Now that I have some more gardening experience under my belt, I feel comfortable sharing my experiences with a few seed companies I have dealt with, now that seed purchasing season is upon us.  Keep in mind I refer to heirlooms when discussing selection/variety.  Opinion, not a paid review.

The BEST

1.  Baker's Creek www.rareseeds.com

Why they kick ass:

  1. Seed count highest of all I have tried, even though Baker's Creek is not the most expensive seed purveyor.  Expect a minimum of 10% more seeds than advertised.
  2. Selection.  The best.  Only one catalog I've seen has a better selection of tomato and pepper seeds and the quality and seed count of that competitor is pure crap.  They will be discussed far lower on the list.
  3. Variety.  The best for most products.  I bought banana seeds this year.  Banana.
  4. Free seeds with even the small orders.  A few other catalogs offer free seeds with orders (good PR and way to get rid of less popular seeds, imo) but I like what I get from Baker's Creek better.
  5. Quality.  Their seeds germinate.
  6. Few issues compared to volume of purchase.  The raspberries I wanted did not do well so the order was canceled.  Had to pursue to get a specific reason.  Also one packet of tomatoes had two different types.  Turned out the type I got were better than advertised but I acknowledge I got lucky.  I've ordered well over a 100 different items from rareseeds.com.  If those are my only issues, not too heartbroken nor disappointed.
  7. The catalogs!  In color.  Quality paper.  It is one of the earlier catalogs to arrive, makes my day to get it.  I settle in with it, blissfully happy.
  8. Love the product reviews. They ask you to reveal location information with your review, beyond zone.  Same zone doesn't mean same climate.  Wet -v- Dry matters.
  9. Brand philosophy is similar to my personal philosophy, which makes me want to support their business.

Negatives:  I wish they would list zone and more specific pepper Scoville/heat information.  They, understandably, do not post that info as these indicators are not finite, but I'd still like some guidance.  My mild or hot pepper is likely different than yours.  Zones are imprecise per climate change and microclimate.    My official climate is 4b/5a yet I can still grow a few items not meant for a zone lower than 6.  But I'd like to know if it's worth pushing it.  This lack of info results in additional time for me to research elsewhere.

2.  Johnny's Select Seeds www.johnnyseeds.com

  1. Catalog has the most detailed How to Grow section of any catalog I have seen.  Most informative catalog.  I felt like I had to order something just to reward them for the care and helpfulness of the information they put in the darn catalog!
  2. Selection.  Rivals Baker's Creek for some products I am looking for.  
  3. Seed Count.  Average.
  4. Lettuce/Greens selection and variety the best.
  5. Quality.  No issues, good germination rate.

Negative:  Cost.  Wow.  You are going to pay for these seeds.  Double what you would pay elsewhere.  

The REST

3.  Pinetree Seeds

Cost.  These seeds are the cheapest.  Keep in mind, however, that the seed count is much lower.  I would recommend Pinetree for the small gardener. You are only getting the number of seeds listed on the product description and not one more.  Not only that, the seed count is lower than most.  Germination is good.  Selection/variety what you would expect for a small company.  Not impressive.  But a small company with a stellar reputation.

4.  Territorial

Seed counts are good.  You will likely get a few more seeds than product advertised. Selection and variety are pretty good.  Quality is average.  Cost is a bit on the pricier side.   The catalog is ok.  Baker's Creek spoiled me.  

5.  R.H. Shumway. 

Love the old-timey feel.  I wish there were actual pictures of the product but hard to keep the authenticity of the brand with high-quality color pictures.  I get it.  Prices compete with Pinetree for the lowest.  They have some penny deals we take advantage every year.  Seed count is average.  Variety and selection is very low.  Not the volume of product reviews I prefer.  Quality of product is good.

6.  Burpee. 

Variety and selection of the basics very good.  Prices a bit higher.  Catalog quality is very good, for hybrids.  Seed quality good.  I just really prefer the interesting things Baker's Creek offers and Baker's Creek brand philosophy.  

 

Just NO

7.  Totally Tomato.  UGH.  So excited when I received the catalog.  Best variety of tomatoes and pepper I have ever seen. Prices average.  But then I got my seeds.  Lower germination rate than any of the other seeds I've worked with.  Seed count was not impressive, but they will give you more seeds if they deem the quality of the seeds to be lower.  No thanks.  If I pay for it, I expect to have a decent germination rate.  Will never order from Totally Tomatoes again.