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Recommended Seed Suppliers

Seed Catalogs

Seed Catalogs - 2019We've purchased almost all of the seed used in our Senior Garden for many years from mail order seed houses. There's simply a far wider choice of seed varieties available via mail and online ordering than one will ever find on seed racks in stores. One sometimes has the option of ordering larger amounts of seed than seed racks offer, frequently at considerable savings. While most mail order vendors now offer online sales, we still like paging through print seed catalogs on cold winter days. We do, however, use the Internet for placing most of our orders.

2019 Trusted SuppliersNovember seems to be the beginning of the season for seed houses to start sending out garden seed catalogs to previous customers and those requesting catalogs. It varies by company, but we begin getting catalogs around the first of November. That's good for us, since we begin planting geranium and onion seed in January and need to place the first of our orders by late November or early December!

Sometime in October or November, I make a posting on our Senior Garden blog of the seed suppliers we may use for the oncoming gardening season and keep an updated list of them on this page. We tend to use many of the same trusted suppliers year after year, but may also try one or two new ones some years.

Criteria for Trusted Supplier Status

Our list of recommended seed suppliers is based on our recent and long-term experiences with the vendors listed below. Seed quality, varieties available, price, shipping & handling charges, customer service, and reader input from this site all figure into our evaluation, winnowed a bit using The Garden Watchdog ratings from Dave's Garden. Some of the relationships run back well over forty years, while others are more recent additions.

We shy away from seed houses that have been gobbled up by large, corporate conglomerates, staying mostly with independent companies and a few, still small, family owned and operated operations. All of our recommended suppliers have clearly stated in one way or another that they do not sell or intend to sell in the future Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Rather than try to list our favorites in order, these listings are in alphabetical order. We've been satisfied using each of them over the past few years. Note that links, where possible, are to the vendor's mail order catalog request page.


Trusted Suppliers

I'm always on the hunt for reliable vendors of quality seed, especially those that offer open pollinated varieties. If you know of one we should consider, .

Others to Consider

I can't afford to order from all my favorite or reader suggested seed houses each year. The list below includes some vendors we've not recently used, had minor issues with, and a few new places we'd like to try (when my penny jar fills up again).

  • Annie's Heirloom Seeds - An interesting selection of seed from a family owned business - If you give them a try, be sure to use the "TryAnnies" coupon code for a discount on your first order! (DGW rating)
  • Botannical Interests - offer a nice variety of heirloom and open pollinated seeds in small packets at pretty reasonable prices. (DGW rating)
  • Grassroots Seed Network - a relatively new, member run seed sharing organization
  • Heirloom Seeds - I ran across this one years ago when hunting reasonably priced granular soil inoculant for our beans and peas. There again is no print catalog, but their item and shipping prices are fair. I also like that they're a small, family owned and operated supplier. (DGW rating)
  • Reimer Seeds - This company has an absolutely horrific DGW rating. But if you're hunting seed for a hybrid vegetable variety discontinued by your usual seed supplier(s), Reimer just may have it! I suspect they pick up old, discontinued varieties of seed from seed wholesalers and/or growers, but then, beggars can't be choosers. We found some fairly true-to-variety Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed from them when our strain began to show inbreeding depression. Breeding their strain back into ours saved our strain of JLPs. This definitely is a buyer beware recommendation, but we've had good results with their seed so far.
  • Seed Savers Member Exchange - When looking for old, open pollinated varieties, the member exchange is unmatched in its offerings. In 2017, 404 listed members offered 15,272 unique varieties of heirloom and other open pollinated seeds. The parent organization, the Seed Savers Exchange (DGW rating), has morphed in recent years from a member oriented group to just another seed company that offers lots of good, open pollinated seed varieties.
  • True Leaf Market - renamed Mountain Valley Seed Company (DGW rating)
  • Turtle Tree Seed Initiative - offer a nice variety of heirloom and open pollinated seeds - (DGW Rating)
  • Victory Seed Company - another seed house specializing in open pollinated and heirloom varieties...with great ratings on Dave's Garden Watchdog (DGW rating)
  • West Coast Seeds - ships to both the U.S. and Canada with seed regionalized for the northwest - flat rate shipping for seeds (okay for a bunch of packets but prohibitively expensive for just one or two packets) (DGW rating)
Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

Canadian Only Vendors

I obviously have no experience in buying from the folks listed below, as they only ship to Canadian addresses. But each one comes with one or more positive recommendations from Senior Gardening Canadian readers. Some of our recommended suppliers, Johnny's and Stokes immediately come to mind, also ship seed into Canada. The Seeds of Diversity site has an excellent Canadian Seed Catalogue Index.

  • William Dam Seeds - enthusiastically recommended by several readers (DGW rating)
  • Boundary Garlic Farm - appears to be a good source for garlic bulbs and bulbils for Canadian growers - has an extremely informative web site about growing, curing, and storing garlic (DGW)

Shipping Charges, Promo Codes, and Such

Minimum Shipping Rates (2019)

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - free shipping
High Mowing Organic Seeds
- $2.95 (free on orders of $10 or more)
Turtle Tree Seed Initiative - $3.00 ↑
George's Plant Farm - $3.50 (flat rate)
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange - $3.50 (orders up to $10 ) ↑
BurpeeBurpee Seed Company - $3.95↑
Annie's Heirloom Seeds - $3.99 (flat rate)
Johnny's Selected Seeds - $4 (orders up to $10)↑
Fedco - $6 (free shipping for orders over $30)
Victory Seeds - $6.45 ↑
Botanical Interests - $6.95 ↑
R.H. Shumway - $6.95 (orders up to $35)
True Leaf Market
Stokes Seeds - $7.95 (flat rate)
Territorial Seed Company - $7.95 ↑

It's not a bad idea to do a web search for coupon or promo codes for free shipping or other discounts from seed houses. Such offers become pretty scarce towards spring.

At right is a table of minimum shipping charges I put together some time ago that I attempt to keep accurate. I found it necessary to begin watching such charges when I found that ordering one or two packets of seed from certain vendors was cost prohibitive because of their shipping rates. As new catalogs for the 2019 season arrive, I'll continue to update this listing.

Some of the charges listed are flat rates, while others are a minimum charge that goes down or disappears as ones order increases. Several, sadly, still have increasing shipping rates as ones order grows. I've marked those companies with an ↑ to mean "and up."

Other Supplies

Perma-nest trayI'm currently not too happy with our current supplier of pots, flats, inserts, hanging baskets and such. They did, at my request, start carrying the sturdy, but rather expensive Perma-Nest trays that make handling heavy flats full of moist planting medium much easier. The Perma-Nest trays are solids, so I often slip a slotted 1020 tray inside the Perma-Nest tray to allow for some drainage. After years of excellent service, the Greenhouse Megastore messed up three of my last four orders! They carry a lot of stuff I use, but it's become a crap shoot as to whether what you order will get properly filled and arrive in a timely fashion. They may have a product you need, but I'd now treat them as a buyer-beware vendor!

Hydrofarm Digital Thermostat for heat mats Thermostat and heat mat in use

Gro-mat with wire rackWhile we're close to the subject of seeds and seed starting, I'll recommend a couple of seed starting products we use and are quite happy with. My original seedling heat mat was a Gro-Mat. While sold with a wire rack that keeps it from touching the bottom of seed flats, I use mine without the rack most of the time. Note that I also melted the center of a standard 1020 seed flat with it before I added an external thermostat to my setup! After that experience, I switched for 366 days to another, cheaper heat mat. It lasted exactly one day longer than its one year guarantee! With the addition of a thermostat, I went back to a new Gro-mat and have been reasonably happy with that setup since. My original Gro-mat still works, although I only use it with a thermostat attached or with the wire rack provided with it.

Our thermostat is a Hydrofarm Digital Thermostat. It's easy to set, hangs conveniently on a hook on our plant stand, and keeps our grow mat from melting things. I also noticed that the price for the unit hasn't changed much since we bought ours in 2009.

The pages linked below offer some guidance on other products we use.

Seed Quality - Old Seed

Staying with reputable vendors usually assures one of getting good seed, but a few negative experiences (1, 2) with seed quality from some of our most trusted suppliers got me asking the leaders of seed houses some hard questions a few years ago. I should have known the answer, as it's been published elsewhere in the past.

Final read of sweet corn germination testsSeed houses often purchase seed for several years use, storing the bulk seed in special temperature and humidity controlled conditions. Government regulations require periodic germination testing of garden seed. Unfortunately, the photo at left shows one once trusted supplier selling old seed that didn't test well! Even if old seed meets goverment germination standards, there's no way to tell if a seed packet labeled "Packed for [year]" was grown the previous season, or one, two, or more years earlier. One seed manager told me (off the record, of course) that seed his company sold could be up to five years old! The addition of a notice on seed packages of "Seed grown in [year]" would certainly be more transparent and helpful for gardeners who save seed from year to year.

After posting photos such as the one at left and getting Twilley president George Park to admit they'd sold old seed that didn't meet federal germination standards, Twilley chose to drop me off their mailing list this year! Tit for tat, I've totally dropped them off my lists of suppliers. Their pretty much unrepentant response to their errors in seed quality make them a good candidate for my When Hell Freezes Over list.

My "When Hell Freezes Over" List

Eagles: Hell Freezes OverYou may notice a well known seed house or two that don't appear on our list of recommended suppliers. Sometimes that's just because I tend to go with my favorites. But in a very few cases, I've had unresolved issues with an otherwise respected seed house and determined never not to use them again.

The old saying that one should never say never comes to mind as I write this section. Don Henley's line that later named an Eagles' live album and their most successful tour may also figure into this thought process. At the beginning of the concert recorded for the Eagle's Hell Freezes Over album, the late Glenn Frey joked to the audience: "For the record, we never broke up; we just took a 14-year vacation."

So that missing, big name seed house from our list of suppliers may have just made my very short "when hell freezes over" list. Rather than give the few offending seed houses any publicity (far worse sometimes than bad publicity), I simply don't mention or link to those companies. Who knows? We may kiss and make up at some point. (It has happened!) And, it's better to just stay positive with our listings.

If you're having a problem with a seed house, drop me a line. It will help me in maintaining our list of recommended suppliers. If I have any experience in dealing with them that might be helpful, I'll pass it along.

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From Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening
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last updated 4/1/2019