Its that time of year again! When we spread our seed catalogs out on the table, grab a cup of tea, and drool. What will we plant this year? Will we choose a tried-and-true tomato variety or go for something completely new? Will we set aside space for something different, like an heirloom amaranth, or a carrot from the 1800s? But even if we just have a few patio planters, dreaming about all of the gardening possibilities is a fun activity!
I typically choose heirloom plants for my seeds. I prefer the historical variety that heirlooms provide, and now that I am a new resident of New Mexico, I will be gravitating towards heirlooms that have traditionally been grown in the southwest, or which have drought-tolerant tendencies.
There is some confusion about the difference between heirloom and open-pollinated plants. Open pollinated refers to plants that reproduce successfully by natural means like insect, wind, or bird pollination. Heirloom plants (also called heritage plants) are ones with a long history, which have been passed down through generations within a family or a culture. All heirloom plants are open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. Being a history buff, I enjoy the heirlooms for their history as much as their tastiness.
Nowadays, heirloom and open-pollinated plants are seen as a foil to GMO (genetically modified) seeds, which are under scrutiny. Many countries have banned GMO plants for a variety of reasons. This can be a complicated and detailed topic, so a good source to learn more about why GMO seeds should be avoided can be found here.
But where do you find heirloom seeds? There are a variety of sources worldwide, and below is a sampling of good sources for heirloom seeds for your garden. If you find that I am missing a favorite source for open-pollinated and heirlooms seeds, please do add it in comments!
Some of these suppliers carry both heirloom and hybridized seeds, but will identify which are the heirloom varieties (search heirloom in each website if youre having trouble identifying the heirlooms they offer). Some, but not all, of these suppliers also offer organic seeds; they will also specify which are organic and which are not. Also be aware that some of these do not ship to all countries.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: www.rareseeds.com
BBB Seed: www.bbbseed.com
Bountiful Gardens: www.bountifulgardens.org
Botanical Interests: www.botanicalinterests.com
D. Landreth Seed Company: www.landrethseeds.com
Fedco Seeds: www.fedcoseeds.com
Heirloom Seeds: www.heirloomseeds.com
Heirloom Tomatoes: www.heirloomtomatoes.net
Heritage Seed Conservancy: www.growseed.org
Heritage Harvest Seed: www.heritageharvestseed.com
High Mowing Organic Seeds: www.highmowingseeds.com
Johnny’s Selected Seeds: www.johnnyseeds.com
Kitazawa Seed Company: www.kitazawaseed.com
Kusa Seed Society: www.ancientcerealgrains.org
Living Seed Company: www.livingseedcompany.com
Native Seeds/SEARCH: www.nativeseeds.org
Nichols Garden Nursery: www.nicholsgardennursery.com
Peaceful Valley: www.groworganic.com
Pinetree Garden Seeds: www.superseeds.com
Real Seed Catalogue: www.realseeds.co.uk
Renees Garden Seeds: www.reneesgarden.com
Salt Spring Seeds: www.saltspringseeds.com
Seeds of Change: www.seedsofchange.com
Seed Savers Exchange: www.seedsavers.org
Solana Seeds: solanaseeds.netfirms.com
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: www.southernexposure.com
Sustainable Seed Company: www.sustainableseedco.com
Terra Edibles: www.terraedibles.ca
Territorial Seed: www.territorialseed.com
The Cooks Garden: www.cooksgarden.com
The Cottage Gardener: www.cottagegardener.com
Turtle Tree Seed: www.turtletreeseed.org
Victory Seeds: www.victoryseeds.com