Johnny’s Selected Seeds, (800) 879-2258; Johnny’s Selected Seeds Web Site. Johnny’s specializes in top quality vegetable and herb seeds that are flavorful, disease-resistant and good producers. They sell to small commercial growers and market gardeners as well as home gardeners, and all of the vegetables and flowers are tested in their organic gardens in Albion, Maine.
Johnny’s also does a fair amount of hybridizing and has produced several All-American Selections winners including Swiss Chard “Bright Lights,” Cucumber “Diva” and Winter Squash “Sunshine.”
Bill Stubbert, one of Johnny’s farm crew and tool specialists, gives the “Sunshine” squash two-thumbs up. In the tomato category, he recommends “Orange Blossom” and the Russian import “Black Prince.” Those who like the cherry varieties should try a combination of “Sun Cherry,” “Sun Gold” and “White Cherry.” The combination of tasty red, yellow/white and orange orbs in a candy dish is irresistible.
Hand-made baskets are real treasures, and Johnny’s carries beautifully crafted rattan baskets with forest green highlights made in the traditional American Indian basket style by Metro Detroit American Indian Jeannine “Manywinds” Milano. Strong enough for harvest and pretty enough to take to market. Each is a modern-day heirloom and retails for a modest $49.95.
Thompson & Morgan, (800) 274-7333; Thompson & Morgan Web Site. This world-famous 200-page seed catalog contains hundreds of full-color photos. This one is a must if you are into flower power.
Select Seeds, (800) 253-5691; www.selectseeds.com. This offers an interesting selection of both seeds and plants. They specialize in heirloom flowers.
Park Seed Co. (800) 845-3369, www.parkseed.com. Catalog free. More than 2000 varieties of veggies flowers fruits and herbs offered in this full color catalog. Seeds are vacuum packed. New this year are pre-seeded grow mats and circles that take the guess work out of spacing and make growing from seed a no-brainer.
The Nichols Garden Seed Catalog, (800) 422-3985; Nichols Web Site. Find seeds and plants of herbs and edibles. This one is a personal favorite.
Richter’s Herbs, (905) 640-6677; Richter’s Web Site. Here’s another treasure trove for herb growers and folks who are looking for the unusual. Richter’s offers mail-order plants as well as seeds, so don’t pass on this one even if you don’t grow from seed.
Peaceful Valley Organics, (888) 784-1722 Peaceful Valley Web Site. This is one-stop shopping for organic growers.
Reimer Seeds, Reimer Web Site. This online-only store, offers more than 2,500 vegetable varieties including 1,500 varieties of hot chili peppers and 300 varieties of tomatoes.
Their “Chocolate Brown” habanero pepper took top honors as the “World’s Hottest Chile” in the trials conducted by the Chile Pepper Institute.
In the category of “Fun Things to Grow,” you’ll find Erlene Green Cotton ,a Texas heirloom Gossypium hirsutum that produces good yields of naturally olive-green tinted cotton. Naturally-colored cotton is now very rare. Prior to the Civil War slaves grew green, blue, yellow and pink colored cotton. This heirloom variety comes from the family of Erlene Melancon of Texas. The plants take 150 days to mature. They need to be started indoors in late April or early May.
Seeds of Change, (888) 762-7333; Seeds of Change Web Site. These purveyors of 100 percent certified organic seeds and seedlings also feature a large collection of field-tested ergonomic tools and soil amendments. Blue potatoes, pink tomatoes and black radishes — it’s all here and it’s all good.
Pinetree Garden Seeds, (207) 926-3400; Pinetree Web Site. Catering to the home gardener who seldom uses a full pack of seeds, Pinetree offers smaller packets at smaller prices. Along with gardening books and tools, they offer natural crafts materials and how-to books for making soap, candles and gourd goodies.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 417-924-8917, www.rareseeds.com. Catalog free. Dedicated to preserving our ethnic heritage, Baker Creek currently offers more than one thousand varieties of heirloom veggies and flowers. Owner Jere Gettle also publishes ‘The Heirloom Gardener magazine – a fascinating read for anyone interested in heirlooms. ($12 / 4 issues.)
Totally Tomatoes (800) 345-5977, www.totallytomato.com. Catalog free. This Wisconsin-based catalog specializes in tomatoes and pepper seeds. For those who lack space to grow tomatoes Totally Tomatoes offers A Gro-Pole and 4 Topsey Turvey hanging containers priced at $98.95. Place an order of $5 or more before March 15 and you’ll receive 2 free seed packets.
Seeds from Italy (781) 721-5904, www.growitalian.com. Catalog free. Bill McKay offers seeds of 350 varieties of traditional Italian vegetables, herbs and flowers along with authentic recipes he says come from some darn good Italian cooks. Packaged in Italy under the name of Franchi, these are the real McCoy when it comes to growing Italian. Imported seeds are shipped from the Winchester, Massachusetts’s distributor. This brand is new to me, but I look forward to trialing some of the vegetables in the garden this summer.
Chiltern Seeds +44-1229-581137, www.chilternseeds.co.uk. Catalog $3.87 U.S. Collectors and growers looking for the unusual will enjoy perusing this English seed catalog. Plants are listed by botanical names and the prices are quoted in pounds Sterling. Add shipping costs and convert total to American currency before ordering to avoid sticker shock when the bill arrives. No pretty pictures to tempt you.