Favorite Seed Sources

All together I grow upwards of 300 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers each year. The majority are certainly heirloom varieties, but I do grow some modern hybrids if I believe it offers something unique to the garden. Recall that my space is French Potager themed and we are always on the look out for the most attractive vegetables. I do always avoid growing anything that I can commonly get in a grocery store. This is not because store varieties don’t have something to offer, but that I am more interested in expanding my diet and discovering new flavor and textures. In terms of nutrient dense gardening, there is much more to consider here as well.butterfly

Many people believe that heirlooms are more nutritious than non-heirlooms but I think that’s hardly the case. It’s true that the genetics of an heirloom variety may contain higher amounts of certain phytonutrients as was made abundantly clear in Jo Robinson’s recent book “Eating on the Wild Side”. It is however equally likely that a modern hybrid can contain higher amounts of other phytonutrients. A hybrid grown in nutrient dense soil will outperform an heirloom grown in average soil, and vice versa.

In regards to genetics of heirloom plants, DNA only defines how the plant should be made, but it’s the environment that dictates the materials available for the construction. Think of the story of the three little pigs comparing the straw house to the brick house, they’re both houses but clearly one is more robust than the other.

Heirloom varieties are also generally more demanding of good soil nutrition, where commercial varieties were bred to withstand the nutrient poor and biologically devastated soils of the typical conventional farm. If your soil lacks energy, you will actually get a better response from hybrids than from heirlooms but be prepared to provide them with extra support as they will be sick.

Seed quality also makes an important impact in getting a good nutrient dense product. Low health plants will produce low health seeds that lack the rare minerals needed for maximum early plant health and reduced seedling stress. Poor seed is less dense, weighs less, smaller in size, less likely to germinate and is more susceptible to pathogenic attack. At this time I know of no commercial source that sells consistently high test weight seeds. Your best bet is to save the seed from your own quality plantings.seedpackets

I also only purchase untreated organic seed. To me, any plant that needed chemical support is a poor candidate for your garden. Non-organic seeds  are also sometimes treated with chemicals to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus. This is because seedlings from these are in such poor health that they easily succumb to pathogenic attack. You cannot grow a nutrient dense product without the support of the soil microorganisms, so killing them is not recommended.

Lastly, I am located in eastern Washington and getting locally produced seed is always wise. This has two clear benefits. The first being that you’re supporting your local economy and not the economic interests of a pile of shareholders who could care less about your garden, and the second is that many of the seeds are already acclimated to the nuances of your particular climate. I encourage you to find some companies located near you too.

Seed sources I frequently use in the US Pacific Northwest, in no particular order:

And here are some others that I use, also in no particular order:


3 thoughts on “Favorite Seed Sources

  1. Hi Sean, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. I’ve also understood all the concepts you’ve illustrated, examples you’ve given, and i agree. I love your seed starting set up – mine is very similar. As a Spokane valley resident, master gardener, master composter, beekeeper, chicken keeper, and basically urban homesteader, as so dubbed by Juliet Sinistera (sp?), I’m not so much wanting the title of organic gardener (which is such a socially trendy thing) but rather that of being self reliant, researched, and a self sustaining homemaker.
    My true love is the tomato plant. From seed to harvest, this has been my focus for many years.
    One statement you’ve made in particular has me thinking. Something about the apple and the worm. If the apple is healthy enough for the worm, then ……. might get it misquoted here…..the apple …..isn’t healthy enough for us?????? Did i completely get it wrong? So what is your take on keeping pests away? Healthy enough plant so the pest wont be able to breach any ….uh…..what….perimeter, leaf, vine, or stem?
    I do try to use the pest management what’s the word, strategy, no….you know what I’m talking about. But sometimes, mother nature and other forces get iut of wack and the insect gets the best of it. Specifically, lag miners in my chard. Buggy cabbage. Spider mites or powdery mildew on my beans, or those little black bugs in my corn.
    So many things to take care of in my 75X30 ft garden.
    I have raised beds, ground, tiers, trellises, poles, pretty much an everything vegetable garden. I rotate properly, drip irrigate digitally, row cover some things, mulch mercilessly, and compost consistantly. I love it. I can all my bounty, freeze some, eat and share most of it. I don’t really have major problems, but I am interested in your pest control management strategy.
    Great writing Sean. Keep it up. I’ll follow. -Marilyn

    • Hi Marilyn, thank you for such a nice comment, your garden sounds amazing and certainly elaborate, how do you find the time to do all of that? In regards to the worm and the apple, indeed it is an interesting statement that I have been ruminating on for a year now as well, I was wondering if anyone would call that one out on me. I hope to elaborate on that idea more in a number of future posts. In short, there is a lot about the functions of insects that we know so little about, however what benefits an insects health may not the same substances and compounds that benefit our own. I am still a student in this complicated subject too and have much learning still to do.

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