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While this page does not pretend to be a complete list of all seedsmen in the world, or the United States, or on the internet, or anywhere, it is--we think--a very useful one-stop resource for the home edibles gardener. One feature that helps make it useful is that rather than list every on-line vendor we could locate--just to prove that we can use a search engine as well as the next person--we have tried to make this a sizeable but still select list.
One thing that has helped tremendously is the useful Garden Watchdog (which we shall refer to hereafter as just GW), a feature of the "Dave's Garden" web site and the direct successor to the old "Plants By Mail FAQ" lists. GW is a place where customers freely air their comments, positive and negative (sometimes very much so) about home-gardening seedsmen and nurseries. While it is not necessarily the final word, we find that its cumulative ratings pretty well agree with our own experiences and readings elsewhere. If you are thinking of buying seeds or plants from this or that vendor, take a look at GW first, and possibly save yourself some grief. The only thing to beware is that the ratings, given as percentages, can be deceptive if the number of comments is very small, especially if there is only one comment; but with so very many seedsmen and nurseries to choose from in the world, sticking to those with perfect or very high GW ratings does not by any means cramp anyone's choices.
Because we are, as described elsewhere on this site, in the "Pacific Northwest" (actually eastern Washington), we have now also included a special subsection of our full lists, that subsection being Regional seedsmen and nurseries (including both truly regional suppliers plus some outside our region whose climates seem to approximate ours). It is not so much that a local or regional supplier will necessarily have better materials than someone on, for example, the other coast; rather, it is that you have a somewhat better chance that the particular varieties they sell are appropriate for your area, because it is also their area (a point of especial significance for perennial plants like fruit trees, berry bushes, and suchlike). It is also the case that live plants, such as herbs, trees, and berries, will have a significantly shorter (and better determined) shipping time when they are coming from only a short ways off. And of course there's the old-fashioned virtue of "buying locally."
And further down this page is a list of yet more listing sites (sites besides this one that list seedsmen, that is).
Unless otherwise noted, all our lists of suppliers are simply alphabetical.
An asterisk * before a vendor's name signifies that there were NO customer comments for that vendor in the GW list--essentially they are "unrated"; you may thus take it that vendors with no asterisk had mostly or entirely positive comments in that list.
Moreover, because there are so many possibilities, we decided that we could afford to be ruthless, so any non-trivial number of negative comments in a GW entry, even if in a definite minority (unless plainly from weirdos) have caused us to drop that source from these lists. That doesn't mean that every supplier on these lists is somehow guaranteed wholesome and wonderful--many have few or no comments at all in the GW list; it just helps thin out the underbrush, so to speak.
We have made at least a stab at getting usenet feedback on each vendor not already commented on in GW; while we can't say we got good reports on each such--a few we just couldn't find anything on--we can say that we found no material negative comments on any listed here. (And that's not trivial: some vendors really do carry a heavy freight of customer dislike expressed on the web or in usenet.)
If you would like to look in on the excellent usenet discussion group rec.gardens.edible, you can do so right from your browser by way of Google's "Groups" capabilities (use the link just given).
Some of the seedsmen listed below carry a full spectrum of seeds, but we list them here because they have one or more specialties.
Asparagus: Jersey Asparagus Farms: hybrid all-male asparagus; they apparently helped develop the various now-famous "Jersey" strains; we got ours from them.
Garlic: Filaree Farm: our source; organic seed garlics from a famous grower [regional]
Garlic: The Garlic Store: in Colorado.
Garlic: Gourmet Garlic Gardens: in Texas.(See also the list at The Garlic Seed Foundation.)
Lettuce: Johnny's: although a general seedsman, has an unusually broad selection of lettuces and greens.
Melons: Willhite Seeds: all melons but a specialty in watermelons.
Peppers: Peppermania: (apparently hot peppers only) perhaps the most-praised pepper specialist on the web.
Peppers: Tomato Growers Supply Co.: despite the name, peppers, too; an outrageously commercial site, and very heavy on hybrids, but they do have a huge selection and a good reputation.
Peppers: Cross Country Nurseries: (plants only, no seeds) claims to have the "World's Largest Selection of Chile & Sweet Pepper Plants".
Peppers: The Pepper Gal: good selection, often recommended.
Peppers: Redwood City Seed Company: Craig Dremman is a famed pioneer pepper expert; this idiosyncratic site is fun to explore.
Peppers: The Chile Woman: (plants only, no seeds) hot and sweet types; she includes a list of other pepper-seed vendors on her site.
Potatoes: Irish Eyes: our supplier; also other vegetables [regional]
Potatoes: Ronniger's: one of the classic potato seedsmen, now under new ownership but apparently still good.
Tomatoes: Tomato Growers Supply Co.: an outrageously commercial site, and very heavy on hybrids, but they do have a huge selection, including many O.P. heirlooms not easy to find.
Tomatoes: Marianna's Heirloom Tomatoes: plus some other vegetables.
Tomatoes: Tomato Fest: heirloom types.
The 800-pound gorilla of herbalists, whose name you are bound to run into if you research herb seed or plant buying, is Richter's Herbs, a huge Canadian specialist. Regrettably, their net GW rating is not good, and--judging from the posts there, including some from obviously expert herbalists--probably with good cause; too bad.
There are many, many herb vendors all with high GW ratings, so it is hard to pick out some few. One can always review the current GW list of vendors with "herb" somewhere in their name, arranged in descending order of net rating; but here are a few names one often encounters in articles.
This is a small, select list; there are numerous herb specialists, but these should meet most needs.
Mountain Valley Growers: plants, apparently no seeds; often recommended by professionals (California).
Horizon Herbs - emphasis is on medicinal herbs, but has a huge selection; receives strong customer ratings; has both seeds and plants (Oregon).
Crimson Sage - emphasis is on medicinal herbs; apparently plants only (California).
Blossom Farm - herb plants, also perennials (Ohio).
Mulberry Creek Herb Farm - certified organic (Ohio).
Papa Geno's Herb Farm: herb plants, also some tomato and pepper plants (Nebraska).
Garden Crossings - herbs and many other live plants
Sage Garden Herbs: a good selection of the better herb cultivars (Manitoba, Canada).
As with herbs, there are seemingly countless numbers of nurseries, even restricting the list to those with perfect or near-perfect records at GW. Just within Washington State, there are well over a dozen with 100% ratings, though most on the west side of the mountains. As noted earlier, when buying live plants, it is best to buy as locally as possible, both to get plants accomodated to your climate and also simply to reduce the transit time between the vendor and you.
In the list below, we have focussed on regional nurseries (our region, that is) and a few very well-known and well-liked houses in similar (or worse) climates elsewhere. Because of that focus, this is just a microscopic sampling of the many fine mail-order fruit nurseries around--you can see a long list at Garden Watchdog; you should also review the useful list of GW-rated nurseries on the linked GardenWeb Forum thread.
Van Well Nursery: fruit trees - a commercial orchard supplier, but will ship even single trees. [regional]
C & O Nursery: old, respected house; like Van Well, commercial but will deal with home growers. [regional]
Willow Drive Nursery: very little info available, but apparently a significant regional player; founded 1992. [regional]
Stanek's Nursery: a broad selection, from trees to vegetables. [regional]
St. Lawrence Nurseries - respected old nursery, in a really cold climate, so all their plants are very cold-hardy (occasional -50° F!).
Fedco Trees - you can scarcely go wrong with anything associated with Fedco; also, they are a northerly supplier.
Burnt Ridge Nursery: nearby but not exactly regional (west of the Cascades).
Not enough gardeners trouble to grow this important food, but instead settle for the few--and often old and dry--types available at their local supermarket. They're really rather easy to do, and most vendors explain the whole thing very clearly--so now you can have those expensive, exotic types more often. For these--considering how they are grown--regionality is immaterial.
Far West Fungi
These are houses that specialize in either plants for exotic climates, or rarities, or both. In our region, and most of North America, tropicals will require very special protected growing conditions, typically a greenhouse.
There are, as usual, many highly regarded houses. Rather than try to extract a list here--because there are not going to be any regional suppliers--we simply link you to two GW searches, each sorted by rating: one is a search for suppliers with the word "exotic" in their names and the other is for suppliers with the word "tropical" in their names.
With garden tools--as with so many things--it pays to spend a little more and get top quality that will make your tasks easier and last far longer than cheap stuff ever does. The English Bulldog line is always highly praised, but there are other good ones, too. For pruners and like items, Felco is much admired.
For items where a particular brand is not critical, you should always start with local sources--even (perhaps especially) your neighborhood hardware store. Or, if a brand is critical, see if a local retailer can obtain it for you. Dealing locally is wise for many reasons. For mail order, there are, among many, many others, these (all well rated on GW):
Gardener's Supply Co.
Lee Valley Tools (Canada)
Frostproof.com (so-called because located in the town of Frostproof, Florida)
Gardening Warehouse Direct (formerly Gardening Supply Warehouse)
Florian Tools (distinctively shaped designs)
Gardenscape Garden Tools (Canadian and U.S. supplier)
ACF Greenhouses - reported to have very good prices and service (obviously, for greenhouse materials and supplies
Hummert International - commercial supplier (you may need a Tax ID), but very well thought of
Farmtek - a commercially oriented supplier with a huge selection and, by report, very reasonable prices
Sellers in one country will often have varieties rarely or never seen in another. Here are a few more or less randomly selected non-U.S. seed sellers, to give you a sampling of the wealth of vegetable varieties available in the world. (We exclude Canadian sellers, who are included in all the other lists.) Not all of these are on the GW list, nor is it assured that any of them ship to North America (though some may). Many home gardeners believe that European seeds, notably Italian and possibly French, have better germination rates, higher packet fills, and overall better quality than North American seedsmen supply; whether that be so or not we cannot say, but a few years ago some friends brought us back a few packets from Italy (probably breaking seventeen customs laws), and they gave terrific, high-yielding plants that grew like gangbusters. Anecdotal, but there it is. (We have included a couple of firms that specialize in Italian seeds even though they are not in Italy.) All of these rank well on GW (though on some that's only one or two comments).
U.K.: Chiltern Seeds
U.K.: Mr. Fothergill's
U.K.: Real Seeds - a seedsman following the ideals of this site
U.K.: Organic Gardening organic (duh) seeds and plants
U.K.: W. Robinson and Son - specializing in seed producing extraordinarily large results
U.K.: Seed Parade - apparently new in 2010, seem to have a broad selection, modest shipping
Australia: Montburg Gardens
Australia: Digger's Garden - heirloom varieties
Australia: New Gippsland Seeds & Bulb
Belgium: Semailles - open-pollinated and biodymaic
France: Association Kokopelli - a non-profit organization supplying organic and biodynamic seeds
Netherlands: Vreeken's Zaden
Spain: Semillas Fito
Sweden: Impecta Handels
Sweden: Rara Växter
Switzerland: Sativa Rheinau - biodymaic emphasis
Italian seed: Seeds From Italy - U.S.-based
Italian seed: Italian Seed and Tool - U.S.-based
Italian seed: Seeds of Italy - U.K.-based
Just about every seedsman now has some "heirloom" items. In the list below, we have tried to select, rather arbitrarily we fear, what seemed to us a good little list of mostly well-known or otherwise particularly interesting suppliers who have primarily or entirely OP (open-pollinated) stock and who have a reasonably broad selection of varieties and, apparently, a sincere dedication to preserving genetic diversity. For simplicity, we have not distinguished houses that emphasize "heirloom" types from houses that simply emphasize open-pollinated types (with the squeeze from the hybrid marketers, it's getting so that any O.P. type is likely to also be an heirloom, but we haven't quite reached that sad stage yet).
These lists--as the sources linked just below will abundantly demonstrate--are not, and are not intended to be, exhaustive. They merely point to some of the possibilities.
Here are some resources for locating suppliers of non-GMO (not genetically modified) seed; that is not the same as "organic" or "open-pollinated", but there is a great overlap.
The Council For Responsible Genetics has a long list of seed houses that have signed the "safe seed pledge".
Green People has a long list of non-GMO vegetable-seed suppliers.
the Fork & Bottle blog has a useful page with a selected but long list of "Organic, Biodynamic, Heirloom & Heritage Seed Sources".
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has a page listing some organic seed sources, including suppliers not listed here.
Seed Savers Exchange: the web site lists only a few--in relative terms--of the roughly 11,000 heirloom cultivars in their annual directory, sent free to members ($40 a year membership, and worth it for many reasons); these people are a vital factor in the drive to preserve open-pollinated cultivars and genetic diversity in edible crops, and deserve support.
Bountiful Gardens: this is John Jeavons' place, which means it's one of the major sites of interest to organic gardeners of all stripes, not just OP/heirloom fans (California)
Native Seeds/SEARCH: southwest native-American varieties
Though these are mainly generalists, we include some of the specialists (heirloom-tomato seedsmen are especially common).
When selecting seedsmen, please keep in mind that though some--many, really--of these suppliers are listed under this "conventional" heading, they might as well be thought of as non-profits, in that they are the dedicated handiwork of one person or a family whose chief goal is the preservation of species and varieties, and who earn by their efforts just about enough to live on and continue their work.
(A leading * asterisk signifes no comments--good, bad, or neutral--currently on record at Garden Watchdog.)
Heirloom Seeds - an overall excellent seed source
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - another sound, dedicated o.p. seedsman
Turtle Tree Seeds - a small but diligent seed house
Peters Seed & Research - Tim Peters is a leading breeder of fine new O.P. varieties
Good Seed: emphasizing seeds suited for northerly climates [regional]
Prairie Garden Seeds: Saskatchewan, Canada; emphasizing seeds for cool, dry climates
Redwood City Seed Company: an amazing spectrum of unusual and obscure items, plus the usuals.
Plants of the Southwest: high-desert OP vegetables, plus an excellent set of plants and resources for xeriscaping, which is no-water/low-rainfall landscaping
Salt Spring Seeds: B.C., Canada; seeds adapted for northerly climates (no longer ships to the U.S.)
High-Altitude Gardens: OP seeds for cool, short-season areas
Seeds West: emphasis on seeds for "difficult climates"
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: another big name in O.P./heirloom seeds
Victory Seeds respected old-timers
High Mowing Organic Seed: 100% certified organic
J. L. Hudson, Seedsman ("A Public Access Seed Bank - Established 1911"), one of the steadfast pillars of sound seedsmanship
Sand Hill Preservation Center: long-time valuable resource.
* Yuko's Open-Pollinated Seeds: finding delightful, intelligent little suppliers like this one is one of the joys of assembling lists like this--do take a look at it (Ontario, Canada)
Terroir Seeds (formerly aka "Underwood Gardens" and "Grandma's Garden")
St. Clare Heirloom Seeds: a newcomer; they have quite a broad selection, and have fast (by report) and inexpensive shipping (as of 2/10, a flat $3 per order).
Many of the specialists we list in the section above offer mainly or wholly open-pollinated types. Check them individually if you have questions.
While we prefer to support seedsmen who are heavily oriented to open-pollinated seed, there remain many excellent seedmen who do also carry hybrids. The lists below supplement the lists above of o.p./heirloom specialists (that is, the specialists are not duplicated in these lists).
This is in no way to be thought of as a "definitive" list of good-quality seedsmen: under the head "Vegetable Seeds", GW lists about two hundred seedsmen with very high ratings (most of them 100%). This list is thus necessarily a small subset of that larger one. This list includes houses that we have heard of (which means they must be pretty well known) plus some newly discovered (by us, that is) from combing the GW lists. Had we gone through all 200+ high-rank entries we'd doubtless have added some others here, but this ought to get you going. (Remember also that we have a separate page directly listing seedsmen who carry the particular cultivars we recommend.)
We don't know just how GW sorts when one selects "sort by ranking"; one finds ratings in the 85% and up range intermixed with 100% ratings, so it looks like they segregate the rankings into "bands", rather than sort by exact percentage rank. It is also impossible to know if they take any account of the number of ratings when sorting, but we doubt it. That is, it's hard or impossible to know without looking at the individual page for a house whether a "100%" means 27 positives and 3 neutrals (apparently neutrals are omitted from the percentage calculation) or whether it means 1 positive entry, period the end. Ideally, the sort should be first by percentage of positives, but then with a sub-sort by number of positives, so that of houses with all positives, a house with 27 positives would be shown above a house with 11, which would be above a house with 1. But it doesn't seem to work that way.
Later on this page, we will mention our personal favorite seedsmen.
Fedco: not a company as such but a co-operative, and one of the long-time favorite seed sources for home gardeners (including us), with low prices as well (and orders over $25 ship free); they specialize in northern-climate-adapted seeds. Even though they carry hybrids, they have a rather strong moral outlook; for example, they do not carry seeds from Monsanto subsidiaries (which includes at least one major common supplier). This house is always our first choice for anything we want that they carry, and we tend to trust their descriptions a lot more than we do those in most seedsmen's catalogues. Note that besides vegetable (and flower) seed, they supply tuber "seed", fruit trees, and bulbs. It behooves you to read more about them.
Garden City Seeds: (Now merged into Irish Eyes); formerly our first choice, still high on our personal list when ordering [regional].
Johnny's Selected Seeds: they supply excellent germination and growing information and have a good selection of varieties, though hybrids seem a larger and larger percentage every season, and their prices are not modest; with the post-sale decline of A Cook's Garden, Johnny's has emerged as about the best lettuces-and-greens source around.
Territorial Seed Company: a sort of West Coast Johnny's--good selection of good cultivars, good quality, helpful information, but a large and increasing percentage of hybrids, and prices definitely not of the lowest.
Swallowtail Garden Seeds: not well known to us personally, but a high GW rating.
Stokes Seeds: big, old seed house.
Wuv'n Acres: another pleasant turnup from searching--charming, very personal web site, broad selection of lots more than just vegetables
Kitchen Garden Seeds (often listed as "John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds")
Kitazawa Seed Company: long-time specialists in Asian vegetables (a lot of hybrids, but that almost comes with the territory).
Ed Hume Seeds: a short-season/cool-climate specialist.
The following suppliers all appear elsewhere on this page; they are gathered together here for the convenience of gardeners in our target region: the inland Pacific Northwest, and places more or less like it. (That means that we have excluded the many nearby suppliers who are on "the rainyside" because their climate is not our climate.)
We want to emphasize that a supplier's being regional does not in and of itself make it a preferred source, nor does one's being out of the region disqualify it. Indeed, sometimes regional suppliers, between them all, will not have the particular seed or tree or whatever that we want, which leaves us no choice at all. But if a regional supplier carries what we want, and is a good seedsman to begin with, and either grows its own seed or gets it from nearby suppliers, we in our region will have a slightly better chance of getting suitable types and even suitable individual seeds than by buying from a place in a very different climate.
These are suppliers actually in our region.
Garden City Seeds: vegetable seeds; potato "seed"; garlic.
Good Seed: emphasizing seeds suited for northerly climates
Filaree Farm: organic seed garlics
* Charley's Farm: certified-organic garlics
C & O Nursery
Van Well Nursery
There are some suppliers who are out of our region but who do or may have seeds especially well suited for a northern short-season area. (Mind, such seeds ought to do well anywhere; long-season varities won't grow in a short season, but that does not cut the other way round.) Many of these houses expressly say they handle seed for short-season or northern gardens; but in a few cases, we went by the location. Caveat emptor.
Fedco - "your source for cold-hardy selections especially adapted to our demanding Northeast climate."
Johnny's Selected Seeds - "I was interested in doing a better job with short-growing-season areas" (varieties especially well-suited to cold areas are marked in their catalogue).
Turtle Tree Seeds - in upstate new york
Peters Seed & Research - has developed some new cold-resistant varieties.
Ed Hume Seeds - "Our seed line is specially selected for short season and cool climate areas."
Prairie Garden Seeds - in Saskatchewan, Canada
High-Altitude Gardens - "We . . . test new cold climate varieties in high-elevation gardens in Idaho [and] produce most of our seeds in Idaho."
High Mowing Organic Seed - located in Northern Vermont; "we grow approximately 40% of the seed crops ourselves" (which is pretty good).
* Yuko's Open-Pollinated Seeds - in Ottowa, Canada
The Eastern Native Seed Conservancy crops "acclimated to this region" (Massachusetts).
Terroir Seeds - (aka "Underwood Gardens" and "Grandma's Garden") in northern Illinois
Salt Spring Seeds - in British Columbia, Canada (no longer ships to the U.S.)
Finally, here are a few other sites that are also lists of seedsmen. Note too that using Google with the site: feature to search the GardenWeb Forums is always a good idea (for example, enter peppers site:gardenweb.com as your search term).
The Garden Watchdog (described earlier)
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) - organic-seed seed sources (a database search page)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association - organic seed sources
Green People - list by State of over a hundred "Organic, Heirloom, un-treated, organic seed suppliers", useful for finding sources in your climate region or comparable ones.
Seeds Of Diversity Canada - seed companies and nurseries selling heirloom and rare or endangered varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs
The Heirloom Vegetable Gardener's Assistant - heirloom vegetable seed sources
The Mailorder Gardening Association: flower, vegetable, and wildflower seed vendors - a member list (a convenient way to identify the larger houses)
Fruit Trees - a list of online nurseries
(Be sure to also read the page here entitled Some Seed Sources For Recommended Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Berries.)
Let us make this very clear: "our choices" are not necessarily the very acme of seed houses. Rather, they constitute those houses that have what we want, that have good GW ratings, and--where possible--have reasonable prices, and are in our region or a region more or less like ours; and they are places we have dealt with and are happy with. Depending on what we want in a given year, we may not deal with each of these houses; but when we go looking, these are the places we look.
Fedco: ever since they set up on line, they have always been our first choice for any cultivar we want that they have--we sometimes even flex on close calls to get our seed from them. Good prices, very reliable, sound principles.
Seed Savers Exchange: though they have a truly fine selection of cultivars available, the real attraction of dealing with this organization is the sense that you are helping a very important endeavor to continue. (Also, for those who really want to try the hard-to-find, their annual members-only Yearbook of member offerings, with over 11,000 heirloom cultivars of vegetables, fruits, and other crops for the home gardener, is literally a treasure house.)
Bountiful Gardens: this is another feel-good suite, where purchases help fund the on-going work of Ecology Action
Garden City Seeds: it's hard to resist liking a place just a couple of hours down the road, with a rather good set of cultivars for most crops and a fine choice of seed potato as well.
Good Seed: another seed house just a ways down the road.
Filaree Farm: support your local garlic grower!
Turtle Tree Seeds - they often have desireable types no one else has.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - a great house with a great selection--a tribute to one young man's following his dream.
Tomato Growers Supply Co. - we're not crazy about their heavy quota of hybrid types, nor their prices, but they are the cat's pajamas when it comes to finding all those rare heirloom tomato (and pepper) types offered--in good quality--in one place.
Johnny's - another place with too many hybrids and high prices, but a vast selection and impeccable quality and service.
If you find this site interesting or useful, please link to it on your site by cutting and pasting this HTML:
The <a href="http://growingtaste.com/"><b>Growing Taste</b></a> Vegetable-Gardening Site
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Visit The Induction Site to find out what that best way is!
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Visit That Useful Wine Site for advice and recommendations for both novices and experts.
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