Choosing Seeds and Deciding What To Grow


Now that you've decided how you want to grow, it's time to address the what. My first piece of advice for those just starting out is to think about what you like to eat now. There's no point in growing a bunch of stuff that you don't want to eat, otherwise it'll just rot in the ground or in your fridge. There's no rule that says you have to grow a bunch of different things - if the only vegetables you like are peas & carrots, then just grow peas & carrots! Another piece of advice is to start out with vegetables that have a reputation for being easy to grow. Anything that gets grown by children in kindergarten is fair game: Carrots, radishes, beans, peas and squash are all really easy to grow, and generally don't need to be started indoors. If you're feeling adventurous, pick up one or two packets of something you've never had before. You never know, you might just discover a new favourite! Seed Packets

Now to the fun part - buying your seeds. There are hundreds of different varieties of every vegetable you can imagine, so it can be a bit daunting when looking at a rack of seeds, or a seed catalog. Just relax, and go with what seems like a good idea (or even just something at random). Remember, they're just plants! There are a few different avenues you can use to get your hands on seeds:

Shops: Most retailers sell seeds produced by large commercial producers, and many of these seeds are pretty good. They also tend to be reasonably cheap, which can be a real boon if you're strapped for cash. There are some downsides though; they may be hybrids, which means that if you save the seeds from that plant, the child plant might be VERY different from the parent. Large companies don't tend to produce seeds in our area, which means they may not produce plants that are well-adapted to the climate here. As well, many of the large seed producers are owned by large multinational chemical companies, who also produce genetically modified seeds. Personally, I don't like supporting those companies if I can avoid it.

Seed Catalogs (Paper or online): This is my preferred method. There are plenty of online retailers selling seeds, many of whom produce their seed using organic methods, as well as avoid knowingly contaminating their seeds with GMO products. There are even producers near Newfoundland (though none that I'm aware of IN Newfoundland), which means that the plants their seeds produce are more likely to be adapted to our climate. The biggest downside is the cost - many of the seed companies out there charge a fair bit more for their seeds, and then there's a large degree of variance on shipping; some have a flat rate, others charge by volume, and still others charge based on order value. Since I tend to order open-pollinated seeds, I view this as a long-term investment, so the cost is somewhat mitigated.

Swaps: This is a great way to improve biodiversity, as well as get your hands on some free seeds. Often, when people save seeds, they end up with more than they can use in a reasonable timeframe (most seed is reasonably viable for 1-5 years), so they will offer to give away some in exchange for someone else's seeds. This means you'll need to have something to offer as well (though on occasion, generous individuals will give seed away without requesting any in return). This doesn't have to be seeds you've saved, though it is generally preferred. Of course, if you are in touch with someone outside of Canada, you'll want to look up the laws around mailing seeds; some countries, like Australia, have very strict rules about incoming plant materials of any kind. An excellent way to get started with seed swapping is to join Seeds of Diversity. It's a Canadian volunteer organization that conserves the biodiversity and traditional knowledge of food crops and garden plants. Their goal is onservation, documentation and use of public-domain, non-hybrid plants of Canadian significance. They pursue the goal by tracking information about a wide variety of plants, and facilitating trades between members, to ensure that our biodiversity is maintained.

There are a few vendors in particular that I like (Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation from any of these vendors, and my opinion is just that):

Atlantic Region: Hope Seeds (; offers Organic and non-GMO seeds Veseys (; offers non-GMO seeds, organic where specified

Central Canada/US: Urban Harvest: (; offers Organic and non-GMO seeds The Cottage Gardener" (; offers Organic and non-GMO seeds, with a focus on rare heirloom varieites Richter's Herbs: (; Offers non-GMO seeds, Organic where specified, focused on providing a wide variety of herbs and flowers Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Comapny: (; offers Organic and non-GMO seeds, based in the US Territorial Seed Company: (; offers Organic and non-GMO seeds

Western Canada/US: Kitazawa Seed Co. (; Carries hard-to-find asian heirloom varieites, no guarantee of organic or GMO status

So go out there, and get cracking on ordering seeds! Oh, and if you order too much, don't worry - you can always plant them next year.