Seed Catalogs: Gardeners' Wish Books
I, like most Missoula gardeners, have entered the “quiet time” of the gardening year. My vegetable and flower beds are mulched and resting. Leaves have been raked and composted. Delicate flower bulbs and tubers have been dug, cleaned and stored in a cool, dark place. Now, it’s time to dream about next spring’s planting and next summer’s bounty of food and flowers.
I start my winter garden dreams off with a journey through seed catalogs – the ultimate “wish book” for gardeners. While I receive many catalogs, I usually only order from three, and these are the ones I recommend to you: Fisher’s Garden Store, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Territorial Seed Company. Not only do these companies provide excellent seeds and garden supplies, they are either family or employee owned and operated – something of a rarity in today’s corporate and international conglomerate world that dominates American food production.
I like to order seeds that have been developed close to Missoula, or at least in a climate that approximates Missoula’s. Seeds developed for Georgia don’t seem to do as well here as seeds developed in colder, and drier, areas. My first catalog recommendation is for Fisher’s Garden Store in Belgrade, Montana. A small, family-run business, Fisher’s catalog offers vegetable and flower seeds and certified seed potatoes. They carry all the common vegetables my family likes: Sparkler radishes, Black-seeded Simpson lettuce, Tom Thumb lettuce, Early Wonder beets, Dwarf Gray sugar snow peas, Ox Heart carrots and Contender bush beans to name just a few. In addition to vegetables, Fisher’s offers an interesting selection of wildflower seed perfect for Montana garden and landscaping use. To request a catalog of your own, contact Fisher’s Garden Store at (406)388-6052 or write to PO Box 236, Belgrade, MT 59714. Fisher’s does not have an internet presence at this time.
The next catalog I recommend for a good wish book session is Johnny’s Selected Seeds from Waterville, Maine. Yes, I know Waterville, Maine is about as far East from Missoula as you can go, but this employee-owned company produces some great plant varieties that grow well here. One thing I especially like about Johnny’s is the option to purchase mini-packs of seed. For a gardener with a small space, this is a great way to try varieties without having left-over seed. Last year I tried Costata Romanesco zucchini and Sessantina Grossa Specialty broccoli. Both varieties provided my family with more food than we could eat! They offer many organic seeds and have some interesting hybrids; I especially enjoyed the Scarlet Queen Red Stemmed hybrid turnip last year. Johnny’s Selected Seeds can be contacted via email at email@example.com, phone 877-564-6697, or mail PO Box 299, Waterville, ME 04903. The website is located at www.johnnyseeds.com.
The last catalog recommendation I have is for the family owned Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, Oregon. One of the nicest aspects of the Territorial catalog is the detailed growing instructions and general plant information provided. Like Johnny’s, Territorial offers “sampler packs” of seeds and has both organic and traditional seeds available. Territorial offers many harder to find herbs and vegetables. In addition to the Nero Di Toscana Kale and Epazote I purchased from them last year, I also ordered packages of garden standards such as Kentucky Blue pole beans and Thumblina carrots. Like many seed companies, Territorial offers a complete line of season extenders from row covers to wall-of-water plant protectors. They also sell practical gardening and preserving books, perfect for winter reading when the days are short and the nights are long in Missoula. To contact Territorial Seed Company, visit their website at www.territorialseed.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 541-942-547, or write PO Box 158, Cottage Grove, OR 97424.
Happy New Year and Happy Garden Dreams to all!