Mail-Order Seeds: Variety, Viability, Value

By Jennifer Noonan | Published Mar 8, 2013 2:36 PM

Buy Seeds - Seed Packets

Photo: organicconnectmag

It couldn’t be easier to go out and buy seeds from the local nursery or the nearest home improvement store. A large selection is available at either venue. But there’s a much, much larger selection ready to order from seed catalogs and online vendors.

But why should you wait? And why should you pay shipping costs when you can get seeds so easily at the local grocery store?

Buy Seed - Seed Catalogs


Every gardener and garden is different, but compared to buying at a local nursery or home center, there are some distinct advantages to ordering seeds over the internet or by phone:

Variety. A retailer only has room to stock the most popular seed types. If you’re interested in rare or heirloom varieties—or special disease-resistant strains—you will only find them online or in seed catalogs.

Viability. Seeds sold in stores may not have been stored properly. As a result, germination rates of store-bought seeds can be inconsistent.

Value. If you have a large garden, ordering seeds from a catalog or online is often cheaper thanks to bulk discounts.

Buy Seeds - Online Vendors


Ordering seeds opens up so many new possibilities, plus it’s a lot of fun to browse and consider varieties you’ve never even heard of before. If you plan to order seeds, here are a a few things to keep in mind:

• Order enough seeds—over-order even. Not every seed will germinate, and there are always some plant losses due to weather, critters, and miscellaneous other threats.

• If possible, order seeds for your entire year’s gardening all at once, early in the season. That way, if there are seed shortages, you won’t be left without a crop that you were planning. With the downturn in the economy and the steady rise in food prices, many more people are attempting to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

• Choose to order from seed companies that are in your geographic or climatic region, since they will have the best information as to what varieties will succeed in your area’s conditions.

For more on gardening, consider:

Starting Tomatoes from Seed
How To: Plant a Vegetable Garden
So, What Is Your Local Extension Office, Anyway?