Seed Selection Made Very, Very Simple

Heather, a friend of mine and a fellow blogger over at Queen Bee Coupons, emailed me last week and said,

I’m completely overwhelmed by the options in the seed catalogs. I just want you to tell me what to order. I want simple and I want a little bit of everything – a selection of varieties you already know grow well. I don’t mind spending $100 on seeds but I don’t know how to pick the best ones. Could you do a post like that? You could do different price points for gardeners with different budgets - $50, $100, $150 for example.

What?! You mean not everyone loves spending dozens of hours every spring, geeking-out with seed catalogs, comparing different varieties, cross-referencing days to maturity and weighing the practical pros and cons of determinate vs. indeterminate tomatoes?

As hard as it was for me to believe, Heather assured me that, yes, there are people who just want someone to hand them a list and make their seed selection very, very simple.

Ask and ye shall receive.

Seed Selection Made Very Simple

Scroll Down For The Best Seed Collections By Price Point.

About These Collections

These collections are my recommendations for reliable, delicious varieties, chosen from the offerings at High Mowing Organic Seed. High Mowing is my sponsor, and they are a great company to support. If you want 10o% simple, you can pick the price point that’s right for you, go straight down the list, buy these varieties and not have to put another thought into your seed selection.

Everyone’s ideal garden looks different, though, so you can also use these lists as a jumping off place at High Mowing or your seed house of choice, and customize them as you like. At every price point, these lists contain a diversity of flavorful veg and can help you structure this year’s seed order.

I’ve tried to select varieties that have been particularly easy to grow and successful for me in the Pacific Northwest. If you also grow in a cool-summer climate, these varieties are adaptable enough that I think you’ll be very successful growing them.

However, if you garden where it’s quite hot, these varieties may not be ideal for the challenges and advantages of your climate. For example, I am partial to peppers that will ripen with few summer heat units – something gardeners in the Southwest aren’t concerned about.

I know many of my readers are like me and love the process of narrowing down the annual seed selection. If that’s you, tell me how you think I did with these varieties! Do you agree with my favorites? Disagree? What would you add?

And if that’s not you – if the seed selection process is just overwhelming, I hope very much that these lists make it a little easier.


$50 Collection

This has a little bit of most everything, and is designed to give you something to reliably harvest three-seasons out of the year (four in mild winter areas). While this collection doesn’t give you the opportunity to try five different tomatoes, the varieties here are the perfect core garden for folks with limited space or time who still want to grow many different types of vegetables.

Very Simple Seed Selection

If purchased at High Mowing, one packet of each of these varieties will total $50.05. To quickly add these varieties over at High Mowing, use the Quick Order feature.

Vegetable Variety Item # Pkt. Price
Beans: Provider (Reliable, early bush snap, excellent yields) 2210 $2.75
Beets: Red Ace F1 Hybrid (Reliable, well formed, sweet earthy flavor, one of my favorites) 2285 $2.75
Broccoli: Belstar F1 Hybrid (One of my favorites, 3+ season harvest with succession sowing, can be spaced fairly close, poor side-shoot production) 2302 $3.40
Cabbage: Deadon F1 Hybrid (Fall, winter harvest, hardy savoy, best flavor) 2353 $4.20
Carrots: Yaya F1 Hybrid (Best flavor, Nantes-type. 3+ season harvest) 2336 $2.75
Chard: Improved Rainbow Mix (3+ season harvest, highly ornamental, great flavor, medium sized stems, moderately savoyed leaves) 2350 $2.75
Cucumber: Marketmore 76 (Classic American slicer, reliable and versatile) 2440 $2.75
Herbs: Basil, Sweet (Best all-around Italian type) 5030 $2.75
Herbs: Parsley, Giant Italian Green (Best flavored, 3+ season harvest) 5104 $2.75
Kale: Lacinato (Best flavored, cold hardy, attractive) 2520 $2.75
Lettuce: Winter Density Romaine (3+ season harvest. Great, versatile, crunchy) 2559 $2.75
Peas: Cascadia (Sweet, crunchy, high-yielding bush sugar snap) 2762 $2.75
Peppers: King of the North (Best bell type for cool summers, reliably ripens in Seattle) 2800 $2.75
Spinach: Bloomsdale Savoy (Heirloom for fall, flavorful, slow-bolting) 2880 $2.75
Summer Squash: Midnight Lightning (Green zucchini, early, slender, tender) 2907 $3.95
Tomatoes: Sweetie (Red cherry, kids love, very sweet, indet.) 2975 $2.75
Tomatoes: San Marzano (Italian paste type, excellent flavor and density, indet.) 3047 $2.75

 


$75 Collection

This collection adds a bit more variety, especially in herbs, so you can do more in the kitchen with the veggies you grow. It also adds my very favorite winter squash – sugar dumpling – a golden beet, and additional cabbage, cucumbers and greens.

Very Simple Seed Selection

If purchased at High Mowing, one packet of each of these varieties will total $73.95. To quickly add these varieties over at High Mowing, use the Quick Order feature.

Vegetable Variety Item # Pkt. Price
Beans: Provider (Reliable, early bush snap, excellent yields) 2210 $2.75
Beets: Touchtone Gold (Excellent flavor and gold color, can grow large and keep a good texture) 2288 $2.75
Beets: Red Ace F1 Hybrid (Reliable, well formed, sweet earthy flavor, one of my favorites) 2285 $2.75
Broccoli: Belstar F1 Hybrid (One of my favorites, 3+ season harvest with succession sowing, can be spaced fairly close, poor side-shoot production) 2302 $3.40
Cabbage: Red Express (3 Season harvest, red, great in slaw and braised) 2369 $2.75
Cabbage: Deadon F1 Hybrid (Fall, winter harvest, hardy savoy, best flavor) 2353 $4.20
Carrots: Yaya F1 Hybrid (Best flavor, Nantes-type. 3+ season harvest) 2336 $2.75
Cauliflower: Snowball Y (Classic white heirloom, holds well, best for fall harvest) 2338 $2.75
Chard: Improved Rainbow Mix (3+ season harvest, highly ornamental, great flavor, medium sized stems, moderately savoyed leaves) 2350 $2.75
Cucumber: Calypso F1 Hybrid (Pickling, ideal at 3″ long, these actually fit in a mason jar) 2422 $2.75
Cucumber: Marketmore 76 (Classic American slicer, reliable and versatile) 2440 $2.75
Greens, Mesclun Mix (Good flavor mesclun mix) 2620 $2.75
Herbs: Cilantro, Caribe (Slower bolting) 5051 $2.75
Herbs: Dill, Greensleeves (Good flavor, for leaf production, low growing) 5044 $2.75
Herbs: Basil, Sweet (Best all-around Italian type) 5030 $2.75
Herbs: Parsley, Giant Italian Green (Best flavored, 3+ season harvest) 5104 $2.75
Kale: Lacinato (Best flavored, cold hardy, attractive) 2520 $2.75
Lettuce: Winter Density Romaine (3+ season harvest. Great, versatile, crunchy) 2559 $2.75
Peas: Cascadia (Sweet, crunchy, high-yielding bush sugar snap) 2762 $2.75
Peppers: King of the North (Best bell type for cool summers, reliably ripens in Seattle) 2800 $2.75
Spinach: Bloomsdale Savoy (Heirloom for fall, flavorful, slow-bolting) 2880 $2.75
Summer Squash: Midnight Lightning (Green zucchini, early, slender, tender) 2907 $3.95
Tomatoes: Sweetie (Red cherry, kids love, very sweet, indet.) 2975 $2.75
Tomatoes: San Marzano (Italian paste type, excellent flavor and density, indet.) 3047 $2.75
Winter Squash: Sugar Dumpling F1 Hybrid (My favorite! Best flavor, manageable size, stores well) 2975 $4.65

 


$100 Collection

With 34 different varieties, this collection adds further depth to varietal selection and branches out into hot pepper, eggplant and melon. Some of these vegetables are a bit more challenging to grow in cool-summer areas, but the varieties I’ve selected are the ones I’ve found most easy, consistent and rewarding.

Very Simple Seed Selection

If purchased at High Mowing, one packet of each of these varieties will total $99.70. To quickly add these varieties over at High Mowing, use the Quick Order feature.

Vegetable Variety Item # Pkt. Price
Beans: Provider (Reliable, early bush snap, excellent yields) 2210 $2.75
Beets: Touchtone Gold (Excellent flavor and gold color, can grow large and keep a good texture) 2288 $2.75
Beets: Red Ace F1 Hybrid (Reliable, well formed, sweet earthy flavor, one of my favorites) 2285 $2.75
Broccoli: Waltham 29 (Good for extended fall harvest, moderate main head with lots of side-shoots) 2315 $2.75
Broccoli: Belstar F1 Hybrid (One of my favorites, 3+ season harvest with succession sowing, can be spaced fairly close, poor side-shoot production) 2302 $3.40
Cabbage: Red Express (3 Season harvest, red, great in slaw and braised) 2369 $2.75
Cabbage: Deadon F1 Hybrid (Fall, winter harvest, hardy savoy, best flavor) 2353 $4.20
Carrots: Yaya F1 Hybrid (Best flavor, Nantes-type. 3+ season harvest) 2336 $2.75
Cauliflower: Snowball Y (Classic white heirloom, holds well, best for fall harvest) 2338 $2.75
Chard: Improved Rainbow Mix (3+ season harvest, highly ornamental, great flavor, medium sized stems, moderately savoyed leaves) 2350 $2.75
Cucumber: Calypso F1 Hybrid (Pickling, ideal at 3″ long, these actually fit in a mason jar) 2422 $2.75
Cucumber: Marketmore 76 (Classic American slicer, reliable and versatile) 2440 $2.75
Eggplant: Little Finger (Baby Asian type, good for cool summers) 2466 $3.75
Greens, Mesclun Mix (Good flavor mesclun mix) 2620 $2.75
Herbs: Cilantro, Caribe (Slower bolting) 5051 $2.75
Herbs: Dill, Greensleeves (Good flavor, for leaf production, low growing) 5044 $2.75
Herbs: Basil, Sweet (Best all-around Italian type) 5030 $2.75
Herbs: Parsley, Giant Italian Green (Best flavored, 3+ season harvest) 5104 $2.75
Kale: Lacinato (Best flavored, cold hardy, attractive) 2520 $2.75
Lettuce: Optima Butterhead (Spring harvest, tender, fleshy leaves, great flavor) 2562 $2.75
Lettuce: Winter Density Romaine (3+ season harvest. Great, versatile, crunchy) 2559 $2.75
Melons: PMR Delicious 51 (Orange fleshed melon good for short season) 2630 $2.75
Peas: Cascadia (Sweet, crunchy, high-yielding bush sugar snap) 2762 $2.75
Peppers: Early Jalapeño (Large, good yield, flavorful and medium-hot, excellent fully red-ripe) 2780 $2.75
Peppers: King of the North (Best bell type for cool summers, reliably ripens in Seattle) 2800 $2.75
Radish: Valentine’s Day Mix (Multi-colored globe for spring or fall) 2875 $2.75
Spinach: Bloomsdale Savoy (Heirloom for fall, flavorful, slow-bolting) 2880 $2.75
Summer Squash: Benning’s Green Tint (My favorite! Heirloom cute green patty pan, bush type good for large pots) 2912 $2.75
Summer Squash: Success PM Straightneck (Yellow, resists powdery mildew, long fruiting season) 2908 $2.75
Summer Squash: Midnight Lightning (Green zucchini, early, slender, tender) 2907 $3.95
Tomatoes: Moskvich (Heirloom slicer, great for cool summers, semi-det.) 2976 $2.75
Tomatoes: Sweetie (Red cherry, kids love, very sweet, indet.) 2975 $2.75
Tomatoes: San Marzano (Italian paste type, excellent flavor and density, indet.) 3047 $2.75
Winter Squash: Sugar Dumpling F1 Hybrid  (My favorite! Best flavor, manageable size, stores well) 2955 $4.65

 


$150 Collection

More greens, more winter squash, more brassicas, short-season watermelon, serious-garden root crops like turnips and rutabaga. Corn, fennel, edible-seed sunflowers. This collection is a full kitchen garden with a huge variety.

Very Simple Seed Selection

If purchased at High Mowing, one packet of each of these varieties will total $149.05. To quickly add these varieties over at High Mowing, use the Quick Order feature.

Vegetable Variety Item # Pkt. Price
Arugula: Astro (Peppery green, good baby leaf) 2010 $2.75
Beans: Northeaster (Vigorous pole romano, tender, great flavor) 2156 $4.10
Beans: Provider (Reliable, early bush snap, excellent yields) 2210 $2.75
Beets: Touchtone Gold (Excellent flavor and gold color, can grow large and keep a good texture) 2288 $2.75
Beets: Red Ace F1 Hybrid (Reliable, well formed, sweet earthy flavor, one of my favorites) 2285 $2.75
Broccoli: Waltham 29 (Good for extended fall harvest, moderate main head with lots of side-shoots) 2315 $2.75
Broccoli: Belstar F1 Hybrid (One of my favorites, 3+ season harvest with succession sowing, can be spaced fairly close, poor side-shoot production) 2302 $3.40
Brussels Sprouts: Doric F1 Hybrid (Fall, winter harvest, very hardy) 2309 $5.30
Cabbage: Copenhagen (3 Season harvest, green fresh eating classic) 2348 $2.75
Cabbage: Red Express (3 Season harvest, red, great in slaw and braised) 2369 $2.75
Cabbage: Deadon F1 Hybrid (Fall, winter harvest, hardy savoy, best flavor) 2353 $4.20
Carrots: Yaya F1 Hybrid (Best flavor, Nantes-type. 3+ season harvest) 2336 $2.75
Cauliflower: Snowball Y (Classic white heirloom, holds well, best for fall harvest) 2338 $2.75
Cauliflower: Tipoff Romanesco F1 Hybrid (Grow your math! Lime green fractal-patterned heads, best for fall harvest) 2312 $6.50
Chard: Improved Rainbow Mix (3+ season harvest, highly ornamental, great flavor, medium sized stems, moderately savoyed leaves) 2350 $2.75
Corn: Luscious F1 Hybrid (Excellent flavor, best in pre-warmed soil) 2380 $3.00
Cucumber: Calypso F1 Hybrid (Pickling, ideal at 3″ long, these actually fit in a mason jar) 2422 $2.75
Cucumber: Marketmore 76 (Classic American slicer, reliable and versatile) 2440 $2.75
Eggplant: Little Finger (Baby Asian type, good for cool summers) 2466 $3.75
Fennel: Orion F1 Hybrid (Spring or fall harvest, bolt resistant) 2481 $3.95
Flowers: Sunflower, Mammoth (Huge flower, tasty edible seeds for people or birds) 7100 $2.75
Greens, Mesclun Mix (Good flavor mesclun mix) 2620 $2.75
Herbs: Cilantro, Caribe (Slower bolting) 5051 $2.75
Herbs: Dill, Greensleeves (Good flavor, for leaf production, low growing) 5044 $2.75
Herbs: Basil, Sweet (Best all-around Italian type) 5030 $2.75
Herbs: Parsley, Giant Italian Green (Best flavored, 3+ season harvest) 5104 $2.75
Kale: Lacinato (Best flavored, cold hardy, attractive) 2520 $2.75
Lettuce: Optima Butterhead (Spring harvest, tender, fleshy leaves, great flavor) 2562 $2.75
Lettuce: Winter Density Romaine (3+ season harvest. Great, versatile, crunchy) 2559 $2.75
Melons: PMR Delicious 51 (Orange fleshed melon good for short season) 2630 $2.75
Peas: Cascadia (Sweet, crunchy, high-yielding bush sugar snap) 2762 $2.75
Peppers: Early Jalapeño (Large, good yield, flavorful and medium-hot, excellent fully red-ripe) 2780 $2.75
Peppers: King of the North (Best bell type for cool summers, reliably ripens in Seattle) 2800 $2.75
Radish: Valentine’s Day Mix (Multi-colored globe for spring or fall) 2875 $2.75
Spinach: Bloomsdale Savoy (Heirloom for fall, flavorful, slow-bolting) 2880 $2.75
Summer Squash: Benning’s Green Tint (My favorite! Heirloom cute green patty pan, bush type good for large pots) 2912 $2.75
Summer Squash: Success PM Straightneck (Yellow, resists powdery mildew, long fruiting season) 2908 $2.75
Summer Squash: Midnight Lightning (Green zucchini, early, slender, tender) 2907 $3.95
Tomatoes: Moskvich (Heirloom slicer, great for cool summers, semi-det.) 2976 $2.75
Tomatoes: Esterina F1 Hybrid (Bright yellow cherry, like Sungold, indet.) 2981 $4.50
Tomatoes: Sweetie (Red cherry, kids love, very sweet, indet.) 2975 $2.75
Tomatoes: San Marzano (Italian paste type, excellent flavor and density, indet.) 3047 $2.75
Turnips & Roots: Tokyo Market (Spring or fall harvest, fast growing and mild) 3191 $2.75
Turnips & Roots: Joan Rutabaga (Fall harvest, smooth, golden, earthy-sweet, easy to grow) 3187 $2.75
Watermelon: Blacktail Mountain (For cool seasons, sweet, best with low-tunnel and black plastic mulch) 3196 $2.75
Winter Squash: Delicata (Small fruits, edible skin, very sweet) 2950 $2.75
Winter Squash: Sugar Dumpling F1 Hybrid  (My favorite! Best flavor, manageable size, stores well) 2955 $4.65
Winter Squash: Waltham Butternut (Heirloom, long storing, great flavor) 2940 $2.75

 


$200 Collection

Okay, so you are either really serious about gardening, or you just have a lot of money and like vegetable variety. Either way, awesome! At this price-point there’s some real depth to the selections – not just one cabbage, for example, but five, each serving slightly different purposes: winter gardening, sauerkraut, fresh eating, etc. There’s a reliable dry bean, more varieties of winter squash, snap beans, tomatoes, peppers and more. With sixty-five total varieties of veg, herbs and flowers, this collection will keep you busy and very well fed, all year long.

Very Simple Seed Selection

If purchased at High Mowing, one packet of each of these varieties will total $199.40. To quickly add these varieties over at High Mowing, use the Quick Order feature.

Vegetable Variety Item # Pkt. Price
Arugula: Astro (Peppery green, good baby leaf) 2010 $2.75
Beans: Northeaster (Vigorous pole romano, tender, great flavor) 2156 $4.10
Beans: Blue Lake (Pole snap, heavy yields, grows very tall) 2155 $2.75
Beans: Provider (Reliable, early bush snap, excellent yields) 2210 $2.75
Beans, Dry: Vermont Cranberry (Short season dry bean, best for soup) 2021 $2.75
Beans, Fava: Windsor (Large seeded fava, excellent fresh, good dried) 2023 $2.75
Beets: Touchtone Gold (Excellent flavor and gold color, can grow large and keep a good texture) 2288 $2.75
Beets: Red Ace F1 Hybrid (Reliable, well formed, sweet earthy flavor, one of my favorites) 2285 $2.75
Broccoli: Waltham 29 (Good for extended fall harvest, moderate main head with lots of side-shoots) 2315 $2.75
Broccoli: Belstar F1 Hybrid (One of my favorites, 3+ season harvest with succession sowing, can be spaced fairly close, poor side-shoot production) 2302 $3.40
Brussels Sprouts: Doric F1 Hybrid (Fall, winter harvest, very hardy) 2309 $5.30
Cabbage: Copenhagen (3 Season harvest, green fresh eating classic) 2348 $2.75
Cabbage: Murdoc F1 Hybrid (Sauerkraut variety, fall) 2362 $5.85
Cabbage: Red Express (3 Season harvest, red, great in slaw and braised) 2369 $2.75
Cabbage: Deadon F1 Hybrid (Fall, winter harvest, hardy savoy, best flavor) 2353 $4.20
Cabbage, Napa: Kaboko F1 Hybrid (Late summer Chinese type, large and crunchy, great for Asian slaw) 2367 $2.75
Carrots: Danvers 126 (Versatile, good for heavier soil, reliable) 2330 $2.75
Carrots: Yaya F1 Hybrid (Best flavor, Nantes-type. 3+ season harvest) 2336 $2.75
Cauliflower: Snowball Y (Classic white heirloom, holds well, best for fall harvest) 2338 $2.75
Cauliflower: Tipoff Romanesco F1 Hybrid (Grow your math! Lime green fractal-patterned heads, best for fall harvest) 2312 $6.50
Chard: Fordhook Giant (Best chard for cold weather, less apt to bolt that red-stemmed varieties, thick white stems and huge leaves) 2343 $2.75
Chard: Improved Rainbow Mix (3+ season harvest, highly ornamental, great flavor, medium sized stems, moderately savoyed leaves) 2350 $2.75
Collards: Champion (3+ season harvest, excellent flavor after frost) 2552 $2.75
Corn: Luscious F1 Hybrid (Excellent flavor, best in pre-warmed soil) 2380 $3.00
Cucumber: Calypso F1 Hybrid (Pickling, ideal at 3″ long, these actually fit in a mason jar) 2422 $2.75
Cucumber: Lemon (Heirloom round, yellow, juicy, best at golf-ball size) 2430 $2.75
Cucumber: Marketmore 76 (Classic American slicer, reliable and versatile) 2440 $2.75
Eggplant: Little Finger (Baby Asian type, good for cool summers) 2466 $3.75
Fennel: Orion F1 Hybrid (Spring or fall harvest, bolt resistant) 2481 $3.95
Flowers: Sunflower, Mammoth (Huge flower, tasty edible seeds for people or birds) 7100 $2.75
Greens, Mesclun Mix (Good flavor mesclun mix) 2620 $2.75
Greens, Shanghai Green Pac Choi (Baby bok choy, for late summer-fall) 2514 $2.75
Herbs: Basil, Sweet (Best all-around Italian type) 5030 $2.75
Herbs: Basil, Sweet Thai (Spicy licorice flavor, attractive leaf) 5031 $2.75
Herbs: Cilantro, Caribe (Slower bolting) 5051 $2.75
Herbs: Dill, Greensleeves (Good flavor, for leaf production, low growing) 5044 $2.75
Herbs: Parsley, Giant Italian Green (Best flavored, 3+ season harvest) 5104 $2.75
Kale: Lacinato (Best flavored, cold hardy, attractive) 2520 $2.75
Lettuce: Optima Butterhead (Spring harvest, tender, fleshy leaves, great flavor) 2562 $2.75
Lettuce: Winter Density Romaine (3+ season harvest. Great, versatile, crunchy) 2559 $2.75
Melons: PMR Delicious 51 (Orange fleshed melon good for short season) 2630 $2.75
Onion: Evergreen Hardy Bunching (3+ Season harvest, scallion-type) 2670 $2.75
Peas: Cascadia (Sweet, crunchy, high-yielding bush sugar snap) 2762 $2.75
Peppers: Ancho Poblano (Best under a low tunnel in cool-summers, late, heavy yields, excellent flavor) 2782 $2.75
Peppers: Early Jalapeño (Large, good yield, flavorful and medium-hot, excellent fully red-ripe) 2780 $2.75
Peppers: King of the North (Best bell type for cool summers, reliably ripens in Seattle) 2800 $2.75
Pumpkins: Long Pie (Ugly but efficient! Bred for processing into pie or puree, excellent keeper) 2830 $3.25
Radish: Valentine’s Day Mix (Multi-colored globe for spring or fall) 2875 $2.75
Spinach: Giant Winter (Cold adapted for winter and overwinter) 2885 $2.75
Spinach: Bloomsdale Savoy (Heirloom for fall, flavorful, slow-bolting) 2880 $2.75
Summer Squash: Benning’s Green Tint (My favorite! Heirloom cute green patty pan, bush type good for large pots) 2912 $2.75
Summer Squash: Success PM Straightneck (Yellow, resists powdery mildew, long fruiting season) 2908 $2.75
Summer Squash: Midnight Lightning (Green zucchini, early, slender, tender) 2907 $3.95
Tomatoes: Moskvich (Heirloom slicer, great for cool summers, semi-det.) 2976 $2.75
Tomatoes: Indigo Rose (Saladette, black color, tangy, indet.) 3058 $2.75
Tomatoes: Esterina F1 Hybrid (Bright yellow cherry, like Sungold, indet.) 2981 $4.50
Tomatoes: Sweetie (Red cherry, kids love, very sweet, indet.) 2975 $2.75
Tomatoes: San Marzano (Italian paste type, excellent flavor and density, indet.) 3047 $2.75
Turnips & Roots: Tokyo Market (Spring or fall harvest, fast growing and mild) 3191 $2.75
Turnips & Roots: Joan Rutabaga (Fall harvest, smooth, golden, earthy-sweet, easy to grow) 3187 $2.75
Watermelon: Blacktail Mountain (For cool seasons, sweet, best with low-tunnel and black plastic mulch) 3196 $2.75
Winter Squash: Burgess Buttercup (Long storing, smooth sweet flesh) 2930 $2.75
Winter Squash: Delicata (Small fruits, edible skin, very sweet) 2950 $2.75
Winter Squash: Sugar Dumpling F1 Hybrid  (My favorite! Best flavor, manageable size, stores well) 2955 $4.65
Winter Squash: Waltham Butternut (Heirloom, long storing, great flavor) 2940 $2.75

 

Actually, I really like picking out my own seeds, but the catalogs still sometimes overwhelm me.

Ah, then perhaps you should check out last year’s post, How To Pick Your Vegetable Seeds Without Going Crazy. It explains what all those funny seed catalog terms mean.

How To Pick Your Vegetable Seeds Without Going Crazy

What are you growing this year? Are you getting excited?

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Comments

  1. DragonflyMath says:

    Thank you for your clear, concise, inspiring posts. As an elder who can only garden in pots, I’m jealous. Still I read.

  2. LOL! I never thought of selecting by price! I love High Mowing and order from them too. I spend a long time going over catalogs as there’s not much gardening going on in MI right now. A much better selection criteria is to plant what you like to eat! Too many people plant a vegetable garden full of ‘shoulds’. Hate tomatoes? Don’t plant them. Love pumpkins? Who said a garden can’t have just pumpkins? Just have fun. Now if you are planning on really feeding yourself or your family, your seed selection involves work but still only plant what you like to eat.

    • Plant what you love to eat – yes, definitely! The first rule of seed selection! Except sometimes you don’t know you like it until you’ve tried it garden fresh….like Brussels Sprouts! A far different veg fresh from a winter garden than 3 weeks off a California or Mexican grown plant that’s never been frost-kissed. :) But I do agree with you – gardening is fundamentally about growing what brings YOU happiness, in the form of pumpkins or ‘maters or whatever. But I was specifically asked to put together a hand-selected “variety pack” for my friend so that’s what this represents.

  3. B.E. Ward says:

    My focus this year (my second) will be on the ‘tangential’ plantings. Borage, hyssop, and I want to give Uprising Seeds’ Bee’s Friend a go. Basically I want to make the veggies I do grow better with (hopefully) more thorough pollination.

    I’m also intrigued to try melons. But despite reading “bred for cool climates!” in the catalogs, I’m very leery of how they’ll turn out in Seattle.

    • Yay herbs! That’s a great area of focus and the pollinators thrive in an herb rich, slightly under-tidy garden (which is what I tell myself when I let all my herbs go to flower!). Try lovage and angelica too if you have room – mine are covered in ladybug nymphs every year.

    • Anne Figge says:

      I live in Bellevue, WA just east of Seattle. I planted Uprising’s Bee’s Friend two years ago. The bees love it and it reseeds itself nicely.

  4. I’m in North Seattle, so it’s good to see that we have some overlap — specifically the Marketmore 76 cucumbers and the King of the North peppers. Last year we got 60 pounds of cucumbers out of one EarthBox and the King of the North were the most successful of the ten pepper plant varieties that we tried.

    I’d be interested in seeing your thoughts for a container-only seed list. Also, is the Winter Density by far the best variety of Romaine? Is there a close 2nd?

    Thanks

    • Winter Density was selected here because it is good flavored and does well in both Seattle summer heat (for what that’s worth) and can take our winter temps with a little protection, so it’s a great choice for year round sowing. I also really like Little Gem, which is a personal salad size Romaine that’s cute as a button and has great flavor, and you can space them close – like 4-6″ apart, so it’s good for small space and container gardeners. The standard OP is Parris Island, which some people love but which has not impressed me for reliable uniformity.

  5. Anne Figge says:

    Bless you, Erica (and Heather). You read my mind. I LOVE pouring over the seed catalogs, but in the end, it’s just information overload. Do you grow potatoes? What varieties?

    Thanks, as always,
    Anne

  6. Mary Ann Baclawski says:

    I love your list of favorite seeds. I agree with a lot of your choices. I would make a few different ones. My favorite lettuce is actually a romaine type, forellenschluss. My favorite cucumber is alibi because it works great for both fresh eating and pickling. I just found a new winter squash this fall, sunshine. One can eat the skin as well as the meat inside, greatly reducing waste and work. I haven’t tried to grow it yet.
    Thank you for these lists.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! After gardening off a misty bay, on a subtropical island, and now in the desert, I’m headed back to the Seattle-area and I was trying to remember what on earth to plant there. You just made my seed buying muuuuuch easier – conveniently we’ll arrive in spring, so I can get started soon after! Thanks!!! :D

  8. Lailand Rose says:

    Thank you so much!! This is awesome. I’ve been agonizing over the same thing! As a 20-something homesteader, money is a big deal and when I tell my other half what I want to spend on seeds, his eyes tend to bug out of his head. This is great!

    • The biggest bang for your buck will be open pollinated seeds. In your situation I would make sure the seeds from easy to save plants were OP. So, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, peas and beans for sure look for OP because then you can begin to save your own and in future years that can really help. I also save kale and chard seed, which isn’t as hard in the city because there isn’t so much risk of varietal overlap (how many folks in my neighborhood have a brassica in bloom at the same time I do? Not many). I grow a lot of hybrids, especially for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – stuff I really don’t want to risk rogues on. But for you I would try to find the most aggressively, consistently bred OP lines of these plants. That might mean you go with a seed house that’s slightly more expensive because you pay 50-cents more for a packet but the usable SEED in that packet will actually be less per seed because you’ll have far fewer off-type plants. Does that make sense? You can’t afford to grow a bunch of cheap seed that won’t grow good plants, but you can’t afford to splash out on spendy hybrids. So get very well bred OP seed and save your own going forward where you can. Also, perennials and self-re-seeders are your friend! I hope that helps a bit.

  9. Susanne Bowra says:

    Thanks for the lists! Now it would be really helpful to know how much gardening space you need to have for each of the seed collections and when to plant what. Basically a complete gardening plan for each of your seed collections :)
    I might be asking too much…!

    • Phew. That’s a tall order. ;) Most seed can reliably be saved for at least 3 years, so I wouldn’t necessarily imagine the home gardener would use up every seed from every packet, particularly in the larger collections. For plant spacing, I think the Square Foot Gardening people have a great starting point. My experience is that well grown plants often need 4x this space, but it’s a great starting point. I think that’s a great challenge of a post….I’ll see what I can do but it might take me a few weeks.

  10. Fantastic! What a great idea for a post. I didn’t even know I needed such a list, but since I’m newer to PNW gardening this will save me a lot of heartache. Thanks Erica!

  11. Thanks for the great reading!
    What about a list that’s seed-saver friendly, in other words, a list without hybrids? I love saving my seeds because that one initial packet of seeds becomes an indefinite number of seasons of growing. That’s not to say that I don’t still spend hours going over what my husband calls seed porn.

    • I’m planning on a post for basic seed saving later in the year!

    • Erica did a great job recommending mostly OP varieties for the easily-seed-saved veggies.

      For most of us, saving seeds of the highly-bred brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts) is just not going to happen because of the number of plants required to prevent inbreeding depression… so you may as well use hybrids.

      The exception would be if you can find someone who is working on restoring the OP varieties of these plants (which have often been allowed to deteriorate significantly by the mass market seed business) and doing a good job – then buy their seed to support them!

      • Thank you Kevin, you totally nailed the problem with cheap OPs for the home gardener. Under-maintained, under-rogued OP seed for the “finicky” veg has often deteriorated to the point where it’s just not particularly consistent. If my parsley or lettuce shows some variation in leaf shape, that’s not a problem, but if my Brussels Sprouts never make sprouts, that is. As a home gardener, if I have a plant in the ground for 6 or 8 months – not unheard of with some of the long-maturing brassicas or the overwintering crops – the opportunity cost of that garden space over that time frame is far, far greater than the few dollars I might have saved by buying inexpensive seed. High Mowing is aggressively working to breed reliable OP varieties (they call these heirlooms-to-be) that can rival the consistency of the hybrids. There’s a great interview with Tom Sterns, the High Mowing founder, here that talks about their duel research in modern OP breeding and hybrid breeding. It’s not an either/or in my opinion: the gardener and market grower can pick the best tool for the job.

  12. Reading the seed catalogs is what gets me through this time of year! In Central Oregon, I am months away from being able to plant anything outside, no matter how the weather lies to me. It’s at least a month until I can fire up the grow lights.

    But I can dream. And since I live on 5 acres, I don’t have to dream small either. My Fairy GodDaughter gifted me with a ton of seeds last fall, so there are only a few gaps that I need to fill in (there were no broccoli, cabbages or kales in the mix). I’m cleaning out the barn making new garden beds, and hoping to be up in my armpits in produce!

  13. Hi Erica,

    I’ve enjoyed your blog – thanks for all the great work. I live in a cool-summer coastal area of Northern California, and while I get more summer heat than you, I’m always on the lookout for cool weather tolerant veggies. You’re lists are super-helpful! I grow many of the varieties that you grow.

    High Mowing is a great company, and I think it’s great that they are sponsoring your blog. Revenue is important to keep this resource going. However, IMHO, they are pretty pricey for someone buying mostly OP seed. I was interested to compare your list to my favorite supplier, Fedco Seeds. They specialize in varieties suited to their short-summer location in Maine. I was curious to see what your list would cost there.

    They didn’t have your brocolli, but I substituted their mix which is great because it doesn’t all ripen at the same time. I also substituted a cherry and paste tomato that I know work great in cool weather. Many, but not all of the varieties were available in organic.

    The result: your $50 collection was $30.30 at Fedco, including shipping. Seed quantities per pack vary but similar overall. I don’t expect you to publish this reply, but surely your readers would be well-served knowing about a cheaper alternative. I’ve found Fedco’s customer service to be superb, and their catalog descriptions are without par.

    Just my .02 – keep up the great work!

    Here are the details:

    Provider Bush Green Bean OG – $2.10
    Cascadia Snap Pea OG - $2.00
    Marketmore 76 Slicing Cucumber OG – $1.20
    Raven Zucchini – $1.90
    Yaya Carrot OG – $2.10
    Red Ace Beet OG – $2.00
    Bloomsdale Spinach OG - $1.40
    Winter Density Bibb/Romaine Lettuce – $1.00
    Bright Lights Chard – $1.20
    Dark Green Italian Parsley OG - $1.20
    Broccoli Blend – $1.60
    Deadon Savoy Cabbage – $2.00
    Nero di Tuscana or Lacinato Kale – $1.20
    King of the North Sweet Pepper OG – $1.20
    Sun Gold Cherry Tomato – $3.20
    San Diego Paste Tomato – $3.30
    Sweet Basil OG – $1.70

    Subtotal – $30.30 – (free shipping)

    • I don’t mind your comparison at all, John. I fully expected my readers to take these lists and run with them! :) The fact is, a lot of factors go into what makes the best seed house for different gardeners. I’d never claim High Mowing was selling the cheapest seed out there – they aren’t – but I do think they offer a great package of ethical business practices, strictly-tested, high-germ seeds and a diversity of organic varieties with tons of free gardener information for a fair price. As a home gardener who appreciates the advantages that hybrids can sometimes offer, I’m also thrilled to help support their research into more organic hybrids for challenging growing conditions. But I’ll fully admit to being biased in this regard since they help me keep the lights on around here. :)

  14. Erica, I second the potato question! I’m in the Portland (OR) area, and I’ve had two miserable potato years in a row. Thanks!

    • Hi Kandy – you know, it’s hard to argue with Yukon Gold. It’s a classic for a reason. Don’t get fancy with it – it’s not good for growing in some kind of crazy “100 pounds of potatoes in 4 square feet” tower. I’m also a HUGE fan of French Fingerling. Delicious potato and yields very well for me.

      • After a dismal first year trying potatoes, I got some to grow last year! I was super excited, but learned the hard way that I need to till the soil deeper. My potatoes (yukon, fingerling, red, and russet) were mis-shapen, many like spindly fingers. Apparently, under my fluffly top soil, the rest of the soil was too compacted? That’s what I heard, at least.

        Thanks for the time you put into the seed info! I’m down in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with a similar climate, so I will try many of your suggestions.

    • I grew Sangre (red), Yukon Gold, and La Ratte (fingerling) last year and had decent yields :) I’m in SW Washington. I’m planning on growing the same varieties this year.

    • I’m in Portland, too, and I grew Russian Banana fingerling last year with a lot of success (and super yummy). I dug down about a foot to plant the seed potatoes and then hilled up as it grew. Also grew Burbank russet in one of those silly towers that you keeping adding soil and it didn’t produce much. It was fun to try but won’t be doing that again! :)

    • Kandy-
      I second the Yukon Golds. Last year I (literally) threw a couple seed potatoes out in the garden, kinda hoping they wouldn’t make it since I’m rather potatoed out (Hubby loves them though). The blasted things took off, overran my baby broccoli and put out nearly 30 pounds of spuds! I dread to think of what would have happened if I’d actually taken care of the darn things. (Hubby is already planning on building a potato cage ala Erika-we are gonna be swimming in spuds.) And this was a packet of seed taters from Bi-Mart, so not the fanciest out there.

  15. I love garden porn. Also known as seed catalogs. Glossy color photographs of young, firm, beautiful, vegetables with frank descriptions of what they are like and what to do with them. I get so aroused I’m ready to spend money.

  16. This is so helpful, thank you! I get overwhelmed just thinking about what to get, so your collections are a perfect place to get started and see how things grow.

  17. Fun post – I enjoyed reading your lists and comparing them to my own 2014 list. I was happy to see your endorsement in the comments for OP seeds – the lists themselves were a bit heavy on the hybrids for my personal taste.

    A few things I’d have added:
    parsnips – easy to grow, require little space, and store in the ground
    scarlet emperor runner beans – pretty flowers and good yield large purple beans
    snow peas – early harvest and delicious in salads and stir fry
    garlic – easy to grow in the PNW

    I was surprised to see melons on your list. I haven’t had any luck with those. I’ll have to try the varieties you suggest.

    • Patrick – Melons are brilliant when you can get them to grow. I’ve had a couple of fantastic years, and a couple of dismal years. Like tomatoes, pick the shortest season varieties and hope for a warm summer. I particularly like Alvaro from the Territorial Seed catalog.

    • Garlic would have eaten up half my budget. ;) But I agree – parsnips were an oversight.

  18. Hi there. I understand that hybrid vegetables are not chosen for seed saving. Can you make a note of wether any of these seeds are heirloom varieties which will also produce viable seed for saving?
    Thank you

    • If it says “F1 Hybrid” then it’s a hybrid. If it doesn’t, it’s an open pollinated variety from which you should be able to save seed.

  19. Thank you! I ordered the $50 set plus a few extras from the others you had selected. I am excited to try out those that you trust. Thanks for putting this all together!

  20. Finally took a closer look at this post. Fantastic! Now hopefully I can get home tonight and have some time after the kids are in bed (and before my eyelids slam shut) to look over my list and see how they compare to what you’ve listed. I’m starting to feel some panic about not having placed my order yet and want to get it in this weekend. Then I can start stressing out about getting a brooder together for the spring chicks I want, and getting the husband on that coop task! Thanks for all your generous time again!

  21. I loved this post! I happened to see it just as I was figuring out my seed order and it really helped me finalize my list. I just moved to the Pacific NW so seeing the varieties that have worked well for you here is a huge help. I also added some fun plants to try like ground cherries and the Bee’s Friend flowers from the comments above. Thanks so much, can’t wait to get started.

  22. Oy! Going over my garden planner again last night, trying to finalize it so I can get those seed orders in, and now cross-referencing it with your lists above. I did make some significant changes. I cut out several things that 1) we don’t eat currently, 2) I’m the ony one who eats (and even then only sporadically). I figure I’ll try some of the new stuff from the local farmer’s market before spending a whole season and space in the garden bed growing a bunch of it. Same for the stuff that only I like. Now Broccoli! We go through a head or two of broccoli per week – its one of the few veggies my kids actually LOVE! So, I’m using some of my new free bed space for more broccoli (and some cauliflower which I didn’t have room for earlier). Trying to figure out in my head how I can succession sow enough of that broccoli to keep us in a head or two per week – is that even possible?

  23. Hey, only one variety of peas? What kind of a Northwest gardener are you??? :)

    Great job on the lists. (And a lot of work on your part!)

    If anyone else is, like me, a lover of peas, here are some additional suggestions:

    Shelling Peas: Green Arrow (bush) or Tall Telephone (vine).
    (These are older varieties that, if you buy cheap seed of them, may not be very consistent, so buy from a reliable source.)

    Snap peas: Cascadia (bush), Sugar Snap (vine)
    Sugar snaps just keep on yielding for ages if you keep them picked.

    Snow Peas: Oregon Sugar Pod (bush), China Snow (vine)
    Because snow peas are harvested at the earliest stage of all these types (unless you are harvesting the leafy shoots for greens!), they are great for growing in fall as well as spring.

    Soup peas: Carlin (vine)
    These peas are not very tender eaten green, they are meant to be dried and used over the winter. You don’t have to use them just for soup: any time you’d use a dry bean you can use a dried pea instead. For me, North of Vancouver, BC, dry beans are not a reliable crop – the rains often start before they are fully dry and they go moldy – but peas dry down reliably by the first week of August.

    All these peas are very easy to save seed from: they almost never cross, so keeping a variety separate is no problem, and they are easy to dry and harvest. Just don’t leave them dry on the plants for too long, or they will split open and scatter themselves on the ground.

  24. Ok I did it. I’ve never ordered seeds before but I’m taking the plunge. Next stop: seed mats

  25. After Hubby zip-tied me to the kitchen table and forced me to go through my seed stack I finally got an order sent off. Love the lists! They are a huge help, especially for someone like me who gets drawn in by pretty shiny things and forgets the important stuff, like oooo if it it’ll grow in my Zone or doesn’t need half an acre in space : )

    And now to avoid the seed racks in every store I go into. Must…refrain…from…more…seeds…!!

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