It is time for all good gardeners to start ordering their vegetable seeds for the coming season, if they have not already. Here are some more great seed catalog companies.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com) issued its 21st annual pure seed catalog, though book is more accurate. Over the past 21 years, Baker Creek has grown from a small one-person seed business started by Jere Gettle when he was17 years old to a remarkable seed company that offers “one of the largest selection of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties.” Their family team of seed explorers searches the globe looking for rare and endangered varieties. This past year their explorations took them to Japan and remote parts of Mexico. While heirloom vegetables are their main focus, they also offer heirloom fruit and berry plants, herb and flower seeds.
Their beautiful 148-page catalog is free for the asking, but it costs $10 to get their expanded 2018 Whole Seed Catalog. It is part catalog and part coffee table magazine filled with beautiful photography, histories of rare varieties, grower profiles, garden recipes, stories of seed exploration, and tips on growing and preserving produce.
Local gardeners might want to consider growing Art Combe’s Ancient Watermelon found in the Baker Creek catalog. In the early 1920s, Art Combe discovered some old seed in an abandoned Arizona cave. The seeds were believed to be hundreds or even thousands of years old. Combe tried growing the seed, and surprisingly his planting yielded a few crookneck watermelon plants. By repeatedly growing and saving seed from the biggest and roundest of the fruit, he was rewarded with an extra sweet watermelon that is “extremely heat and drought tolerant.”
It was in Thailand at a small market stand that they discovered seed of Yuxijiangbinggua, a three- to eight-pound, ribbed, flat squash with sweet orange flesh that stores well for three to four months. Its name may be unwieldy, but it is a Baker Creek favorite. These are just two of the many interesting heirlooms they offer.
Pinetree Garden Seeds (superseeds.com) is another company that started out simply with the goals of offering “low prices on quality seeds for home gardeners.” The company has grown to offer 1,300 varieties of seed including heirloom and organic seed, garden supplies, and an eclectic variety of spices, teas, soap making supplies and gifts.
Tomatoes are the favorite crop of home veggie gardeners, so it is no surprise to find more than one seed company that specializes in tomatoes. Tomato Growers Supply Company (tomatogrowers.com) is probably the best known tomato seed catalog company. It usually offers a printed catalog, but not this year because of a recent change in ownership. However, its extensive listing of more than 500 tomato varieties is still available online. It offers seed of all kinds of both heirloom and modern tomatoes. If you are seeking a particular tomato variety, there is a good chance it has it whether it’s an oxheart, beefsteak, paste, small-fruited, bi-color, black, green, indigo, orange, white or yellow variety. Along with tomato rootstock varieties, it also carries seed of tomato cousins, including sweet pepper, hot pepper, tomatillo, and eggplant.
Gary Ibsen’s Tomato Fest (tomatofest.com) online-only catalog offers seed of over 600 heirloom tomato varieties. Located in Little River, Calif., the heirloom varieties originate from various regions throughout the country and around the globe. It does not sell tomato plants, but recommend Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants (heirloomtomatoplants.com), located in Lomita, Calif. Laurel’s offers plants of 100 organically grown heirloom tomato varieties. Their transplants are typically 8 to 20 inches tall, with most varieties costing about $7 per plant.
Do not delay, order your seed now.
Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.