ByLaurie Neverman December 12, 2021
Heirloom seed companies have been making a comeback, but what exactly are heirloom seeds, and where the best place to buy them?
I'm sharing my favorite seed companies, plus reader recommendations and some unique seed sources to investigate. These heirloom seed companies will help you bring old fashioned flavors, scents, and colors back to your garden for beautiful and delicious crops.
- What are Heirloom Seeds?
- What's the Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom Seeds?
What are Heirloom Seeds?Many heirloom seeds are literally family heirlooms. These seed varieties have been passed down through generations in a family or community, adapting to the local conditions.
Some people say the term only applies to varieties developed before WWII, others are more flexible.
Heirloom varieties are open pollinated. This means that when properly isolated from other varieties, they breed true to the parent plant. This allows you to save seeds from year to year.
The book “Heirloom Vegetables: A Home Gardener's Guide to Finding and Growing Vegetables from the Past” has gorgeous photos of many heirloom vegetables. It's an older book, so used copies are inexpensive.
What's the Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom Seeds?Hybrid seeds are a cross between two or more different varieties, while heirloom seeds are from a single variety.
Some vegetable seeds are open pollinated (they breed true to type), but are not heirlooms because they have not been around a long time.
Why do seeds companies sell so many hybrid seeds?
Generally, hybrids are bred for disease resistance, higher yields, uniform appearance, durability, and other traits useful for commercial growers. If you have a pest or disease problem, a hybrid might be the right answer while you work to improve overall garden health.
“Hybrid” does not mean genetically modified. Most hybrid crops are bred the old fashioned way, with two plant varieties mixing pollen.
Currently, the only genetically modified garden crops are corn, potatoes, summer squash, and soybeans. The companies in this article do not sell genetically modified seeds.
10 Best Places to Buy Heirloom SeedsThese are my favorite seed sources, plus reader favorites and one we want to try.
Note: Many heirloom seed companies are experiencing higher than normal order volumes. Please be patient with your orders, and allow extra time for delivery.
1. Pinetree Garden SeedsPinetree Garden Seeds – I've been ordering from Pinetree the longer than any other company. They are located in New Gloucester, Maine.
Their prices are reasonable, and they give smaller quantities of seed in each packet so you don't end up carrying over so much seed from one year to the next if you have a smaller garden.
2. True Leaf MarketTrue Leaf Market has been providing seed under the brands Mountain Valley Seed and Handy Pantry since 1974. They provide seeds for home gardeners and professional growers, for planting and for sprouting.
Their website also features related products, like growing kits, juicers, and fermentation supplies. The company is located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
3. High Mowing Organic SeedsHigh Mowing Seeds is located in Walcott, Vermont. They offer 100% certified organic seed. One unique section of their site is their crops that grow well in high tunnels, a useful option for market gardeners.
Their organic seed collections provide a small discount when you buy a group of seed packets. They include a Bee's Garden Collection for pollinators, a Container Garden Collection, and several others. The site features free shipping for all orders over $50 within the contiguous United States.
4. Seed TreasuresReader recommended Seed Treasures is located off grid in Northern Minnesota, a plus for northern growers. They specialize in preserving heritage open pollinated seeds. Some are heirloom seeds, others Native American crops or modern open pollinated varieties.
5. Southern Exposure Seed ExchangeSouthern Exposure Seed Exchange carries about 800 varieties of vegetables, flower, herb, grain, and cover crop seeds. Located in Mineral, Virginia, they specialize in varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
They are certified organic, and offer many unique southern heirlooms like butterbeans and naturally colored cotton.
6. Stover Seeds CompanyStover Seed Company is located in Sun Valley, California, and features water wise choices and vegetables and herbs for western climates. They also sell large quantities of native forbs and grasses for landscaping.
7. St. Clare Heirloom SeedsSt. Clare Heirloom Seeds is located in Cecil, Wisconsin. They only sell non-hybrid, untreated, heirloom and open pollinated garden seeds. Their website is conversational, with things like suggestions for use of heirloom flowers. They are a conservative, family run company.
8. Baker Creek Heirloom SeedsBaker Creek Heirloom Seeds – Baker Creek has gorgeous photos in the print catalog and online. They have many unusual heirloom seeds and open-pollinated varieties.
Their headquarters is in Mansfield, Missouri.
9. Seed Savers ExchangeSeed Savers Exchange – I love the idea of Seed Savers Exchange, and they have a beautiful and inspiring catalog. Unfortunately, not all the seeds I've ordered from them have had the quality I expect from a seed company.
Germination rates have been poor, squash that were supposed to store well stored poorly (they were the first to rot in storage our of six varieties).
Plants have failed to thrive (right next to similar plants from other seeds sources. Tomatoes that were described as crack resistant cracked worse than any others in my garden (and I grow around 20 varieties).
When I emailed with my concerns, I received no response.
10. Experimental Farm NetworkThe Experimental Farm Network Cooperative seed store is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most of their seeds are grown in Minnesota and New Jersey. As an experimental seed developer, they have varieties I have not seen for sale anywhere else.
MORE HERE: https://commonsensehome.com/heirloom-seeds/
Thanks to: https://commonsensehome.com