This is the time of year when seed catalogs flood the mail but, for the most part, small gardeners and those new to growing anything will probably do better at some local store.
Major exceptions are some of the organic/open seed marketers and oriental veggie catalogs.
The big, well-known catalogs generally have the same seeds you can get in local stores but with the added disincentive of very high shipping costs.
The reason most small gardeners will do better with my new favorite mail order site/catalog is the way they package favorite seeds – in inexpensive mixes.
To get some variety you need to have several kinds of some plants such as tomatoes. Not only do different varieties do better some years than others, but do you really need 50 plumb tomato plants?
Bountiful Gardens (bountifulgardens.org) has solved the variety problem by offering, in addition to regular seed packs, collections of tomatoes, basil, lettuce, beans, cabbage, etc.
Buying one reasonably priced seed package gets you a nice variety either to try out new tastes or to ensure that one or more will do well in your garden environment.
Another great feature of the Bountiful Gardens offerings are the perennial edible plants – these seeds grow into varieties which will come up year after year without having to plant new seed each spring.
Bountiful offers “open” pollinated seeds. Open pollinated simply means non-hybrid so you can collect seeds from the plants which did best and save them for the next year.
Bountiful is also one of the few mail order companies which sets a lower shipping cost for seeds making their prices very attractive.
In a few years you will have a garden with plants that do best in your area and with your soil.