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Gardening 101 - Seed Catalogs and Online Seed Ordering

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The snow was gone for a day or two, replaced by 2 inches of rain here in West Central Pennsylvania (U.S.A.) and by now I have completed most of my seed orders and even have some seeds started indoors - namely tomatoes and peppers - so it is time to take a look at seed catalogs.

Once again this year I have to go with Bountiful Gardens as the absolute top seed catalog for beginners and what I would consider advanced non-professional growers.

A perennial kale variety (a kind of cabbage) I bought from them last year is still there under the snow and will probably be ready to pick in a few weeks. Edible kale varieties are a good basic green which every garden should have.

The Bountiful catalog is well done, they ship fast, the seeds grow, and above all they offer various "mix" packages, that is, multiple varieties of the same veggie in one inexpensive (sub-$3) package.

This is important because some varieties always do better than others simply because of different weather conditions each year. Also, no two gardens have the same soil so experienced gardeners plant more than one variety of tomato or other favorite veggie so one will be certain to do well. (Sometimes they all do.)

From most seed catalogs you would need to buy five or ten packs of different varieties. Even if the money doesn't matter, who but a commercial grower has a use for 400 tomato seeds?

Check out www.bountifulgardens.org, please note, ORG, not COM.

Find mixes at

http://www.bountifulgardens.org/products.asp?dept=7

Their other products are also good which is why I rate them tops. I simply can't think of any suggestion to improve their service.

One company everyone seems to know and which I used to use is Gurney's. Unfortunately I can think of a LOT of things I could suggest to improve their service.

Today I spent 15 minutes placing an order only because they included a $20 coupon which applies to the order total, even shipping.

The order form asked for my account number which I entered. The form reset with no obvious indication that the number was accepted and there was again a place to enter the account number.

The same thing happened with the "key" number.

So, I entered both again with the same result. I decided to move along anyway to see what happened and discovered both had been properly recorded on the next page.

The coupon was no problem because they apply it automatically to every order.

Great. But when trying to finalize the order the form now indicated that my credit card had expired. I couldn't see a way to easily enter a new number and, besides, after the $20 coupon my order total including shipping was actually $0.00.

If you want to give Gurney's a try, watch the total cost and you can probably get two to four packs of seeds absolutely free for a limited time.

Personally I just quit trying.

Kitazawa Seed Company, kitazawaseed.com is THE top U.S. source I know for a vast variety of specialty Asian vegetable seeds.

Like Bountiful they also offer mixes and garden selections of multiple packages but most notable is their fixed pricing - all seed packets are the same price.

Henry Field's this year is offering a $25 coupon but unlike the Gurney's offer, you need to place a minimum order of $50 so it is actually more of a half-price or less offer.

Territorial Seed Company has a good selection and a fixed minimum $7.50 shipping and handling charge.

Locally you can often find seed packs at 10 for $1 which gives you a nice variety of a few seeds. Big stores such as Walmart also offer seed in the spring as do local farm stores - fine choices for the beginner but seeds are probably the smallest cost of making a garden so buy the best.

For trees, shrubs, and seedling plants, ALWAYS buy locally, preferably from a real greenhouse operation which grows on site. Chain stores may get their seedlings from far away which means they may or may not be the right variety for your location.

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. He also owns/operates an organic farm/ranch/animal rescue www.15767.com but sells no seeds and donates most produce and fruit to food banks. Contact John through NewsBlaze.

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