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10 Heirloom Seed Companies You Don’t Want to Miss

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Heirloom seed companies have been making a comeback, but what exactly are heirloom seeds, and where the best place to buy them?

I'm sharing my favorite seed companies, plus reader recommendations and some unique seed sources to investigate. These heirloom seed companies will help you bring old fashioned flavors, scents, and colors back to your garden for beautiful and delicious crops.

heirloom seeds

What are Heirloom Seeds?

Many heirloom seeds are literally family heirlooms. These seed varieties have been passed down through generations in a family or community, adapting to the local conditions.

Some people say the term only applies to varieties developed before WWII, others are more flexible.

Heirloom varieties are open pollinated. This means that when properly isolated from other varieties, they breed true to the parent plant. This allows you to save seeds from year to year.

The book “Heirloom Vegetables: A Home Gardener's Guide to Finding and Growing Vegetables from the Past” has gorgeous photos of many heirloom vegetables. It's an older book, so used copies are inexpensive.

What's the Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom Seeds?

Hybrid seeds are a cross between two or more different varieties, while heirloom seeds are from a single variety.

Some vegetable seeds are open pollinated (they breed true to type), but are not heirlooms because they have not been around a long time.

Why do seeds companies sell so many hybrid seeds?

Generally, hybrids are bred for disease resistance, higher yields, uniform appearance, durability, and other traits useful for commercial growers. If you have a pest or disease problem, a hybrid might be the right answer while you work to improve overall garden health.

“Hybrid” does not mean genetically modified. Most hybrid crops are bred the old fashioned way, with two plant varieties mixing pollen.

Currently, the only genetically modified garden crops are corn, potatoes, summer squash, and soybeans. The companies in this article do not sell genetically modified seeds.

10 Best Places to Buy Heirloom Seeds

These are my favorite seed sources, plus reader favorites and one we want to try.

Note: Many heirloom seed companies are experiencing higher than normal order volumes. Please be patient with your orders, and allow extra time for delivery.

1. Pinetree Garden Seeds

Pinetree Garden Seeds – I've been ordering from Pinetree the longer than any other company. They are located in New Gloucester, Maine.

Their prices are reasonable, and they give smaller quantities of seed in each packet so you don't end up carrying over so much seed from one year to the next if you have a smaller garden.

2. Fedco Garden Seeds

Fedco Seeds – Their prices are very affordable, they carry a large number of varieties, and they source from ecologically sound growers – no GMOs here. They are located in Clinton, Maine.

Their catalog is not flashy – it's printed on plain newsprint, all black and white – but their variety descriptions are tops. They point out which varieties store best, are best in certain recipes, and are resistant to various garden problems. They also give troubleshooting tips.

3. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – Baker Creek has gorgeous photos in the print catalog and online. They have many unusual heirloom seeds and open-pollinated varieties.

Their headquarters is in Mansfield, Missouri.

4. Seed Treasures

Reader recommended Seed Treasures is located off grid in Northern Minnesota, a plus for northern growers. They specialize in preserving heritage open pollinated seeds. Some are heirloom seeds, others Native American crops or modern open pollinated varieties.

5. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange carries about 800 varieties of vegetables, flower, herb, grain, and cover crop seeds. Located in Mineral, Virginia, they specialize in varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

They are certified organic, and offer many unique southern heirlooms like butterbeans and naturally colored cotton.

6. Stover Seeds Company

Stover Seed Company is located in Sun Valley, California, and features water wise choices and vegetables and herbs for western climates. They also sell large quantities of native forbs and grasses for landscaping.

7. St. Clare Heirloom Seeds

St. Clare Heirloom Seeds is located in Cecil, Wisconsin. They only sell non-hybrid, untreated, heirloom and open pollinated garden seeds. Their website is conversational, with things like suggestions for use of heirloom flowers. They are a conservative, family run company.

8. High Mowing Organic Seeds

High Mowing seeds is located in Walcott, Vermont. They offer 100% certified organic seed. One unique section of their site is their crops that grow well in high tunnels, a useful option for market gardeners.

9. Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange – I love the idea of Seed Savers Exchange, and they have a beautiful and inspiring catalog. Unfortunately, not all the seeds I've ordered from them have had the quality I expect from a seed company.

Germination rates have been poor, squash that were supposed to store well stored poorly (they were the first to rot in storage our of six varieties).

Plants have failed to thrive (right next to similar plants from other seeds sources. Tomatoes that were described as crack resistant cracked worse than any others in my garden (and I grow around 20 varieties).

When I emailed with my concerns, I received no response.

10. Experimental Farm Network

The Experimental Farm Network Cooperative seed store is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most of their seeds are grown in Minnesota and New Jersey. As an experimental seed developer, they have varieties I have not seen for sale anywhere else.

heirloom seed catalogs

Did I miss your favorite heirloom seed company? Do you have other questions about garden seeds? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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Originally posted in 2011, last updated in 2021.

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39 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Laurie – I always swoon when i see your planting list. Someday I might have more space to garden…but I love vicariously gardening through your blog and facebook posts!
    xo!

  2. lol – sometimes I swoon when I see my planting list, too, but I don't think it's for the same reason. 🙂 My mache and spinach survived the winter, so hopefully if it ever warms up a bit I'll have more fresh greens kicking in soon.

    Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  3. Those are some of my favorites too, except Seeds of Change. I don't have a problem with their seeds, but the company is owned by Mars, who I am not comfortable supporting.

  4. Shannon – I hear you. The last seeds I bought from them were Swan Lake melons, which are a lovely marbled orange and green inside and very tasty, but I don't order from them regularly anymore.

  5. I appreciate your attention to detail. This particular post is extremely useful. I just came back from the store with at least a thousand seeds. I feel so overwhelmed about organization. Where in the world do I start? I want to be able to keep up with the maintenance and also the effectiveness of my heirloom seeds versus these “organic” seeds I have purchased. I’m a new gardener and I don’t wish to waste inexperience on my precious heirloom seeds. Then, of course, I’ll need to keep track of my seeds from harvesting. What a chore!

    1. Hi Bonnie! Take a deep breath. 🙂 The seeds don’t care how meticulous your records are – they just want to grow. There are lots of different ways to track things, so you need to find what works best for you. Confession – I am not a great record keeper. I’d rather be knee deep in the project instead of tracking the project. I largely garden intuitively, simply remembering from year to year what worked and what didn’t. That said, there are a couple of things I do track.

      Germination rates on seedlings started inside – I make up a simple spreadsheet showing date planted, variety, seed source, number of seeds, number of cells, date of first seedlings, date of later seedlings, # of seedlings, date of transplant. Because I keep seeds from year to year and buy from different sources, this helps me track bad seed and lets me know when to plant a little thicker to make up for lower germination.

      Simple Garden Chart – I have a hand drawn diagram of my garden, and I label what was planted in each area from year to year. This allows me to rotate crop families and plant heavy feeders in areas that have been more recently manured. (My neighbor brings over several loads of rotted manure each year, and that rotates through the garden along with the crops.)

      I keep my seeds in plastic shoe boxes, and bundle “like” seeds together. I grow over 100 different varieties of this and that, so I’ll just start working my way through a type of something, say carrots, for instance, in a block planting. I make a block 3 feet wide, and mark rows in it about one foot across (so I end up with a series of three foot long rows). I’ll plant two rows of Atomic Red carrots, a row of radishes, two rows of White Satin carrots, a row of kohlrabi, two rows of Scarlet Keeper carrots, a row of turnips, and so on, until I end up with a large bed of root veggies. I may put some annual flowers or herbs along an edge or mixed in. That way, I can compare the growth habits almost side by side, but not mix the different varieties up. The more you work in your garden, the more you’ll get a feel for how much space you need and how much of a fruit or veggies you use.

      If strict record keeping is your thing, put together a loose leaf binder and make some pre-printed forms in a spreadsheet format. Anything you can do to make record keeping easier will make it more likely to happen. Don’t stress over the details so much that you forget to enjoy your garden. That’s one of the best parts. 🙂

  6. Hi there! Just ran into your site and I’m really enjoying perusing it. Some other seed sites I recommended are, Territorial Seed Co. (carries some good OP varieties, even some from our good Dr. Kepuler) and a little seed-saver, Annapolis Seeds. I love Baker Creek too, and thanks for the Fedco tip!

  7. I bought seeds from Seed Savers Exchange last year and had a poor germination rate as well….Live and Learn.

    Thank you for all of the tips!

  8. SO happy to see Fedco at the top of your list! We have been extremely satisfied with this company and have gotten to the point where we buy almost 90% of our seeds from them…tho we always have to give a few of the Baker Creek beauties a spot in the garden and a local company supplies us with heat-tolerant tomato seeds.

    Also, a big ‘ditto’ on your issues with Seed Savers Exchange….love the idea and their commitment to heirloom vegetables, but have had disappointing results as far as germination rates.

      1. I completely agree. It’s fun to plan a garden. It helps relieve the cabin fever I get from living outside of the mountains. The catalogs we use are Vermont Bean Co., Totally Tomatoes, Maine Potato Lady, Richters, and Bakers Creek. Bakers Creek is my favorite of them all! Thanks for the tips on fedco and pinetree!

        1. I just got a catalog of seeds by the former owner of Vermont Bean Seed Company. That means that someone bought them out, as well. I think it was Jung’s Seeds. I have not been nearly as satisfied with them since they started acquiring other companies either. The new catalog seems promising. It is called SeedsnSuch. The front of the catalog claims untreated and non GMO seeds. They have several pack sizes that seem to favor the home gardener. I will let you know my experience if I order from them!

  9. I’ve done organic gardening with heirloom seeds for years. Totally agree, Seeds of Change appears to be a part of the takeover of our heirloom and organic companies by big corporations in their attempt to strip us of our control over our food and money. Sad, isn’t it? I bookmarked your recommended sites and placed an order today with Baker- very exciting! Looking forward to having new varieties to grow in my ever-growing aquaponics system.

    Love your article, I’ll have to mention it in my blog about aquaponics, organic food, and sustainability – http:aquaponicsdiyguide.com

    You’ve given a lot of good info in one posting! Thank you

  10. The Kitagawa seed company has a large inventory of Asian plants. They will mail you a catalog , which has Asian recipes in the back.

      1. Kitazawa Seed Company: Asian Vegetable Seeds, Oriental Vegetables Seed
        http://www.kitazawaseed.com/index.html

        Oakland, California; founded in 1917 in San Jose, California; forced to relocate due to WWII internment.

        They carry a mix of open pollinated and hybrid varieties; the hybrid varieties are clearly marked.

    1. Well ma’am, I’m a gardener, not a mind reader. Maybe it’s a translation issue, but I couldn’t clearly understand what happened to cause your seeds/plants to die. There are many ways to kill plants and seedlings.

      If you can describe in detail how your plants/seeds died, I might be able to offer more useful information, but the easiest thing for you to do might be to find a local gardener and show them the plants and describe what happened. It’s a lot easier to diagnose a problem when you can see it.

  11. I have ordered from Mary’s Heirloom and she is very helpful and very personable. She is down to earth and she is growing as a company. I think they have over 400 seed varieties and she takes the safe seed pledge. Love your common sense information and love the shortened name. 🙂

  12. Living in SC, I have used the seed company Sow True Seeds. They are based in Asheville, NC. They have a smaller than usual selection, but it is still wonderful and very useful for someone growing in a mountainous area, as they have certain varieties that do well in those conditions.
    I’ve pre-ordered my garlic and potatoes from them for this year.

    They are a small company that is very responsive to their customers. I also second the company Pinetree Seeds. I have had wonderful germination from them and appreciate the smaller quantities in the packs asking with the price to go with them!

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