored popcorn, chilies of all kinds, cotton, and more: B&W catalog for $1; Southern Arizona Gourd Association, c/o Kasin Hunter; 520-622-5561; 526 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85705;;

4.) Park Seed Co.: Offers seeds and plants for people who live in the Southeast of the US or out towards California, Color Catalog available: 800-213-0076; 800-275-9941; 1 Parkton Ave.; PO Box 46 Greenwood, SC 29647;;

5.) Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: 550 + varities of heirloom, open-pollinated seeds available for veggies, herbs, and flowers. They also sell seed-saving and growing supplies. Catalog $2 (refundable with order); 540-894-9480; Fax 540-894-9481; PO Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117;; (Online forum available to discuss gardening from A to Z).

Bulk Seeds

1.) Twilley Seed Co.: Supplies bulk seeds of mostly hybrid veggies for gardeners of all types. Free 90 pg catalog available upon request. Specialty of ornamental corn seeds for sale (blue, pink, red, Indian): 800-622-7333; Fax 864-227-5108; 121 Gary Rd., Hodges, SC 29653;

Many other catalogs for seeds offer bulk sale of seeds, you must inquire with each to see if it is possible.

Open-pollinated, Heirloom, & Organic Seeds

1.) Abundant Life Seed Foundation: A non-profit organization that offers organic, open-pollinated, and rare/endangered species. Such items as Egyptian Onions, Amaranth, Quinoa, Flax, Heirloom Corn, are for sale. They host projects to promote sustainable agriculture and organic gardening knowledge. One such project is the World Seed Fund (open-pollinated seeds for poor farmers). They train people to work with master gardeners to learn about seed production. They are constantly looking for new gardeners for their Seed Growers Network.

2.) Bountiful Gardens: Sells organic gardening supplies, non-hybrid seeds, and various grains such as wheat, oats and barley. Has books about self-sufficiency and gardening for sale. Catalog is free, workshops available as well as internships: 707-459-6410; Fax 707-459-1925; 18001 Shafer Ranch Rd., Willits, CA 95490-9626;;

3.) Heirloom Seeds: Sells herbs and veggie seeds that are not genetically engineered, non-hybrid, and have been not chemically treated. Certified organic seeds.

Books and gardening supplies are also available for sale. Catalog $1: Box 245, W. Elizabeth, PA 15088-0245; 412-384-0852 (phone/fax);;

4.) Redwood City Seed: No genetically engineered seeds or hybrids are offered. 280 Heirloom vegetables and herbs are for sale. Small b&w but free catalog available: PO Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064; 650-325-7333;

5.) Seeds of Change: Offers certified organic and heirloom seeds that have been open-pollinated. Option to buy in bulk available. Seed saver training given: PO Box 15700, 3205 Richards Lane, Santa Fe, NM 87506-5700; 888-762-7333; Fax 888-329-4762;;

6.) Seed Savers Exchange: Offers a 40 pg. color catalog of open-pollinated heirloom vegetables. Flowers and herbs also available. Catalog free upon request: 3094 N. Winn Rd., Decorah, IA 52101;;

7.) Select Seeds: Known for their antique flowers. Free Catalog: 180 Stickney Hill Rd., Union, CT 06076; 800-684-0395; Fax 800-653-3304;;

8.) Talavaya Seeds: This is a non-profit organization that collects and preserves seeds that are open-pollinated from Indian food crops. Catalog $1. “Talavaya is a Hopi word for the time of day just before dawn, when the farmer goes to his fields and the Great Spirit receives his prayers”: PO Box 50, Caballo, NM 87931-0050

9.) Victory Seed Company: Offers for sale non-hybrid, non-genetically modified seeds. Most seeds are organically grown or are from certified organic growers. Catalog $2 (refunded with order): 503-829-3126; PO Box 192, Molalla, OR 97038;;

Specialty Seeds

1.) Cook’s Garden: Specializes in veggies and herbs that are of European background. Also sells canning equipment including canning jars with the old-fashioned rubber rings.

Catalog $1: 800-457-9703; Fax 800-457-9705; PO Box C5030, Warminster, PA 18974;;

2.) Vermont Bean Seed Co.: Catalog free, 90-pages of antique and gourmet veggies: 800-349-1071; Fax 888-500-7333; 334 W. Stroud St., Randolph, WI 53956-1274;;

3.) Kitazawa Seed Co.: Offers unique Japanese and Asian vegetable seeds. Free price list available for wholesale, bulk or mail orders: 510-595-1188; Fax 510-595-1860; PO Box 13220, Oakland CA 94661-3220;;

4.) Le Jardin du Gourmet: French veggies and herbs. Catalog plus 4 sample packets of herb seeds and recipes for $1: 802-748-1446; PO Box 75, St. Johnsbury Center, VT 05863;

5.) Dutch Gardens: Shipped directly from Holland. Offers a wide catalog and website filled with flower bulbs and plants: 144 Intervale Rd., Burlington, VT 05401; 888-821-0448;

6.) Evergreen Y.H. Enterprises: Sells Hybrid and Non-Hybrid Oriental veggie seeds and books on Oriental cuisine. Bulk orders available: PO Box 17538, Anaheim, CA 92817;;

7.) Nichols Garden Nursery: Offers rare seeds, herbs, gardening supplies, tea bags so you can make your own herbal teas, potpourri kits, etc. Free 70-pg. b&w or color catalog: 1190 N. Pacific Hwy., Albany, OR 97321; 800-422-3985; Fax 800-231-5306;;

8.) Howard Dill Enterprises: Sells “worlds largest and smallest pumpkins, squash and gourd varieties”: 902-798-2728; Fax 902-798-0842; RR 1 , 400 College Rd., Windsor, Nova Scotia B0N 2T0, CANADA;

9.) Shepherd’s Garden Seeds: Sells garden supplies, herbs, and gourmet vegetables: 30 Irene St., Torrington, CT 06790; 800-503-9624; 860-496-9624; Fax 860-482-0532; 6116 Hwy. 9, Felton, CA 95018;;

10.)Whillhite Seed Company: Specializes in all different kinds of melons. 60-pg free color catalog available: 817-599-8656; PO Box 23, Poolville, TX 76487;

General Seed Catalogs

1.) Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co.: Free color catalogs available for spring and fall. Sells a basic selection of seeds, trees, and some gardening supplies: PO Box 4178, Greendale, IN 47025-4178; 513-354-1491; Fax 513-354-1493;

2.) Harris Seeds: Free 80-pg. catalog of all kinds of seeds as well as seed-starting supplies: 800-514-4441; Fax 877-892-9197; 355 Paul Rd., PO Box 24966, Rochester, NY 14624-0966;;

3.) W.Atlee Burpee Co.: Free 123-pg. color catalog with a little bit of everything included: 800-888-1447; Fax 800-487-5530; 300 Park Ave., Warminster, PA 18974;

4.) Crosman Seed Co.: Sells seeds for veggies, flowers, grass seed, and offers promotional seed packets. Free packet listing: 800-446-7333; Fax 585-586-6093; PO Box 110, East Rochester, NY 14445;

5.) J.W. Jung Seed: Sells a good selection of seeds for veggies, fruit, and nursery stock. The summer/fall catalog offers a nice variety of flower seeds: 800-297-3123; Fax 800-692-5864; 335 S. High St., Randolph, WI 53956;;

6.) Pinetree Garden Seeds: Offers a large free catalog with a variety of seeds as well as the sale of books, kitchen gadgets and garden supplies: 207-926-3400; Fax 888-52-SEEDS; Box 300, 616A Lewiston Rd., New Gloucester, ME 04260;;

7.) Renee’s Garden Seeds: Catalog of over 200 seeds for gourmet veggies, herbs, and flowers: 888-880-7228; 7389 West Zayante Rd., Felton, CA 95018;

8.) Reimer Seeds: Sells 1000 plus seed varieties for veggies, herbs, and more: PO Box 236, Mount Holly, NC 28120-0236; Fax 866-716-4748;;

9.) R.H. Shumway’s: They have a large old fashioned b&w catalog that sells mainly veggies. Bulk seeds available at wholesale prices on select items: 800-345-5977; Fax 888-437-2733; 334 W. Stroud St., Randolph, WI 53956-1274;

10.) Territorial Seed Co.: Sells natural insecticides, fertilizers, mole traps, and vegetable varieties that are suitable for growing in the Northwest region of the US: 124-pg catalog: 541-942-9547; Fax 541-942-9881; Orders 888-657-3131; PO Box 158, Cottage Grove, OR 97424-0061;;

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