Best Vegetable Seed Companies

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

  • 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.
  • seed-packets
    The next time you stock your seed box, consult our list of the top 15 seed companies.
  • seed-catalogs
    Finding sustainable seed companies that sell high-quality seeds and provide detailed varietal information is a top priority for many gardeners.
  • 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.

  • 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.

1/22/2021 9:56:11 AM

So disappointed with Johnny Seeds this year! Used for the first time, in 20 years of gardening, last year and thought I found a seed source for life. Great germination and results. This year after spending hours pulling together my planting list from their catalog, I went to the website to order. OMG! Over 75% of the seeds were either out-of-stock or only available in commercial operation quantities like 5,000 seeds! It's obvious that Johnnys is only interested in supplying commercial farms. They can save a lot of time and money by not mailing catalogs to home gardeners when they can't come close to filling the orders.

Kauai Farm
10/9/2020 12:54:48 PM

After using for over a decade, we had total failure to germinate in our last batch from them. The seeds were planted in fields simultaneously with older seed (which all germinated) so it wasn't soil, light, or pests and the planter has a master's in trop ag, was a problem with the seeds. My biggest issue with S. Seeds new management however is that they refuse to publish a negative review (I've tried twice), so don't trust their user review system.

1/11/2020 7:43:46 AM

any good companies in the Middle east, Jordan specifically.?

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