Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Seed Catalogue Season!

Here we go... the start of the gardening season! At least the planning part, which is always exciting because all your ideas and dreams have not yet collided with reality. This post is starting to be a tradition, where I review various more-or-less local seed companies (well, Canadian anyway) and talk about some of the things I'm looking forward to trying next year as well as some of the new items people are listing generally. I'm finding it a bit complicated this year by the fact that I have been trading a lot of seeds this winter and have a fairly short list of seeds to buy as a result. Doesn't stop me from drooling over all the possibilities though...

However, as always, if you are looking to find a particular variety in Canada, the first place to look is the list of seeds sold in Canada in the last year, maintained by Seeds of Diversity. This has been so useful to me over the years.

Annapolis Seeds, out of Nova Scotia, has a good selection of peas, as always. Looks like Owen Bridges spent some time in New Zealand last year, and he has a selection of new varieties that he picked up there. Tasmanian Chocolate and Hawke's Bay Yellow tomatoes sound interesting. So do Graham's Goodkeeper (a storage tomato) and Absinthe, a green-when-ripe beefsteak tomato. How about Italian Red Parella lettuce, Blooming Prairie dry beans, and more soy beans than I've seen anywhere else. I think for peas this year I will try The Pilot, Ne Plus Ultra, Yorkshire Hero and Lancashire Lad. We grew his White Bush Lebanese zucchini last year, and I think it was good... a few did survive the bugs. (Which is as well as anything did last year.) He's now accepting PayPal which will make ordering easier.

To their usual strong collection  The Cottage Gardener has added British Wonder Peas, Brun d'hiver Lettuce, Marizol Gold, Ropreco, Sandul Moldovan and Savignac Tomatoes, Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash, White Egg Turnip, and Winningstadt Cabbage, amongst other things. Regulars include Blue Jay Beans, Coloured Carrot Mix, Amish Melon, Early Hanover Melon, Moon & Stars Watermelon, Lucullus Swiss Chard, and many, many tomatoes.

Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes remains Canada's best supplier of unusual potatoes. What else to say? Their new varieties for this year are Yellow Finn, Rode Eersteling, Seglinde, and Duke of York, but I'm probably still stuck on Pink Fir Apple, Purple Viking, German Butterball and Russet Burbank "Netted Gem".

There is a huge list of tomatoes (420 tomatoes!) to be found at Greta's Organic Gardens; in fact she's strong with all the solanacea family, and the lists of melons, squash and cucumbers are not to be sneezed at either. There's a surprising amount of tobacco, if that's your thing. There's Flageolet Beans, Littleleaf Cucumbers (hard to find, nowadays), Morden Midget Eggplants, Dupuy Lentils, Freckles Lettuce, Jenny Lind Melons, Tunisian Baklouti Peppers, and much more.

Hawthorn Farm is another good, small Ontario company. They don't seem to have updated their catalogue for 2013 at the time of posting this, but I expect they are likely to still have such goodies as Tongue of Fire Beans, Trionfo Violetto Beans, True Red Cranberry Beans, Purple Peacock Broccoli, Red Express Cabbage, Perfection Fennel, Brown Golding Lettuce, Meeting Place Organic Farm Snowpeas, Costata Romanesco Zucchini, Nutter Butter Squash, German Striped, Polish Linguisa, Stupice (the earliest reliable!) and many other tomatoes. Also Blacktail Mountain watermelon, reckoned one of the earliest and most cold resistant varieties.

As ever, Heritage Harvest Seeds has a list I can pour over for hours. They have strong collections of tomatoes, beans, melons, lettuce, peas, beets, radishes... all kinds of things. Gnadenfeld Melons, Dolloff Beans and Sweet Siberian watermelon are all very successful seeds I've gotten there. This year she seems to be interested in amaranth and quinoa, with some new selections of those. I'm looking at Iroquois Cornbread Bean, Hidatsa Shield Figure or Snowcap Beans, Deacon Dan Beets, Amish Bottle Onion, Yellow Carrot-Rooted Radish, Carter's Daisy Peas, Champion of England Peas, and Sutton's Harbinger Peas. Prices are a little higher here than some places, so look around before ordering from here.

Hope Seeds is another Nova Scotia company, They don't seem to  have their 2013 offerings up yet, but they should be up soon. I expect to see lots of their east-coast heirlooms back though; things like Baie Verte Indian Bean, Goose Gullet Bean,  Jacob's Cattle Bean, Tante Alice Cucumber, Long Pie Pumpkin, Tribes Tobique Tomato and Gilfeather Rutabaga. But plenty of other things too, like Golden Grex Beets, Falstaff Red Brussels Sprouts, Red Express Cabbage, and Golden Midget Watermelon.

Out in Manitoba, Mandy's Greenhouses has a small but interesting selection of seeds. Look for Dedo's Day & Night Beans, Golden Lima (not a lima bean, apparently!), MacGregor's Favourite Beet, Black Aztec Corn, Knight and Mummy White Peas, German Giant and Saxa Radishes, Kral Russian Parnips and Petrowski Turnips... Whew!

Mapple Farm in New Brunswick has a few seeds, but they are mostly known for their roots, especially sweet potatoes. But they also have Jerusalem artichokes, crosnes and horseradish. Unfotunately, Greg Wingate required a hip operation last year and they are short on stock this year... so order early!

Ontario Seed Company is one of Ontario's two remaining older, well-established companies. I just realized last year what a fabulous collection of prairie plants and grasses they have, and their prices are extremely reasonable. In the veggie line, they have expanded their range of oriental vegetables this year; otherwise they have their usual good list of locally tested varieties including Soldier Beans, Early Wonder Beet (our most reliable red), Lemon Cucumber, Black Beauty Eggplant, Red Russian Kale, Crimson Sweet Watermelon, Sweet Banana and Cubanelle Peppers, and many more. This is the place to find all the staples, especially if you are on a budget. However, if you are avoiding F1 hybrids, double check - not all of theirs are labelled as such. Some of their seeds are from Seminis (Monsanto).

Prairie Garden Seeds in Saskatchewan is another very interesting place. I find the site somewhat difficult to read, and it is one of the few places you will still need to order by mail and pay by cheque. Packaging is, uh, handmade. However, prices are great and you will get things here that are very hard to find elsewhere. In particular if you want garden-sized quantities of heritage grains, this is THE place. Also if you want Canadian-bred tomatoes, Jim Ternier has the best selection out there, and what's more $1 from each packet goes to Seeds of Diversity's Tomato Project. I originally acquired Arikara Beans, Kahl Beans, Amish Snap Peas, and Pfalzer Yellow Carrots here. His beans are some of the best for quantity to price ratio. There's still much more to explore here...

Solana Seeds, out of Quebec, is very strong on hot peppers - unusual in Canadian seed catalogues, but they also have a large collection of sweet peppers, tomatoes, melons, and unusual items. Look for Kamo Eggplant, Shangai Pac Choy, Montreal and Oka Melons, Navajo Sweet Watermelon, Ancho, Anaheim, Espelette and Padrone Peppers, Tinda (Squash), Achocha, Huauzontle, Jicama, Sorghum, purple tomatillos, and more. I didn't even look at the tomatoes yet - pages of them. The website is in English, but seed packets will be in French.

One of the first of the new wave of small local seed houses was Terra Edibles. They still have an impressive tomato list, and a good selection of beans. lettuces, melons and squash. Look for Listada de Gandia Eggplant, Red Sails, Tennis Ball and Yugoslavian Red Lettuces, Charentais melon, Spanish Skyscraper Pea, Fish Pepper, Jimmy Nardello Pepper, Kakai Seed Pumpkin, and Tatume Climbing Zucchini. Also Apricot, Cosmonaut Volkov, Dr. Wyche's Yellow, Ildi, Jaune Flamme, Osu Blue, Persimmon, Wapsipinicon Peach, and many more tomatoes. If you are interested in sweet peas (the flower, not the vegetable) they have a nice selection of old varieties.

Somehow I just discovered Tree & Twig last year and so haven't had a chance to order from them yet. Looks like they have a strong collection of brassicas, including Romanesco, Piracicaba and Solstice broccolis, and gad! They're sold out of Spigiarello already! I wanted that. Oh well, next year. There's Poona Keera Cucumber, Ping Tung Eggplant, Orangeglo Watermelon, Purple Beauty Peppers, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash, Red Round Turnip, and a few tomatoes including Black Cherry and Pineapple.

Last but not least is William Dam Seeds, the other old reliable local supplier. In addition to checking them first for good-priced seeds, they are our favoured source of fertilizers, seed starting trays, bean trellis mesh and other garden essentials. We love Guelph Milennium Asparagus, Blue Lake S-7 Beans, Chioggia Guardsmark and Touchstone Gold Beets, Amsterdam Maxi Carrots, Claytonia Miner's Lettuce, Early Yellow Globe Onions, Norli Snow Peas, Tall Telephone Peas, Ostergruss Rosa Radishes, Viroflex Giant Winter Spinach, Waltham Butternut Squash, Bright Lights Swiss Chard and Goldana Turnips. I'm going to try Telegraph Improved Cucumbers this year, along with Lucullus Swiss Chard and Amsterdam Cutting Celery. I'm getting a bit frustrated with regular celery; it doesn't love our dry sandy soil, and why should it? Check for unlabelled F1 hybrids. Some of their seeds are from Seminis (Monsanto).


K said...

Thanks for the great list! I've ordered from Linda at Tree& Twig for a few years now - she's just down the road from me (well, 45 minutes down the road, but still close!), and her seeds and service are great!

I've ordered from a few others on your list, but I'll have to check out the rest - thank again!!

Hiker said...

FYI both Ontario Seeds and Wm Dam are dealers of Monsanto(Seminis)
In a personal communication Wm Dam Jr. says he is not worried about their being involved with GMO seed production, he is only concerned because they are discontinuing long term productive varieties?!

Ferdzy said...

Hiker; yes, I mentioned that in my post. It's up to people to decide whether they try to avoid just Monsanto products or anyone who deals with them.

I'm glad you wrote the Dams. I always mean to do things like that and so rarely get sufficiently organized.

Chez Nous Farms said...

Great list! Such a shame about the 2 companies that carry the Seminis seeds. A new place that i have tried this year is Eagleridge Seeds. I have been happy with their service. We don't have any seeds for sale yet(coming soon!) but we do have seedlings to order and pick up, I haven't looked into shipping them yet. Just found your blog recently it's great!

Unknown said...

Great list, thanks. I'd also add soggy creek seed company in Nippissing. Their lettuce seed were the most robust of any i grew last year in Ottawa.