Best Vegetable Seed Companies

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers rate their favorite garden seed sources based on value, performance, ethics and fun.

| December 2011/January 2012

  • Seed-Survey-Charts
    Most MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers buy their seeds from seed catalogs. The majority of readers also find detailed growing information and detailed variety information very valuable from a vegetable seed company.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • seed-packets
    The next time you stock your seed box, consult our list of the top 15 seed companies.
    SUPERSTOCK
  • seed-catalogs
    Finding sustainable seed companies that sell high-quality seeds and provide detailed varietal information is a top priority for many gardeners.
    PHOTO: SAXON HOLT
  • seeds-on-shelves
    You may not have to rely on catalogs for organic seeds, as many stores are now carrying organic selections from great seed companies right on the rack.
    DAVID LIEBMAN

  • Seed-Survey-Charts
  • seed-packets
  • seed-catalogs
  • seeds-on-shelves

By the time you poke your first seeds into the ground each spring, you already have huge hopes for the success of your crops. You’ve spent hours planning, weeks waiting, and your soil may reflect years of hard work spent building its fertility. With so much potential in those seeds, you want to buy from a seed company you can trust. So how do you know which have the best seeds and selections? And which follow sustainable practices?

To answer these questions, we asked hundreds of gardeners to take our 2011 Seed Company Survey. Our survey group was a well-seasoned bunch: About 65 percent had grown food gardens for more than 10 years. Each respondent picked his or her three favorite vegetable seed companies and then ranked companies based on individual qualities. Ultimately, the survey revealed 15 standout vegetable seed companies, all of which emphasize sustainability. (Join our Gardening Advisory Group to take future surveys.)

Top 15 Sustainable Seed Companies

Our Top 15 list (toward the end of this article) is based on how often the vegetable seed companies were ranked in gardeners’ top three. For our survey takers, it wasn’t just about the seeds. In addition to an array of varieties with consistently high germination rates, they wanted seed companies that provide detailed variety descriptions, growing advice and interesting stories. Genetic integrity was also a top priority. The gardeners we surveyed were deeply concerned about genetically modified (GM) food crops, so we made sure all of the companies here have signed the Safe Seed Pledge — a written commitment to sell only non-GM seed — or made public declarations that they will not knowingly sell GM seeds.

Many gardeners said they didn’t know there were more than 100 mail-order seed and plant companies. You can find a national list in our Directory of Companies Offering Mail-Order Seeds and Plants.



Superior ratings in multiple categories put Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a company that offers heirlooms, organics and hybrids, in the top spot. “The Johnny’s catalog is accurate and informative without the hype, and I have never had a failed crop from their seed,” wrote a Midwestern gardener with more than 20 years of experience. Others praised Johnny’s “cool tools” and hard-to-find organic gardening supplies, and many said they liked doing business with an employee-owned company.

Gardeners want to support preservation of heirloom varieties, so Seed Savers Exchange received high marks for providing unique and nearly forgotten heirlooms. Seed Savers, a nonprofit organization, has “wonderful heirloom seed, a beautiful catalog and a great mission,” wrote a Mid-Atlantic gardener who puts sustainability first. The Seed Savers catalog was rated highly for its variety descriptions and photographs, plus customers said they liked being a part of seed conservation. “They’re outside of the mainstream, consolidated seed-production system, and they have a wonderful community feel to their operation and network,” wrote an organic gardener in the Pacific Northwest.

SUEB
12/2/2018 8:19:26 AM

Prairie Road Organics in Fullerton, ND is a small seed company that has the most fantastic seed for northern gardeners. When they say they have a 90% germination rate, they aren't fibbing. Good service wonderful folks. Website at http://prairieroadorganic.co/.


April
11/27/2018 9:18:42 PM

Johnny's sells monsanto patented seeds. Supporting this seed company is supporting monsanto and gmo's. Baker Creek is hands down the best company and catalog out there. They have a mission I can stand behind!


CountryRefuge
10/31/2018 6:45:24 PM

This is in reply to Mike, who asked about Siberian Partisan seeds. I did a search and came up with one source: FarmRussia. It is a firm based in Russia that advertises world-wide shipping. The web address for you, or anyone else interested is https://www.spartisan.ru/en/






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