Sunday, February 7, 2016

Seed Shopping Recommendations

A hefty first shipment of seeds arrived the other day, and it made me think that maybe I should do a brief post about the places from which I like to order seeds.

Twenty new packets of seed from Fedco, and the order total was a mere $31!

1. Fedco Seeds: This is my overall favorite, hands down. Based in Maine, they specialize in varieties that do well in the Northeast, and their 'Vintage Stock Mix' indeed does much better for me than any other stocks ever have. However, this focus on plant material suited to New England in no way means that their product range is short on the rare or exotic - think Russian 'Duborskian' rice and South African klip dagga and ashwagandha for Ayurvedic medicine. Much of their selection consists of  heirloom varieties, and not a few of the offerings are organic. In my experience, germination rates are excellent, and orders arrive in a week or less. To top it all off, their prices are amazing; for most varieties the smallest seed packet size, which is still generous, comes in at less than $2, and virtually none is more than $3. In addition, on orders of $30 or more there are no shipping and handling charges. Fedco also sells seed potatoes and onion sets, fall- and spring-planted bulbs, bare-root perennials, and a wide range of woody plants during their respective planting seasons. Of these I have only ordered fall bulbs, but for those at least I can report that the same holds true as for the seeds - interesting varieties, solid quality, and excellent prices.

2. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: As the name suggests, this company is all about heirloom and rare varieties, with an amazing selection of crops and herbs both common and unusual from all over the world. They carry plenty of flower seed as well, though among the ornamentals there are decidedly fewer varieties that are not commonly sold by other seed companies as well. The website also allows Amazon-style customer reviews of each item, which can be very useful since - unlike Fedco - Baker Creek carries plenty of plant material that might do well in one corner of the country but fail elsewhere due to such factors as climate or even day length; the reviews, labeled with the location of the reviewer, usually point out such issues. Seed quality is very good in my experience, and delivery fast. However, prices are relatively high in comparison to many other seed companies - some particularly rare varieties come in at $5 a packet or more - so I try to limit myself to things for which I cannot find another reputable source when ordering from here.

3. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: Another place with loads of heirlooms and landraces and somewhat of a regional focus, in this case on plants originating from and adapted to the southeast of the United States. Even so, the things I have ordered from them have largely done just fine for me here in New England. Again, the selection of ornamentals is rather less exciting than their vegetables, herbs, and grains, and also much smaller. Prices are a tad higher than those of Fedco Seeds but generally quite reasonable. The one thing that can be annoying is that particular varieties are often on back order or being tested for germination, and the given date when they are supposed to become available for ordering keeps shifting.

I might try out some more places in this spring, even though arguably I do no need any more seeds...

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