Despite the current extended period of below zero weather there are some inklings that spring is getting nearer. Our chickens have increased their egg production to 5 a day (up from an average of 0-1 a day), it is light until 5pm, and our seed order is just about done. Sometimes I think we must be the most complicated people in the world. It takes us forever to order seeds- there are a lot of variables and a lot of varieties we want to try.
We primarily purchase organic and open pollinated seeds, so we gravitate towards catalogs that offer them. If we can’t find an organic source of varieties we like we look for seed sources that are small growers. There are a few catalogs that either grow a high percentage of seed themselves or have a coding system that tells you what size/type of operation grew the seed (Turtle Tree and Fedco are great for this reason). Between all of the catalogs we shop around for: the varieties we are interested in, days to maturity, how they were grown, if they were grown in a climate reasonably like ours, price, and also seed count.
Seed count is something new for us this year. We have been hearing that seed grown by large seed growers is sorted by size. All of the biggest seeds basically go to very large growers in the industry first. There is a size hierarchy and basically most of the seeds that end up going to home gardeners/small farms is the bottom of the barrel. Those seed growers know that larger seeds have the most potential to grow the best plants. Therefore it makes sense to shop around for the largest seeds or save your own seeds, or buy from companies that are just growing seed for gardeners. Some catalogs include seed counts/ounce or pound for each type of vegetable. It of course is an average, so not totally accurate, but comparing between those companies that offer a seed count can tell you if one has bigger seed over all.
Beyond the seven catalogs pictured above we have a couple of other small sources to recommend: Hudson Valley Seed Library, Wild Garden Seed, and Solstice Seeds. These are all small seed growers. Many varieties that have been bred by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed can also be purchased through Fedco. Solstice Seeds is offered by our friend Sylvia Davatz in Hartland, VT. She is an amazing seed saver, growing all of the seeds she offers in her relatively small garden with some help from several community members. She specializes in crops that do well in her Central Vermont climate. Solstice Seeds is not on line but you can download a copy of the catalog here Solstice_Seeds_Catalogue_2014 and mail or email your order.
We try to save at least a few of our own seeds every year. In 2013 we saved seed of one onion variety, all of the tomatoes we want to grow again, and several herbs. We would really like to do more seed saving each year. It takes a fair amount of planning ahead, and for some vegetables it can require isolation or hand pollination. We’ll keep working towards the goal of saving more of our own seed and being able to swap with others in our region.
Happy planning and seed ordering!