Sustainable Seed Resources

One of the best things about home gardening is getting to choose, and watch, what you grow.

Just like that elementary school experiment that turned beans into sprouts, there’s nothing cooler than watching seeds you start at home spring to life. Although purchasing transplants from a garden store might seem easier, when you start with seeds you have the option to choose from organic, sustainable sources and you’ll find a whole slew of varietals, greatly expanding the biodiversity in your own garden.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing seeds: location, goals and seed characteristics. Go through this checklist, then use the resources we’ve listed below to find the most optimal seeds for your home garden.

First Things First: Select the Right Seeds for Your Location

Understanding your climate is fundamental to choosing seeds that will flourish in your garden. Consider the average temperatures and humidity where you live. Do your plants need to be cold-hardy or is your climate warmer, subtropical even? Is it humid or more arid? Using the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map can help you determine which plants are ideal for your area and is a great tool when looking at seeds

The FoodPrint of Crops

What Seed Characteristics Should You Consider?

As you explore seed options, there are several other factors you have to consider. If you are interested in seed saving — saving seeds to use for the next year — you’ll want to look for open-pollinated seeds, or seeds that will produce a plant very similar to the parent. Heirloom seeds are an example of open-pollinated varieties that have been saved and passed down through generational and community sharing.

If your main goal is high-yield growing, F1 Hybrids, hybrids that have been cross-pollinated to be stronger and grow faster, might be a good choice. Other characteristics to think about include seeds that are resistant to specific pests; seeds that hold up better in storage; and seeds for early-, mid- or late-season harvests.

Choose Sustainable Seed Companies

While there are many seed companies to choose from, there are several organic, non-GMO companies that offer a diverse selection of vegetable, herb and flower seeds. Although all of these seed companies ship nationwide, some of them carry varietals that thrive in particular regions.

  • Fedco Seeds provides cold-hardy varieties of hybrids, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds shipped in season and offers membership in a cooperative to its customers.
  • High Mowing Organic Seed Company sells over 600 types of organic, non-GMO, heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seeds.
  • Hudson Valley Seed Library embraces the art of seeds with heirloom and open-pollinated varieties.
  • Seed Savers Exchange grows, saves and shares heirloom seeds as part of their non-profit mission to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage.
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds carries one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties.
  • Native Seeds/SEARCH provides only open-pollinated varieties with a long, historical connection to the greater Southwest.
  • Seeds of Change sells only organic and non-GMO heirloom seed varieties and is dedicated to preserving varieties in danger of being lost to the “advances” of industrial agriculture.
  • Kitazawa Seed Company is the oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds.
  • Clear Creek Seeds offers a wide variety of open-pollinated, non-GMO, non-treated, heirloom vegetable seeds.
  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange sells over 700 varieties of vegetable, flower, herb, grain and cover crops seeds that perform well in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, including many unusual Southern heirlooms.
  • Renee’s Garden offers a selection of unusual vegetable, flower and herb seeds, including heirloom, organic, international hybrid and open-pollinated varieties.
  • Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply sells organic, non-GMO, open-pollinated and some hybrid vegetable seeds.
  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers non-GMO organic, hybrid, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, as well as a limited selection of treated and primed seeds.
  • Row 7 Seeds sells non-GMO, organic seed produced in the US without chemicals and without utility patents.