I used to get tons of seed catalogs at this time of year, but their numbers have dwindled as more and more gardeners, including me, shop online for vegetable and flower seeds. However, this just is not the same as browsing through a gardening catalog and dreaming about the coming season’s garden.
There is no better way to spend a cold damp winter evening than shopping the old-fashioned way of flipping through the pages of the catalog and picking out the most appealing varieties. Here are some of my favorite seed companies with printed or online-only catalogs. Check them out.
Territorial Seed Company (territorialseed.com) is a family business located in Cottage Grove, Ore. They do not have a spectacular glossy catalog, but their newsprint catalog is filled with plenty of nice color photos and variety descriptions. They endeavor to offer the “best seeds, plants and garden accessories in the quickest and friendliest way possible.” For each type of vegetable, they provide tons of information on planting, common insect and disease problems, general culture, harvesting and storing. For most varieties they offer different volumes of seed for the varying needs of backyard gardeners and market growers.
Territorial specializes in vegetable seeds and plants, but also offers herbs; flowers; fruit trees; small fruit plants; tomato, pepper, eggplant, and herb transplants; and some grafted tomato, pepper and watermelon transplants. The plants I have ordered from them have always arrived in superb condition.
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Johnny’s Selected Seeds (johnnyseeds.com) is located in Winslow, Maine, obviously a much cooler region. They garden without the benefit of long, hot summers that make growing warm season crops like big beefy tomatoes fairly easy. Because of their short season, they highlight small tomato varieties, including paste, plum, roma, grape, cherry and artisan tomatoes. Artisan tomatoes are very attractive “unique tomatoes that are small in size and striped ... and taste as good as they look.” Even their names, such as Pink Tiger, Blush and Sunrise Bumble Bee, are intriguing.
Maine’s cooler growing season favors the production of garden greens and this is reflected in Johnny’s catalog. They offer a plethora of lettuce varieties, including baby leaf, Romaine, cos, butterhead, bibb, iceberg, leaf, summer crisp, oakleaf and lollo lettuce. Lollo lettuce has extremely frilly leaves. There are pages and pages of other greens, including micro greens, shoots, sprouts, salad greens, cress, sorrel, mustard greens, Asian greens, Chinese cabbage, bok choi, specialty greens, kale and heirloom greens.
Johnny’s catalog is also packed with plenty of growing information and charts that compare different varieties of specific vegetables. They also offer flowers, herbs, cover crops, grains, legumes, forage crops and gardening supplies.
Renee’s Garden — The Garden to Table Seed Company (reneesgarden.com) does not have a printed catalog. They offer vegetable, herb and flower varieties “that are very special for home gardeners, based on great flavor, easy culture, and exceptional garden performance.” Renee’s home base is in Felton, Calif., but its offerings are “tested and guaranteed for every major U.S. climate zone.” The company was founded by Renee Shepherd and is “run by gardeners for gardeners.” Their seed packets offer beautiful watercolor renditions of each variety. Photographs of each variety are available on the website.
What I like best about Renee’s Garden are the tantalizing recipes they offer on the site and in the “Garden to Table” cookbooks it sells. You can find the recipes for leek, mushroom, chicken soup with peas and thyme, and for Mexican onion soup in “Warm Up with Hearty Soups” on the website. Yum!
Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.