Posted by: hightides | January 20, 2010


Seed orders drive me insane.  On the one hand, I love seed catalogs. I love reading all the descriptions, looking at all the shiny pictures, deciding what we’ll trial this year.  On the other hand, the actual ordering is time consuming, expensive, and fraught with peril! (I’ve always wanted to include that phrase…)

The seed companies we buy from all carry the Dave’s Garden Watchdog* seal of approval. If they have negative reviews, we don’t buy from them. We don’t buy from many of the greats and former greats. We order from folks like Baker Creek, Heirloom Seeds, Victory Seeds, Southern Exposure and many others. We do order from a few market garden seed companies– those that sell whole ounces of pepper seeds or pounds of peas– but most of our seed comes from the same catalogs that home gardeners everywhere read and enjoy.

Then comes ordering time… yikes, what a project. I don’t spend this much time on my income taxes. 

By now I have memorized every catalog by its page layout– I don’t need to read the cover to know whose it is.  I can tell you how much each company charges for shipping and handling, how back ordered they are, and if they offer bulk prices for market growers. I can tell you if I’ve ordered from them before and what that order was. I can tell you who has the best-for-us Black Plum tomato seeds and who gives the most Jalapeño seeds for a dollar. I know how many seeds are in a 1/4 ounce, a gram, and a quarter pound. (This is good if you order from Johnny’s because they use all three to sell their seeds.)

And then we get to today– the actual ordering day.  By tonight I will have spent over $600 on seeds for the coming year. Eight seed companies will begin processing our orders and, as early as next week, the seeds will start to arrive in boxes, padded envelopes, and small packets.  Our database will begin to bulge with descriptions, days to maturity, soil preferences, and color/size/shape info. Charts will appear on the walls and planting lists for each week will be taped to the big wall calendar.

A bright side of seeds– we have seed-swapping friends all over the world.  These seed friends will send little homemade envelopes of seeds to try, just as we send little sample packets to them.  Some we’ve carefully harvested, dried, and saved; some we’ve ordered a few extra to spread the wealth. Our farthest seeds came from Israel, the closest from right here in Middleberg. Tiny gifts that won’t be truly opened until the fruit is ripened in mid-summer. 

And then the weather or the smell of the air or a breeze from the south says it’s time for the first seeds to be planted in the trays. Hundreds of miniscule bits will go into 288s (a seed-starting tray that holds 288 seeds), 72s, and 108s. Covers are fitted. Trays are slid into the germination shelves. Planting is recorded on a clipboard that will be bulging by mid-March. Soil is bought, mixed, packed into pots for the next batch.

It’s spring.




  1. Glad I’m not a big market gardener like you are. I’d never get to be that organized…and it probably would take away some of the fun of gardening and make it feel more like a j-j-j-j-j-ob.

  2. Great post. I felt the same way about my seed order, and I didn’t get nearly the same amount as you! It’s all worth it though!

  3. By golly, it IS my job! And I thought I was getting ready to retire! 🙂

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