Time to order some seed catalogues

Happy New Year to all.  I find it interesting how one’s energy can follow the seasons – as the light levels go down and we approach the winter solistice it seems as there is little thought of starting new projects.  But once we emerge from those really short days and find the beginning of January, it feels like enthusiasm and energy return.

So, for those of you contemplating a garden this year, I would really encourage you to go online and order some seed catalogues.  While it is possible to buy all of your seeds from gardening and hardware stores, you will find that seed companies offer a far greater variety of both vegetable varieties and package sizes.

Canadian seed companies seems to come in several different sizes, each with advantages and disadvantages.  The larger seed companies include Stokes, William Dam, the Ontario Seed Company and Dominion Seed House.  These larger seed companies all publish beautiful colour catalogues that they will send out for free.  Generally larger seed companies give a much better catalogue description of the vegetables that they are selling, in terms of taste, days to maturity, productivity, disease resistance, etc.  They also sell their seeds in many different package sizes, from packets to kilograms.  This allows one to purchase larger quantities of seeds, which is far more economical for vegetables such as salad greens, peas, and beans.    To their disadvantage, some of their seeds are often treated with a fungicide (to prevent rotting during germination – something that I have never found to be a problem.  Also they offer only a limited number of organically grown seeds.    By far the best larger seed company that I have found is Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine.  While it is an American company, it is committed to providing a very high percentage of organically grown seeds, many of them older heirloom varieties.  The quality of their seed, in terms of germination rates and longevity of the seed, is the best that I have ever found.

There are many smaller Canadian seed companies that publish very simple, black and white catalogues.  These companies are generally committed to selling only open pollinated (i.e no hybrids) and organically grown seeds.  What I have found to be the biggest disadvantage with these smaller companies is the lack of description in their catalogues.  So while they may sell several varieties of peas or carrots, there is very little information about taste, days to maturity, etc.   As well, the seeds are generally only sold in one size which is a small packet size.   Some of the smaller Canadian seed companies include Greta’s Organic Gardens. Prairie Grown Seeds, Terra Edibles, Salt Spring Seeds, West Coast Seeds and Full Circle Seeds.   Salt Spring Seeds is run by Dan Jason who has worked for several decades now to develop varieties of grains, dry beans, and pulses such as lentils, suitable for growing in Canada.  He also specializes in many varieties of garlic.

If you have the time, order a few seed catalogues in the next few weeks, they are wonderful for dreaming about spring and the seeds that they have to sell are far more interesting than those sold on racks at grocery, hardware, and gardening stores.

5 Responses to “Time to order some seed catalogues”

  1. Leslie James says:

    I strongly suggest that you try to watch the disturbing film The World According to Monsanto. Apparently Monsanto has purchased 80% of the seed companies in the world. They own both Stokes and Johnny’s and although I agree with you that the sowing detail is incredible, it makes me nervous to think that one company owns so much of the world’s genetics. This year Stokes catalogue is crowing that it supports the seed bank in Norway. Scary thought.
    According to the World Wildlife Fund, Monsanto is now trying to patent pig genetics.
    Perform a Google search to find the Scientific American article that describes how harmful Monsantos main cash cow really is. But their patent on RoundUp is running out soon. So they need the seed companies. Regards

  2. wendy says:

    Hi Janette:

    Are you doing any workshops near Kingston this year? I’d love to come to them. Let me know.

  3. Christina says:

    I agree with what Leslie has to say about Monsanto……and the movie is a real eye opener.

    Another wonderful Ontario seed catalogue is ‘The Cottage Gardener’. A full array of organic and open pollinated veggie, herb and flower seeds along with detailed descriptions and wonderful historical information. For a wide variety of organic tomato seeds, Upper Canada Seeds is the best. I have ordered from both of these companies (as well as Greta’s, West Coast Seeds, Terra Edibles and William Dam) for many years….all are incredible.

    I purchased your book last year and find it very informative and helpful with some tasty recipes…thank you. I’ve just discovered your blog and am working my way through….keep up the great posts.


  4. Christina says:

    Hi Janette, what a great site. I bought your book last year and have read it a few times. It is a good reference and contains some pretty tasty recipes…thanks.

    A couple of other great Ontario seed companies:

    Upper Canada Seeds…..organic tomato seeds, all open pollinated with lots of heirlooms and excellent descriptions.

    The Cottage Gardener….organic heirloom vegetable, herb and flower seeds, again, with excellent descriptions and historical info.

    I have to agree with Leslie, above, about Monsanto. This is indeed a scarey corporation who is striving, I believe, to control the world’s food supply. We should all make a stand and investigate our seed suppliers before purchasing.

    Will be looking forward to your next post.


  5. Janette says:

    Hi Wendy,

    I am doing workshops in Kingston this year. I have a 9 month series that starts January 25 in Kingston. These workshops look at eating locally and seasonally and also follow a teaching garden through the year. I bring supper and it is fun, social and informative. There is still room left. You can email me at janettehaase@gmail.com and I can send you the information. Also I have a one evening workshop on Feb 3 that will only look at the gardening basics. Let me know if you are interested.