Part One of Two – Click here to read Part 2, “Heirloom, Organic, Specialty and Market Varieties”
It’s that time of year! Colorful catalogs full of gardens seeds are filling mailboxes, and seed packet displays are cropping up in stores. Where to begin?
Best prices for retail –
There is generally only one or two varieties of each kind of vegetable or flowers, but I have found that these seeds germinate well and grow nicely. These are the old-time varieties of the most common types of vegetables and flowers. These are particularly great for beginners. You can experiment a lot without breaking the bank.
Country Corner Market is at 10020 Highway 12 SW in Rochester, 360-273-9948. They’re nice folks from our local Mennonite community, and their market also has a great selection of discount groceries. They also sell bulk Yakima produce for canning in the summer, and they have good prices on canning jars and pectin.
Best prices for mail order –
You can really save money if you buy bulk seeds and divide them up between friends and family. I have found that both companies’ seeds, if properly cared for, will last for years.
Main Street has a great variety of lettuce seeds at great prices, including the elegant Ruby Red Leaf, shown upper right.
We loved growing Main Street’s petite Early Alaska peas when the kids were growing up. We would eat them right off the bush when they were young, shell and all. They were the first things that we could snack on in the spring. I think they could grow on an iceberg. If you let Early Alaska peas mature, they are supposed to make a good dried split pea. Ours never made it to the kitchen.
Both companies have good customer service and a friendly voice at the end of the phone. They are both still technically small businesses as far as their operations, so if you are trying to order seeds during their busiest times, be patient.
Neither company has fancy packaging, YouTube videos and such. Jordan Seeds has a paper catalog you can order, but it’s pretty simple without glossy photos. Jordan has also begun carrying seed potatoes and onion sets.
You can get a pound of Danvers carrot seed (above left) from Jordan for $15.35! That will grow a lot of carrots. Jordan’s Early Wonder Tall Top beet seeds are $7.45 a pound.
I really love an old-fashioned family business like Jordan who understands the value of a dollar, and can cut their expenses without cutting quality, so they can pass those savings on to their customers.
Jordan’s Kentucky Wonder pole beans are just $2.30 – $3.30 a pound, depending on the quantity. Get your friends and neighbors to join in, so you can all save money on shipping.
You can get nearly 11,000 Roma or Beeksteak tomato seeds from Jordan for $5.00, and the same amount of Delicious tomato seeds for $7.10. You could feed the whole county for that! All of Jordan’s prices are just as good.
Main Street Seed and Supply also has a good supply of wildlife habitat seeds, and fun things like gazing globes for your garden. Their wildlife habitat seeds also include cheap and nutritious livestock (and people!) food too, like turnips, braising greens, and mangel beets.
Jordan’s assortment, quality and prices can’t be beat, and they’re a nice family, to boot.
Old-Time Garden Seeds – Old-Fashioned Roses and Landscape Plants
Henry Fields still keeps their prices pretty low on their old-fashioned varieties. Gurneys prices have increased in recent years, but they offer good deals on quantity purchases.
Henry Field’s “That’s Delicious” Hybrid Sweet Corn gets high customer ratings.
What is also nice about these companies is that they have a good selection of bare root perennials, landscape bushes and trees as well, and you can combine your seed and live plant orders and save on shipping.
We still have Gurneys and Henry Fields landscape plants that we planted twenty years ago that are still going strong–forsythias, lilacs, snowballs, roses and the like. Stay away from tree fruit and nuts that don’t do well here–peaches, apricots, pecans, etc.
Both companies have healthy strawberry plants that grow well in our western Washington climate and pump out nice tasty strawberries, as well.
For jam making, try Sparkle and Honeoye varieties. Jam strawberries are smaller than the big “dipping” strawberries, but they are much more flavorful and productive. They generally ripen within a few weeks, so have your jars, pectin, and sugar all ready.
The perennial winner for the most beautifully vintage catalog is R.H. Shumway’s. Each big, bountiful catalog is a work of art, with nary a photo. Shumway’s incredible artwork, primarily sketched in black and white on creamy newsprint pages, goes along wonderfully with the catalogs vintage style and down home chattiness.
Their seeds grow well, too! You can find some real old time treasures in Shumway’s catalog.
Jung Seeds is another old-fashioned company with a colorful catalog and a nice selection of vegetable and flower seeds, as well as bare root perennials, strawberries, landscape plants and trees.
Burgess is another old-time catalog that combines seeds and bare root plants, at good prices. Their seed generally do well, and their basic landscape plants and sturdy roses do well here. Again, as with Gurneys and Henry Fields, avoid their tree fruits and nuts that need a different climate. Their bare root plants aren’t quite as nice as Gurneys and Henry Fields, but since their prices are low you can experiment a little more.
Burgess also has a half price vegetable seed sampler that would be good for beginners.
Burgess’s new “White Carolina Pineberries” look interesting! White strawberries that are supposed to taste like pineapple. Well…it’s worth a try, right? I’m not sure the jam would be too pretty, but it could be a fun fresh treat. They are supposed to fruit twice a year, like an everbearing strawberry.
All of these catalogs have websites where you can order online, as well.
Click here for Part 2 of my Garden Seeds article – “Heirlooms, Organics, Specialty, and Market Varieties”
Please feel free to post a question or comment below. I look forward to hearing about your experiences!