I’m a part of an online gardening group that has exploded with activity since last year’s pandemic began. There are so many new gardeners and with that comes many more people buying local seeds and seedlings.
I know last year, I got a late start on my garden/seeds. When I went out to buy seeds and seedlings, nearly everything was wiped clean. I learned my lesson and started ordering from seed companies late in the summer to be better prepared for this year’s garden.
Who doesn’t love to look through seed catalogs and carefully select the varieties of vegetables that will adorn the garden.
Today. I’m sharing with you a list of sources to buy your heirloom garden seeds online.
I generally try to save my seeds, but there are definite benefits to buying seeds as well.
But before I get into my sources, you may be wondering what the difference is between heirloom, organic, open-pollinated, and hybrid seeds. If you’ve seen these terms in your seed catalog or on your seed packets and been confused, today I’m going to dispel the mystery.
These seeds are known as “old” seeds that are at least 40 years old, and they are passed down from generation to generation through open pollination. This open pollination has been done naturally and without intentional changes to the plant/fruit’s characteristics. As a result, the plants have had slight characteristic changes over time. Many of these changes are super beneficial because they may make the plant more suited to climate changes, new diseases, or pests. These are hardy seeds and, by far, my favorite. (See below where I discuss open-pollinated seeds). Heirloom seeds are the most common seeds saved by gardeners. They are non GMO and very popular for seed exchanges. Not only that, but I LOVE some of the heirloom varieties of tomatoes, (Dr. Wyche and Cherokee Purple come to mind).
Organic seed farmers cultivate seeds with extreme care to ensure no chemical exposure to the plants and subsequent fruit. It costs a pretty penny for the certification, and the seeds tend to be more expensive.
Plants that are pollinated by insects, birds, wind, etc., produce open-pollinated seeds. The fruit from this type of seed can produce new seeds that are quite a bit different from the original seed. The fruit’s seed can change so drastically because the little bee pollinating your blossoms travels from plant to plant and will likely cross-contaminate the pollen and genetic makeup to another plant. Thus, you end up with a different variety. Not all open-pollinated seeds are heirlooms.
A word of warning if you are growing open-pollination seeds for seed-saving. You will NOT notice contamination in the pollination until you plant that fruit’s seed and get the new offspring (this is the 2nd generation of the original seed).
To illustrate this, let me tell you what happened last year. My friend gave me some spaghetti squash seed to plant. I thought all was well, but the fruit the seed produced looked like zucchini-colored spaghetti squash.
For this reason, you will want to take more precautions when saving these seeds for next year’s garden since cross-pollination results are unpredictable.
These types of seeds are intentionally cross-bred to produce more desirable fruit. This doesn’t been they are genetically modified or engineered seed. It just means the seed has been cross-bred to produce a better product, more uniform shape, disease-resistant, etc. This is NOT a bad thing in itself. Hybrids are created in a lab, and the seed produced by these plants should not be saved for future gardens.
For example, check out this article and see what these fruits used to look like many years ago.
These seeds are most often cultivated for commercial growers. You will see hybrids everywhere for home gardeners too because their crops are much more predictable and controlled.
Now you know what kind of seeds you’d like to buy, here are some of my favorite sources for buying heirloom seeds online. Many of these places also sell organic seeds.
Online Sources for Heirloom Seeds
If you are looking for other online sources, below are the shops with a great seed selection, but they either have very few heirloom seeds.
Online Sources for Hybrid/Organic Seeds
- Jung Seed
- Brim Seed
- Park Seed
- Johnny’s Seed (they are currently not accepting orders from non-commercial gardeners)
Do you guys have any other favorite websites to order your seeds from? If so, please share in the comments.