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The arrival of seed catalogs in the mailbox is the first sign of Spring in my book. They usually begin to arrive at the beginning of the year and I love nothing more than curling up with a hot cup of coffee, an ink pin, and some lofty goals for the new year’s garden. While I am certainly not a master gardener, I do love to tend my little plot of land every year. Each year’s garden is a little different. Some crops do well, others fail completely. The only constants are the bugs, the weeds, and the damn deer.
Gardening in the South can be especially challenging. Early warmings followed by late freezes are not uncommon and will decimate any fruit crops, or early plantings of corn or tomatoes. Some Summers can be especially miserable. Last year for example, it hit 90 degrees at the beginning of June and stayed there until October. And while plants like warm weather, 90+ degree weather can be just as miserable for the plants as it is for the gardeners (except for okra. Okra looooves heat). We struggle with high humidity which can bring in waves of mildew and fungus that will plague us all the way through the season. We won’t talk about the bugs except to say that we grow them bigger down here.
For all of these reasons, I have narrowed down my favorite seed companies for Southern gardeners. These companies offer varieties that are much better suited to gardens below the Mason Dixon line. Many have garden planners and zone finders that can make planning the perfect garden a little easier. I tend to stick to organic and non-gmo companies for my garden, mostly because I believe these varieties provide a much better flavor than those plants you find in the greenhouses of your local Home Depot.
#1 – Southern Exposure Seed Exchange – If you live in the south, then you will not find a seed company more tailored to your garden than Southern Exposure. Started in the early 80’s by a husband and wife team, Southern Exposure has prided themselves on providing heirloom and non-gmo seeds provided by their own network of small American farms. Their seeds are true to type and very high quality. They have over 700 varieties of seeds to offer and are adding more every year.
I will say that I get most of my seeds from SESE. Over the last couple of years I have found that I get the best bang for my buck from them, and their catalog is always my favorite one to receive in the mail.
#2 – Victory Seed Company – Victory Seeds has been around for a very long time. Specializing in heirloom, open-pollinated seeds, Victory Seeds are the die-hard preservationists of the seed world. Besides hard to find seeds like tobacco and grain crops, they also offer the gardener everything they would need for worm composting as well as some really awesome hand-forged traditional hand tools. I’ve been drooling over their Square Bladed Hand Garden Hoe. So if someone wanted to get me something for my birthday, now you know.
#3 – Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Although Johnny’s is geared more towards those who farm for a living, some of my favorite plants come from them. The really great thing about Johnny’s is that they also provide SO MUCH information on starting seeds and growing a garden, big or small. I have learned so much about things like weed prevention, bug control and row covers from their instructional videos and articles. Even their catalog is very thorough on the growing needs and challenges of each type of plant.
#4 – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – You really can’t talk about seed companies without talking about Baker’s Creek. They have really come on to the scene over the last few years and made heirloom gardening the cool thing to do. I don’t buy from them as much as I used to, although that isn’t because of quality or variety. Its been more about price for me. Baker’s Creek can be more expensive than many of the other companies, but if you are looking for something really unique then they are the people to buy from. They have recently added the option of purchasing live plants from them, which I am excited to try out.
#5 – Territorial Seed Company – I’m still pretty new to Territorial but I have really like what I have seen so far. I received their catalog in the mail when we moved into our new house. The owners before us must have been good customers since their names where the ones on the catalog. Besides having hundreds of different varieties of seeds, they have a large selection of live plants, mushrooms spawn, garlic and potatoes, as well as fruits and vines. You can really get anything you could ever need from them. I bought my garlic from them last year and so far it has faired very well. I am planning on checking out their seed tapes and possible getting a few fruit bushes from them too.
There are, of course, many many other companies out there. What are some of your favorite places to get your garden growing?