Friday, December 14, 2012

First Seed Catalogs Arrive

Not even the winter solstice yet and I have three seed catalogs in hand from three of my favorite seed companies and a fourth catalog arrived today. Of course, the holidays are keeping me busy so I may not get to fully enjoy them until after New Years. Still, I am able to occasionally flip through them, circling items that catch my eye.

First to arrive was the Pinetree catalog. Pinetree is a small, family-owned business in Maine that I have patronized for years. Besides the fact they are a local family business, they have other virtues. They offer small, inexpensive packets of seeds, some as low as 95 cents. Usually I don’t need a thousand seeds for my SFG and I don’t need to pay $3-4 for it. The Pinetree packets also give planting instructions in SFG terms, seeds per square foot, rather than seeds per foot of row. And Pinetree’s selection of seeds is good and includes desirable selections from breeders such as Johnny’s as well as heirloom and imported varieties. I have circled the Trionfo Violetto pole bean and the Tromboncino squash in this year’s catalog.

Next to arrive was the Johnny’s catalog. Johnny’s is another Maine-based seed house I have used for years. They grow their seeds in northern Maine and are active breeders of new varieties (like Bright Lights chard and Lipstick pepper). I like this and believe they are offering varieties that will succeed in northeast summers. Their catalog is full of technical information and is a valuable resource throughout the season. And being a victim of some bad seed, I like that Johnny’s certifies that their bean seeds are 100% halo blight free.  The downside is that their packets are expensive, but sometimes they are the only source for some of the newer varieties. This year they have a new cherry tomato, Jasper, which they bred and which won the AAS.


The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog showed up next. It is a large, beautiful catalog printed on glossy coated paper with gorgeous photography. While slick and glossy and technically up-to-date (they Facebook and have an iPhone app), Baker Creek is dedicated to offering heirloom and organic seed free of GMOs and are heavily involved in the battle against GMO crops and corporate agriculture. They are located in Mansfield in southwest Missouri, east of Springfield. I get that way every year or so to visit my sister and I plan to make a detour through Mansfield next time. It’s not surprising given their location they are specialists in warmer weather crops. Their selection of eggplant, melon, squash and tomato varieties is probably unmatched.

While I was writing this article the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog arrived. I purchased my shallot bulbs from them last Fall. They produce a beautiful catalog with color photographs printed on recycled newsprint. The cover shows garden gnomes in a raised bed garden. They are located in Virginia and carry varieties that are optimal in the southeast US but most are generally useful for other areas. They have a good selection of southern heirloom varieties of greens (mustards, collards, turnip), beans, limas, okra, cowpeas, peanuts, melons, and tomatoes. They also carry a good selection of shallots, garlic, and a variety of multiplier and potato onions. Finally, they are dedicated to safe seed, GMO free, open-pollinated and organically grown where possible.
I have to mention Fedco Seeds, even though I don’t get a printed catalog from them, I just download the catalog. Fedco is a co-operative in Maine that is dedicated to organic, open-pollinated and untreated seed. They are also part of the lawsuit against Monsanto. They have a good selection and good prices. In addition, they accept group orders. Our community garden organization puts together a group order in late winter which gets everyone a discount and reduced shipping cost plus the organization makes a few bucks off the order. One item of note is that Fedco carries seed for Beedy’s Camden kale, which is a great kale variety to grow. Another thing I like at Fedco is their Mesclun mix, which is packed in two separate envelopes containing the mustards and the lettuces. Since the lettuces are slower to germinate and grow, you plant them a week or two earlier in a separate bed from the mustards.


  1. I love it when the seed catalogs arrive and I can't wait to sit down and page through them. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until after the holidays as things are too busy right now. Although, I already have a list going for Fedco.

    I highly recommend Trionfo Violetto pole bean from Pinetree Garden Seeds. I purchased some several years ago and they continue to be the most productive string beans in my garden. For some reason, the Japanese beetles tend to like them less than other beans too.

    1. I looked for the Trionfo beans last year but could not find a vendor. I'm happy to hear you liked them. The difference this year is Pinetree has integrated their "foreign" seeds into their regular vegetable lists, so there it was. And they have the Tromboncino squash, which will require an act of courage to plant.

    2. Yes, Pinetree has made some very nice changes to their catalog this year. I am finding it easier to find things now that the "foreign" seeds are grouped with the regular ones too.

  2. Not all the seed companies here produce catalogues which is sad. As easy as it is to search online there's something really nice about having a catalogue to circle things in.

    1. I wind up ordering online anyway but it is nice to have the paper catalogs.

    2. Also found out Baker Creek carries some Aussie varieties like Crystal Apple cucumber and Queensland Blue squash.

  3. Not all the seed companies here produce catalogues which is sad. As easy as it is to search online there's something really nice about having a catalogue to circle things in.


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