Is the print medium dead?
That’s always a question I hear when it comes to catalogs, but honestly, staring at a screen just don’t satisfy in the way that thumbing through a paper catalog, circling things with a pen, and dog-earing pages does.
I’m especially a sucker for a printed seed catalog. I devour it like a good book, curled up on the couch on a rainy day.
Page after page, the pictures and descriptions spring to life in my mind… Seedlings yawning and stretching in the morning sun, ruby red tomatoes (or are they yellow or purple or striped?) getting heavy on the vine, watermelons ripening just in time for picnics by a lake.
There’s a lot to look forward to with spring (and summer and fall) gardens, and it all begins in the pages of seed catalogs.
Here, I’ve gathered a list of the best seed catalogs you can order from this year (updated for the 2020 growing season).
While all of these companies have online stores for easy shopping, the recommendations below, in particular, still offer print catalogs that promise to brighten up your mailbox all winter long.
What makes these the best seed catalogs?
This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are plenty of other wonderful seed companies not mentioned here. But the first eight that I recommend are also the ones I’ve had the most experience with, whose seeds I’ve grown year after year with great success.
These are all ethical companies doing good work and they believe in promoting biodiversity in the food system. Their seeds have consistently great germination rates (more than 90 percent in most cases for me), and perhaps more importantly, they care about their customers and provide a high level of service.
The top seed catalogs for 2020
1. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Mansfield, MO)
If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know I’m a big fan of Baker Creek. (Disclosure: They’ve carried my cookbooks in their catalog and booked me to speak at their events in the past.)
Baker Creek specializes in heirloom seeds, many of which they grow and trial on their farm in Missouri. (Check out my behind-the-scenes tour of Baker Creek headquarters.)
Many of the plants I’ve profiled on my blog (like Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers (cucamelons), Romanesco broccoli, Purple of Romagna artichokes, fish peppers, and Black Futsu squash) came from Baker Creek seeds.
I love following the owner, Jere Gettle, on his Instagram. He often documents his travels around the world as he sources new seeds from small family farms and fruit stands on the side of the road. (I’ve always wondered how seed companies find some of their more exotic varieties… Well, now I know.)
The flagship Whole Seed Catalog is big and beautiful (over 400 pages!) and reads like a hefty magazine (kind of like the September issue of Vogue… but picture wide-grinned farmers instead of aloof supermodels).
It’s chock full of seed history, growing resources, recipes, and page after page of eye candy featuring more than 1,000 heirloom seed varieties (which, if you can believe it, is only a fraction of their full selection).
They also offer a free catalog upon request, or you can browse their selection online.
2. Kitazawa Seed Company (Oakland, CA)
This was one of the first seed companies I ever ordered from, and they continue to be an important source for many of the herb and vegetable seeds I sow each year.
Since 1917, Kitazawa has specialized in Asian seeds and their selection is vast for a specialty seed supplier (over 500 varieties of Asian vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers).
They carry seeds I’ve never seen anywhere else, like hard-to-find Vietnamese herbs, Japanese radishes, Korean gochujang peppers (the same kind that’s dried and ground to a powder for kimchi), and dozens of Chinese cabbage varieties. Flipping through their catalog makes me nostalgic for my family’s home cooking!
Kitazawa sends out a no-frills garden seed catalog every year, but you can also download it as a PDF.
3. Botanical Interests (Broomfield, CO)
I love ordering from Botanical Interests because their seed packets are beautiful and hands down, the best I’ve seen from any seed supplier.
Each packet features a detailed artist’s rendering of the plant in front. Peel open the packet and inside you’ll find a mini encyclopedia filled with an incredible amount of information on growing, harvesting, pest control, cooking tips, and plant history.
If you’re new to growing, you can’t go wrong with Botanical Interests because they’re truly invested in your success as a gardener.
They carry a curated selection of just over 600 varieties of organic, heirloom, and native seeds. You can request a seed catalog in the mail or browse a digital version online.
4. Seed Savers Exchange (Decorah, IA)
Much more than just a garden seed company, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit dedicated to preserving biodiversity in food crops.
They collect and store thousands of rare heirloom seed varieties in the country’s largest nongovernmental seed bank, and operate the world’s largest online seed exchange where members can search and swap open-pollinated seeds and plants.
If you’re in their neck of the woods, you can visit the display gardens and farm where a lot of their work takes place.
For everyone else, Seed Savers Exchange offers a beautiful print catalog and digital catalog, or you can shop their vegetable, herb, and flower seeds online.
5. Fedco Seeds (Clinton, ME)
Fedco is different from many other seed companies in that it’s a cooperative owned by its consumers and worker members, who share in the profits through annual dividends.
They’re also one of the few seed companies that specialize in cold hardy varieties (they’re based in the northeast, after all) and their seeds are specially adapted to harsh climates. So if you often struggle with producing a good crop, you’ll be interested in their short-season varieties.
I mostly know them for their seed selection, but Fedco also carries seed potatoes, onion sets, trees, and bulbs. They operate seasonally, which helps keep prices low.
Fedco prints three different catalogs for their various divisions. You can request a mail-order catalog, download a PDF version, or shop online.
6. High Mowing Organic Seeds (Wolcott, VT)
High Mowing Organic Seeds is one of the few garden seed companies that is 100 percent certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.
They also spearheaded the Safe Seed Pledge in 1999 and recruited nine other seed companies to sign a statement against genetic engineering. (The pledge has since been signed by more than 370 seed companies worldwide, including many on this list.)
High Mowing puts out consistently high-quality vegetable, fruit, herb, and flower seeds every year that are certified organic. (But don’t confuse organic with heirloom — the company sells open-pollinated heirlooms as well as hybrid seeds bred for flavor, yield, and disease resistance.)
Their seed catalog (available by mail and online) is unlike other garden seed catalogs in that it also features personal profiles on the growers, farmers, and gardeners who use their seeds. They’re a great bonus read!
7. Pinetree Garden Seeds (New Gloucester, ME)
Pinetree is new to me as a garden seed company, though they’ve been around for over 40 years. (Disclosure: They have sent me free seeds in the past, which is how I was introduced to them.)
I’ve only been using their seeds for the past couple of years, but have strong germination rates and productive harvests every time, so I feel confident in recommending them.
Pinetree Garden Seeds is a family-owned and operated business with an extensive catalog of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds (over 1,300 varieties), along with live plants, tubers, seed garlic, mushroom logs, gardening supplies, soap-making supplies, tea, spices, and books. It’s a bit mind-boggling how much they carry!
They have an excellent full-color catalog that you can request by mail, or you can browse their PDF catalog online.
8. Filaree Garlic Farm (Okanogan Valley, WA)
This seed company sets itself apart from traditional seed companies in that it specializes in seed garlic, shallot sets, onion sets, seed potatoes, sweet potato slips, and asparagus crowns.
In other words, their “seeds” have already been started for you. I’ve only ordered their seed garlic in years past (with great success in growing garlic, harvesting garlic, and curing and storing garlic), but am very tempted to try their other offerings.
They have one of the best garlic selections I’ve found and once you’ve grown your own, supermarket garlic just feels meh. (But I guess that can be said for everything else you grow yourself!)
Filaree Garlic Farm offers both a print and digital catalog, and they take preorders in spring for fall shipment. They do sell out of popular varieties, so start planning your fall garden now because you definitely don’t want to wait until summer to order!
More top seed companies with print catalogs
- Adaptive Seeds (Sweet Home, OR)
- Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (Hudsonville, MI)
- Harris Seeds (Rochester, NY)
- Hudson Valley Seed Company (Accord, NY)
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Winslow, ME)
- Park Seed (Hodges, SC)
- Richters (Goodwood, Ontario, Canada)
- Select Seeds (Union, CT)
- Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Mineral, VA)
- Sow True Seed (Asheville, NC)
- Strictly Medicinal Seeds (Williams, OR)
- Territorial Seed Company (Cottage Grove, OR)
- West Coast Seeds (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
Are there other great seed companies with printed catalogs I should collect? Let me know your favorite sources and I may add them in next year’s update!
Here’s how to decode your seed catalogs and figure out what all those abbreviations mean.
To get a jump start on the season, head to my no-fail guide to starting seeds indoors.