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Recommended Seed Suppliers

Seed Catalogs

Seed Catalogs - 2023We'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, sometimes 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.

2024 Catalog CoversNovember 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 sometime in November. In recent years, several major seed houses have delayed print catalogs until well into December. That's not so good for us, since we begin planting petunia, vinca, impatiens, geranium, and onion seed in January and need to place the first of our orders by late early December!

Sometime in October or November, I make a posting on our Senior Gardening 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. Early print catalog availability, 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.


Trusted Suppliers

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - offer an incredible array of heirloom seeds in a beautiful catalog - free seed shipping! (DGW rating)
  • Burpee Seedicon - the W. Atlee Burpee Company, the granddaddy of all seed catalog vendors, still around with lots of great seed - just so-so ratings on plant orders - excellent customer service, but a tad expensive - a longtime seed supplier (DGW rating)
  • Fedco - a cooperatively owned seed house in Maine featuring cold-hardy selections adapted to the Northeast - "Consumers own 60% of the cooperative and worker members 40%." (DGW rating)
  • High Mowing Organic Seeds - well organized and illustrated catalog with a good variety of heirloom, open pollinated, and hybrid seeds (DGW rating)
  • Johnny's Selected Seeds - offers hardy varieties for northern (and other) latitudes - a longtime seed supplier - excellent customer service (DGW rating)
  • Sand Hill Preservation Center - Glenn Drowns, developer of the Blacktail Mountain watermelon, site for seed, roots, sweet potato, and poultry sales. (DGW rating)
  • Territorial Seed Company - good variety of seeds - excellent garlic sets - high minimum shipping rates (DGW rating)
  • True Leaf Market - carry a nice variety of flower seeds (DGW rating)
  • Turtle Tree Seed Initiative - a non-profit seed house offering a nice variety of heirloom and open pollinated seeds - offer the Earlirouge and Quinte tomato varieties grown out from seed we sent them! (DGW Rating)

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/or occasionally a new place we'd like to try (when my penny jar fills up again).

  • Annie's Heirloom Seeds - An interesting selection of seed. (DGW rating)
  • Botannical Interests - offer a nice variety of heirloom and open pollinated seeds in small packets at pretty reasonable prices. (DGW rating)
  • George's Plant Farm - a highly rated supplier of sweet potato slips (DGW rating)
  • Grassroots Seed Network - a relatively new, member run seed sharing organization
  • Hoss Tools - (DGW rating) - a new affiliated advertiser that carries some good varieties of seeds
  • John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds - lots of interesting varieties you may not find elsewhere (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.
  • R.H. Shumway - lots of heirloom (and other) seed presented in a catalog with lots of woodcut illustrations (DGW rating)
  • Seed Savers Member Exchange - When looking for old, open pollinated varieties, the member exchange is unmatched in its offerings. In 2020, 405 listers offered 15,023 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 seed saving and sharing group into more of just another seed company that offers good, open pollinated seed varieties.
  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange - grow 40% of their own seed (DGW rating)
  • Twilley Seed - our main supplier of sweet corn seed during our farming years - no online sales as yet - offers both a print and downloadable catalog (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 FTC Required Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are some of our Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. 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 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 - the owners have retired, but still have their extremely informative web site about growing, curing, and storing garlic online (DGW)
  • Stokes Seeds - a longtime favorite vendor who left the U.S. market several years ago

Shipping Charges, Promo Codes, and Such

Minimum Shipping Rates (2022-2023)

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - free shipping
Botanical Interests - $3.95 ↑
BurpeeBurpee Seed Company - ($3.95 flat rate on seed orders)
Scheepers - $3.95 ↑
Annie's Heirloom Seeds - $3.99 ↑
Johnny's Selected Seeds - $4 ↑ (orders up to $10)
Turtle Tree Seed Initiative - $4.00 ↑
True Leaf Market $4.95 ↑
Hoss Tools $4.99
R.H. Shumway - $5.95
Fedco - $6 ↓ (free shipping for orders over $30)
High Mowing Organic Seeds - $6.00 ↑
Seed Savers Exchange - $6.00 ↑
Victory Seeds - $6.45 ↑
Territorial Seed Company - $8.95
George's Plant Farm
- varies by state

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 2023 season arrive, I'll continue to update this table.

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've pretty much settled on using the Greenhouse Megastore for our pots, flats, inserts, hanging baskets and such. We've had some ups and downs with some orders, but their customer service has quickly and politely corrected any shipping errors. 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.

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!

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

After that experience, I switched for 366 days to another, cheaper heat mat. It lasted exactly one day longer than its one year guarantee! I now use two Gro-Mats and Hydrofarm Digital Thermostats. They're easy to set, hang conveniently on hooks on our plant stand, and keep our grow mats from melting things. I also noticed that the price for a thermostat hasn't changed much since we bought our first one 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.

Federal Minimum Germination Standards
Vegetable Percent Vegetable Percent
Artichoke 60 Kohlrabi 75
Asparagus 70 Leek 60
Bean, garden 70 Lettuce 80
Bean, lima 70 Melon 75
Bean, runner 75 Mustard 75
Beet 65 Okra 50
Broccoli 75 Onion 70
Brussels sprouts 70 Pak-choi 75
Cabbage 75 Parsley 60
Carrot 55 Parsnip 60
Cauliflower 75 Pea 80
Celeriac 55 Pepper 55
Celery 55 Pumpkin 75
Chard, Swiss 65 Radish 75
Chicory 65 Rhubarb 60
Chinese cabbage 75 Rutabaga 75
Chives 50 Sage 60
Citron 65 Salsify 75
Collards 80 Soybean 75
Corn, sweet 75 Spinach 60
Cress, garden 75 Spinach, New Zealand 40
Cucumber 80 Squash 75
Dill 60 Tomato 75
Eggplant 60 Turnip 80
Endive 70 Watermelon 70
Kale 75    

Seed 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. If the seed doesn't meet the government specified standards, it's not supposed to be sold. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Even if old seed meets government 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.

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 12/6/2023