It’s the middle of winter and gardeners everywhere are getting the itch to grow something! Seed Catalogs have started showing up en masse! The sheer quantity of seeds available can be pretty overwhelming! And as a beginner, it can feel like you need to purchase one of everything! But before you hit BUY NOW on those carts, check out today’s episode where I’ll be going over a few tips for purchasing seeds as well as sharing where to buy seeds online!
“Hello and welcome back to our gardening podcast! Today, I’m excited to help walk you through my process of purchasing seeds as well as share a few of the companies I am purchasing from this year!
One of the running jokes in the gardening community is the fact that gardeners are obsessed with seeds, and that’s not far from the truth! Ask any gardener to see their seeds and you will be amazed at the volume they have! It’s almost as if, when you become a gardener, you get this seed obsession!
I want to encourage you away from that obsession, at least in the beginning!
When I decided I wanted to start a garden I went through the catalogs and went crazy! I bought literally everything I could imagine growing and even things that I couldn’t imagine growing, because why not.
This has led to me having way more seeds than I needed and lots of seeds that don’t grow great in my location! So let’s dive into a few tips and important things to consider when purchasing seeds.
Seed Buying Tips for Beginners
Looking through a seed catalog without first doing a little planning is like walking into a grocery store hungry. Everything is going to look good and you will quickly end up with far more than you sought out to get!
In episode 2 we talked about a few questions you should ask yourself before you plan your garden and one of those questions was “what you want to grow.” Having a list of items you may want to grow is key to decreasing the overwhelm of seed buying!
I recommend considering things your family eats regularly as well as plants that give you a lot of bang for your buck. You can put “dream” seeds on your list too, but distinguish between those and family favorites.
You want to minimize the amount of dream items to just a few each year so you can really learn each plant!
After you have your list of plants you want to try to grow, you can focus your search to varieties on your list!
Gardening terms used in seed catalogs
When you look at seed catalogs or peruse online, you’ll notice that there are a lot of terms to describe the seeds. It’s important to know what these mean so you can make informed decisions about what to purchase!
Here are a few key terms you will see:
Maturity Date: This refers to the estimated time from sowing the seed to harvesting. Some varieties may have shorter or longer maturity dates which is an important distinguishing factor we will discuss in detail later!
Heirloom vs hybrid: Another set of terms that you’ll notice when searching for seeds is Heirloom seeds vs Hybrid Seeds.
Heirloom seeds are those that have been saved and passed down over time and must be open-pollinated. Open-pollination is the natural way of a plant becoming pollinated by the wind, rain, bees and birds. These heirloom seeds are more likely to get diseases and have larger, oddly shaped fruit.
F1 hybrids are the result of two plants with specific characteristics being deliberately crossed to produce a new third variety with the characteristics of the parent plants. Saving seeds from these plants will give you one of the parent plants.
The next group of terms relate to the growing habit of plants.
Pole vs bush: For bean and pea plants you will see them described as pole or bush. A pole bean is going to be one that grows in a vining habit. If you grow these types of legumes, you’ll want to have some sort of trellising for them.
On the other hand bush beans and peas are much more condensed plants and do not need trellising. These will be better for those with smaller growing spaces.
Indeterminate vs determinate is another set of terms related to growing habit. Indeterminate tomatoes will continue growing in a vine like fashion and will require significant trellising. They will also produce throughout the season. Determinate plants tend to be more bush like. While they will require trellising, they typically have a flush of fruiting at one time then slow down or stop producing all-together.
There are many more gardening terms that you may see, and I invite you to check out our garden glossary.
“Now let’s look at how to use these terms when browsing through seed catalogs or websites. Trust me, it will make a world of difference.”
Purchase Seeds Based on your Climate
When purchasing seeds you will want to make sure that you are matching the seeds to your climate. And what this really means is knowing your frost dates and growing season length, and then choosing varieties with a maturity date that will allow the plants to yield a good harvest.
In the north, where you have a short warm season, you will want to select warm season crops that have short maturity rates and tend to grow in more bush patterns.
In the south, where your cool season may be shorter, choosing cool weather crops that have shorter days to maturity can ensure you get lots of fresh lettuce and cole crops before it gets to hot and they bolt. (Bolting is basically when the heat signals a cold weather crop to start producing seeds instead of harvestable vegetation.
Understand your Garden Location
Another key way to use these terms and make the most of your seed shopping is to be concious of your growing space. If you are growing in containers or have a small garden footprint, you will want to see if the plants will require a lot of trellising or if they grow in the bush pattern.
These tips are very simple, but they can be the difference between you having a wealth of usable seeds, or just having a collection.
Where to buy seeds online
Now that we’ve gone through the how to buy, I want to talk about a few of the companies that I have purchased from and have had great success with! These aren’t in any particular order! I’ve tried several, I have some personal favorites that I always go back to when planning my garden. I’ll explain why I love them and how they excel in different aspects.
But I want to also point out that I have purchased seeds FROM EVERYWHERE!! In my planning I look to small businesses and companies that specialize in seeds. However, I have purchased from Dollar tree that did fantastic and Larger seed companies that never produced. I say that to say, if you are making the choice to grow your own food and try out gardening, that is most important.
Now with that out of the way, here are some of my favorite seed companies and why I love them!
This company offers a wide range of seeds, including many varieties specifically suited for southern growers. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to selecting cool weather crops. The diverse selection ensures that customers have access to the right seeds for their specific needs.
is a company that I make purchases from approximately every other month! They offer a diverse range of seeds and maintain an incredibly inspiring social media presence. Additionally, it’s worth noting that this is a black-owned business!
I highly recommend Botanical Interests! They possess a vast wealth of knowledge, offer a wide range of seeds, and their sales are truly exceptional. This year, I purchased various types of garlic (both hard neck and soft!) from them, and so far, they have thrived in my garden.
While I understand that credibility can sometimes be a concern with certain Amazon companies, I can personally attest to the remarkable success I’ve had with the seeds from both of these shops.
Lastly I want to share a few companies I have used for specialty seed purchasing.
The Wheel Seeds is a seed company I found on Etsy that has a wide variety of micro dwarf tomatoes! I’ve made multiple purchases and grown many of these plants in my Aerogarden! They have produced well, and the germination rate is phenomenal!
The Hood Garden is another small specialty shop I have used to purchase many different types of peppers! I am not a huge hot pepper fan, but their seeds fall all along the scoville scale and there’s sure to be something for everyone!!
Wood Prairie Family Farm sells lots of different seeds, but their specialty is Certified Organic Seed Potatoes! They have such a huge selection and really help you understand the best potatoes for your area and preferences.
I have purchased twice from them and have been so pleased with the variety, cost, and quality of the seed potatoes I have received!
So before we wrap up today’s episode, And as always, happy gardening! So don’t be afraid to venture out and try new seed companies – you may just
Before we wrap up, let’s quickly recap what we’ve discussed today. We covered some important terms for purchasing seeds, shared tips for choosing the right ones, and discussed some favorite and local seed companies. I just want to remind you that there are so many great seed companies out there and it’s always good to try new ones and find the best fit for your garden. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with it! I hope this episode has been helpful and will make your next seed purchase much easier.
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