Three week old seedlings almost ready to plant in the garden
January is the perfect time to plan your spring and summer gardens. While there are many wonderful local nurseries around the country that offer a few racks of seeds and a limited number of edibles as transplants, I find the largest selection of ornamental edibles are available from mail-order and on-line seed companies. And when you order in January the companies are seldom sold out of some of the most popular choices.
I personally prefer to start the garden planning process by perusing paper catalogs. I put sticky notes on select pages to mark possible candidates, including varieties of seeds of both edibles and strictly ornamental flowers. In addition to the paper catalogs, I go on-line and check for transplant choices at chileplants.com, naturalgardening.com, and tastefulgarden.com. After I have limited my choices, always a painful process, I then go on line and order directly. I find on-line faster than ordering by mail and further, I can tell if the company is sold out and make adjustments to my final plan.
Baby red boc choi, chartreuse lettuces, and peacock feathered mustards are specialty vegetables started in my seed box
Most seed companies offer some varieties for the whole country but many specialize and choose the best varieties for a specific climate. I recommend that gardeners order from their closest seed companies when possible. Southerners from Southern seeds companies, West Coast gardeners from their region, and so on. The drop down “Other Useful Websites” under the Features section of this website contains is a very long list of seed companies and their links. In my book Edible Landscaping there is much information about these companies and many more, including their physical addresses, phone numbers, etc.
Golden zucchini from Renee's Garden Seeds is the star of my front border. In back are the burgundy leaves of purple orach, an heirloom variety from the Seed Savers Exchange.
I specifically recommend:
- Generally, for cool and/or short climates in the Northeast and Northwest try Bountiful Gardens, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Nichols Garden Nursery, Pinetree Garden Seeds, and the Territorial Seed Company
- For Southwestern gardens look to Native Seed Search, Plants of the Southwest, and Redwood City Seed Company
- For Southeastern gardens try Southern Seed Exchange and Whillhite Seed Company.
- For seed companies that are generalists with many great varieties look to Burpee’s, Cook’s Garden, and Renee’s Garden Seeds
- And finally check the website list for specialists like companies that carry mostly tomatoes, or heirlooms, and herbs specialists to round out your choices.
My containers are filled with special varieties of vegetables. In the large barrel there are plants of bush 'Henderson' lima beans climbing among the black-eyed-susan-vine, and a 'Super Bush' tomato overflows its container.