Hey! I’m doing an actual gardening post!
Friends that visit our house in summer and see the massive garden next to our house often ask me where I do my plant/seed shopping and what I like to grow out there.
I’ll start by saying that my family are not especially adventurous when it comes to vegetable eating. My husband likes his starchy basics: potatoes, corn, peas- pretty much in that order. My daughter is a bit more adventurous; she’ll eat tomatoes, cucumber and snow pea pods in addition to the starchy veggies. They both love strawberries, blackberries and Tom’s jelly from my elderberries last year was a huge hit. I will eat just about any fruit or vegetable, even try some that I’ve never had before and can’t pronounce. I’m less adventurous in the meat department. It took a year or two of living here before I would try venison again, I still won’t touch squirrel or rabbit. Forget the more mid-west exotic fare like groundhog, snake or snapping turtle.
I’m trying to branch out. I’ve been following several Missouri homestead, wildcrafting and foraging sites. I’ll try a lot of mushrooms and edible weeds that my family isn’t too keen to put on their plate. I figure if nothing else, this stuff could keep us alive if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse (might re-think that snapping turtle then too).
This year I’m branching out into more herbs and growing a few unusual things like Stevia and my own tea.
First of all, I have to say that for live plants, my local nursery is the bomb. It’s a little place called Huffman’s out on Highway B, just outside of St James. The staff there are lovely, the owners are wonderful, everyone I’ve dealt with there has been knowledgeable, considerate and they always tell us they’d love to see us again. Huffman’s is my go-to place for mulch, live plants, landscape fabric or just to go wander around browse for ideas. They have a really cool gift shop inside; tons of yard art and they carry that potting soil with the frog on it that the marijuana growers supposedly like. (If it’s good for growing pot, it should be stellar for tomatoes, right?) I’ve gotten several blackberry plants from there that have done very well and we always go get at least several annuals to decorate the back porch rail each year. So this is my shop local place, hands down. In fact, since I’ve found them, I hardly step foot in the garden center at Lowes or Menards, which is where I used to get 90% of my plants from when I lived at the Lake. If you’re in the area, go check them out. They’re on Facebook and online at https://www.huffmansflowersofthefield.com/
Ok, now for the Online shops.
These are who I do a lot of my pre-order of seeds from, for the stuff I want to start in the house early or when I want something really specific as I’m planning out the garden in the winter months.
My #1 favorite (and where I spent the bulk of my $ this year) is Baker Creek Seeds. I do most of my seed shopping in January/February before most of the local nurseries are even open after winter break. I’ve found that if I wait until March or April, most everything online is out of stock or extremely picked over. The very well-known sites like Burpee are already having stock issues. Baker Creek had to send out a notice that they were having issues with paper shortages, so seed packages and catalogs could be an issue for them next year. No worries about the catalogs though, they have their entire catalog online with the same pictures and descriptions as the print version.
You’ve probably heard a lot of hype about heirloom seeds in recent years, but not everyone knows why. Heirlooms can be saved year after year. They are true to the parent plant, which means that they are consistently the same, year after year from one planting to the next. Some of these seeds have been around since the 1800’s, passed along from generation to generation. This means you can grow the same pink beefsteak tomato that your great, great grandmother grew in her garden when you were two or the same flowers she had lining the walkway to her house. These plants are tried and true performers, you know what to expect. You know what they are going to taste like, you know that they’ll be the same year after year after year. Baker Creek sells a lot of heirlooms. They are not all native heirlooms though- they get their seeds from farms all over the world. They pride themselves on carrying unusual varieties that you won’t find anywhere else and you certainly will never see at a Big Box store garden center. The homepage of their website is a testament to this- showcasing all the black vegetables and flowers that they are carrying this year. The main office of Baker Creek is out of Mansfield, Missouri (Home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Festival- if you’ve never been, you should check it out.) You can order online from them at https://www.rareseeds.com/
My #2 this year was PineTree.
This is where I picked up the things that were out of stock everywhere else or other sites just didn’t sell. They still had garlic bulbs in stock (out on every other site I checked!), they also had white sage, pinto beans and an heirloom green onion that doesn’t produce bulbs, just the green tops in bunches. This is my first-year ordering from them, so I’ll have to let you know how I liked them later. They shipped my order quickly; I should be seeing it sometime this week. The garlic will be shipped in fall when it’s time to plant. They have a nice selection of loose-leaf teas and herbs for purchase on their site also. Website is https://www.superseeds.com/
#3 Ferry Morse.
I’ve always associated Ferry Morse with Walmart seed shopping- I think because this used to be the primary brand that Walmart Garden centers carried every spring. I’ve purchased a lot of Ferry Morse seed over the years, both from Walmart and online and have had decent results. A couple years ago, they were the only place I could find that had birdhouse or bottle gourds in stock when I went looking for them in late spring. Their prices are awesome. They have a nice little live plant sale going on right now- I’ve not tried their live plants before, but I ordered a couple of tomato plants, we’ll see how it goes. They don’t have a massive selection and most of what they offer is pretty common, but if you’re looking for good basics, their prices can’t be beat. I plant marigolds in EVERY raised bed as companion plants and they have just about every basic marigold available for under $2 a pack of seeds. Also, it was free shipping for any order over $35, where most garden sites don’t offer free shipping until you hit the $75 or more mark. https://ferrymorse.com/
#4 Burpee Seeds.
These folks were always my old favorite and I looked forward to their catalog in the mail every year because it meant spring was almost here, regardless of what that stupid groundhog had to say. In the past couple years though, I’ve had trouble with a lot of Burpee’s stuff being out of stock very early on. I just got my catalog a few weeks ago and already they are completely out of every kind of garlic, several varieties of onion and some of the tomato packs are unavailable. I blame the stupid pandemic- people who have never gardened started gardening during 2020, even if it was just a pot of tomatoes or strawberries on their apartment patio, they had something. Burpee is well advertised, well known and popular, meaning they sell out of stuff faster than the more obscure, lesser-known sites. Because of this, I didn’t get a ton of stuff from them this year. I did find a Chocolate Peppermint plant that I searched for and couldn’t find elsewhere. They also had table grape plants. You would think being in St James, which is considered “Midwest Wine Country” that grape plants could be found in abundance, but if they are out there, I’ve yet to find them. I found a couple at the big box stores, that did well until I took them out of the box. 😦
I’m trying my luck again this year with a pair from Burpee. The Amish that used to own our property once worked in the grape fields outside of town. I see lots of folks in town with backyard grape arbors. I have no desire to make wine, but would love a few table grapes to pick each year.
If you’re going to visit Burpee, I would do it now rather than later, they are selling out of their more popular items fast! They still have lots of flowers and landscape plants. https://www.burpee.com/
Just as an FYI, I’m not an influencer and I don’t get anything from any of these companies from sharing my opinions about their sites or products. I’m not a paid endorser or affiliated with them in any way. I did post a link on Facebook for Ferry Morse because they gave me one of those, “Share this link and we’ll give you a percentage off for every person that signs up for an account…” So I guess if we’re friends on Facebook AND you click that AND you order stuff, THEN I am getting something from it… but it’s only a 10% of coupon or something. Nothing all that exciting. LOL
I would first and foremost though encourage you, especially if you are a new gardener, find a local nursery. Not the garden center at Lowes, Menards or Home Depot- but an actual local nursery like Huffman’s above. Try several of them. We have two in our town, both are decent, Huffman’s people won me over in the end though and I’ll go to them every time. Local nurseries will know which plants do best in your area. They’ll know how those plants perform, they’ll know what issues they may have, they can make recommendations based on your space and growing conditions or the amount of time you have to dedicate to your garden. The people working at Lowes will stare at you confused when you ask for Blood Meal and say, “We’ve got Miracle Grow?” They don’t know about most of the plants there and they don’t care. They go out and drench them every day as they’re told and stop if something turns brown and crunchy.
You’re not just paying for a plant; you’re paying for knowledge and help making an investment. Local nursery staff can tell you whether that plant will do well in your space. They can tell you if deer will devour it or not. They can tell you if it’s going to draw hordes or Japanese beetles to your yard. They can tell you if it will spread out of control and should be kept in a pot or if it is ok to put in your landscape beds. The people at Home Depot do not notice or care that you bought mint and you’re planting it in your landscape beds. Responsible local nurseries won’t sell you things off of the conservation invasive list that will make your neighbor’s curse you for years. (Dear Lowes, stop selling people Bradford Pear please!!!)
So, this isn’t just another “Shop Local!” pitch. If you find the right fit, you’ll find someone that actually cares about the plants they sell, they want their customers to be happy and come back, they want your garden to be a raving success because it will mean your friends and family will want to shop with them too.
Happy planting folks. 🙂