Homestead Diary: The Heritage Apple Project

Over the last few years I have been building a generous collection of foraged apple seeds. I have a tradition of sprouting these seeds as early as New Year’s as a totally gratuitous mid-winter gardening activity. The first couple of years I only collected a handful of varieties, but over this last summer my little experiment turned into a full-on project. Here I’ll share the findings I’ve gathered on the topic of actually sprouting the apple seeds and the exciting (or disappointing) results I’ve gotten.

Over the last few years I have been building a generous collection of foraged apple seeds. I have a tradition of sprouting these seeds as early as New Year’s as a totally gratuitous mid-winter gardening activity. The first couple of years I only collected a handful of varieties, but over this last summer my little experiment turned into a full-on project. Here I’ll share the findings I’ve gathered on the topic of actually sprouting the apple seeds and the exciting (or disappointing) results I’ve gotten.

First of all, if you’re here to tell me what a waste it is to start an apple tree from seed, you may kindly take your leave. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life! But in all seriousness, this has been surprisingly enjoyable little hobby that gives me something gardening-related to look forward to after the mania of the holidays is over and the relative boredom of the dead of winter creeps in – along with the sub-zero temperatures.

However, there are some things that should be noted about the particular type of apples I look for as sprouting material and why it’s different than those viral videos you see about propagating a supermarket apple, which I would never do for numerous reasons.

Apples often don’t come true to type via seed

Image courtesy of ResearchGate

Generally speaking, most apples won’t come true to seed. That means anything you get from the supermarket won’t grow into the same type of apple that it came from. Now why would that be?

Most commercial fruit, even if it’s from a local farmer’s market, will be from cultivars (or varieties) that are hybridized for production or disease resistance, among other things. This doesn’t mean that they’re GMO, but what it does mean is that any offspring from that fruit will likely revert to its original parentage and not be a viable seedling; that or it won’t produce desirable fruit. And given that it can take up to 7 years for an apple tree grown from seed to start producing it’s probably a good idea to choose types that will be as advertised! Surprisingly enough, more than 17,000 varieties of apples have been grown in the US, although less than 3,000 of them still exist today.

Apples have been part of the human experience since the beginning of human history. Apples have been found as a part of the diet of early humans in anthropological research and recorded in the story of Adam & Eve. Greek and Roman mythology refer to apples as symbols of love and beauty. And when the Romans conquered England about the first century B.C.E., they brought apples with them.

In the 1600s, apples made their way to North America, too. Crabapples preceded European colonists to America, but the fruit was not very edible. The Massachusetts Bay Colony requested seeds and cuttings from England, which were brought over on subsequent voyages to Boston. Other Europeans brought apple stock to Virginia and the Southwest, and a Massachusetts man, John Chapman, became famous for planting trees throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. You might know him by his nickname, “Johnny Appleseed.”

As the United States and Canada were settled, nearly every farm grew some apples. Although some of these apples were very good for eating and cooking, most of the early varieties would be considered poor quality today. Often, they were used for cider, and the ground-up apples were fed to livestock.

The Vermont Tree Grower’s Association,

Apples in the State of Idaho

Apples have a very rich history here in my own state of Idaho. In the late 1800s, Idaho pioneered the production and preservation of apple varieties imported from the Eastern territories. The first commercial orchard of the Northwest was opened in modern-day Lewiston, Idaho in 1863 at a respectable size of 15 acres, and produced pears as well as apples which were sold to nearby workers in mining camps. The town was to become known as Lewiston Orchards and remained a top agricultural center for many decades, until fruit production moved further downstate. It remains a focus of Idaho’s economy even today: apples are the state’s top fruit export.

It could easily be said that every farm and homestead in the 19th and 20th century grew some kind of apples. This elusive and somewhat mysterious local lore has inspired many to dive deeper into the discovery and preservation of antique or historic varieties, and groups such as the Idaho State Horticultural Society and the Idaho Apple Commission have made it their duty to manage and preserve the culture of apples in our great state. There are many other smaller projects, like the orchard at the Sandpoint Organic Agricultural Center, among others, that focus on gathering details on historical varieties and cultivating them for the public’s enjoyment.

The Apple That Started It All

“Sheena’s Pippin,” until further identified

My interest was at first piqued by a tree owned by a good friend of mine who invited me to pick from it when we first moved onto our homestead. Being a generational naturalist I immediately noticed its unkempt, naturalized splendor, as well as one very important detail: the tree was grown completely on its own root-stock, ungrafted. This is pretty impressive and quite a curiosity in the scheme of orcharding things, so I took to the internet to try and identify it. There are many varieties common to the area that may have even been cultivated by the university itself, dating back to the 1960’s; this particular tree produces absolutely beautiful freckled fruit, streaked with red and accented by a sunny yellow blush. Knowing I would absolutely need to have my own, I saved some seeds and successfully sprouted about a dozen trees the following winter, two of which now reside at my parents’ home in the Clearwater River Valley.

My parents’ area is also rich in apple history, being nearby the valleys of Lewiston Orchards fame; and in their neighborhood there are many wild, ungrafted apple trees to be studied and propagated free of charge. We became so interested in all the varying types of apples in the area that I amassed a collection of seeds and kept detailed notes of each variety for future reference. After the first year, however, my success at actually sprouting the seeds was fleeting.

Gathering Apple Seeds

Removing apple seeds intact is an art form

To harvest apple seeds I will usually look for specimens that are as bug- and blemish-free as possible. This will ensure the highest amount of viable seed per apple. I then slice the meat away from the core, and usually taste-test it and take notes of its characteristics. Don’t forget to take pictures of each variety if at all possible! This will help a lot with identification in the future.

Using a sharp knife I will carefully score a circle around the waist of the apple core, which is all that is left after slicing away the usable fruit. Then, grasping either end in each hand, snap the core at the score mark, exposing the seeds within the woody part of the core. I carefully pluck these seeds out and place them on a labeled paper plate to dry out for a week or so, then into a plastic bag for storage. Discard any seeds that have holes in them or seem hollow; they probably are not viable. You can use the apple cores, peels and other cutoff for making apple cider vinegar, or compost the remaining waste.

Germinating Apple Seeds

The first year that I tried sprouting seeds I had great success. I just had the one variety from Sheena’s yard, and I put them into the fridge wrapped in a damp paper towel, sealed in a baggie – and completely forgot about them. Three months later I spotted them in the fridge and not only had they stratified, they had germinated! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I put about a dozen sproutlings into cell trays and nursed them for months before they were about four inches tall. Unfortunately my cat had the great idea to take the tops off of nearly all of them; I sent the remaining survivors to live at my mom’s in relative safety. My two cats have a bad habit of damaging my seedlings and other plants, and to my bitter chagrin, I have none of these first flush of apple trees for myself.

The next year I tried winter sowing the seeds I had gathered in milk jugs and had very little success with this method. All the growing conditions seemed right but out of the 50 or so seeds I planted, 2 came up. These two seedlings are wintering over at my mom’s, buried in their pots waiting to be transplanted this year, their second summer.

So this year I did some more research and came up with the same methods that I had read about before: cold stratifying in the fridge with either damp paper towels or peat moss, then waiting for them to sprout in storage or planting them after a 4-6 week chilling period. I opted to try both and got some really interesting results. As of right now, six weeks after placing them in cold storage, none have sprouted. I pulled one package and did some testing and they did germinate after being removed from the refrigerator, so I pulled all of my paper towel specimens and planted them in a 200-cell 1020 plug tray to germinate. One variety that I had a good number of got split off from the group and were broadcast sown into a 4″ tray to germinate under light, with no heat. The remaining 200 seeds I planted I placed onto a heat mat to try and aid germination. Rather than covering them with soil I covered with vermiculite to see if they will retain moisture a little better. I still have some dried seeds of each variety but this will be the largest test run of this year’s seed stock.

Apple seeds will usually have a germination rate of about 30%, so while this may seem like more trees than anyone would know what to do with, I will be lucky to get 50 seedlings sprouted, and then they will have to survive many other obstacles beyond that, including hardening off, wintering over, and planting out, a two- to three-year process. I am hoping to have a good variety of about 20 trees planted around our property and hopefully have some to share with others. I will update this post at the beginning of summer with the results of the 2023 planting-out.

The particular varieties I have gathered won’t mean anything to you, unless you’d like to try sprouting some in which case I’d be happy to share. Here are the varieties I currently have in my collection.

Sheena’s Red Pippin: Sagle, ID. From a friend’s apple tree that I have picked from since 2018. Late summer/early fall apple; yellow with a deep red blush and striping when ripe; soft flesh suitable for fresh eating and applesauce; does not preserve well. Great potential for cider.

Horse Apple: Kamiah, ID. From a horse pasture on Woodland Rd. Late fall/early winter apple; turns deep red and freckled when ripe; soft flesh suitable for fresh eating and applesauce. Will test potential for cider.

Pie Apple: Woodland, ID. Acquired during the 2022 Fall Festival apple pressing. Late summer/early fall apple; green with a red blush when fully ripe; firm flesh, tart and full of pectin. Great potential for baking, canning and preserving. Would store well.

Million Dollar Property Apple: Kamiah, ID. Taken from ground fall of a roadside apple tree outside of a ranch that was sold for nearly $1,000,000. Late fall/early winter apple; red when fully ripened; form flesh is scrisp and slightly tart; more like a crabapple. Very few seeds gathered.

Pink Lady: Woodland, ID. Collected during the 2022 Fall Festival apple pressing. Late summer/early fall; yellow with a pink blush, freckled when ripe; crisp, juicy, sweet table apple. Not sure of storage or cooking qualities. Few seeds collected.

Pond Apple: Kamiah, ID. Collected apples and seeds from this tree for two years – 2021 and 2022. Located near a public fishing pond, hence the name. Fall apple; somewhere between a Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, the flesh is slightly soft but still very crisp and juicy. Has amazing flavor. Best fresh pie apple I have foraged so far; yellow-green with a slight red blush and freckling when ripe; wouldn’t store well, but would be a good candidate for pressing.

Pappy Smith: Woodland, ID. Picked from Fred’s property during the Fall Festival of 2022; late summer,early fall apple; firm, tart, juicy green apple with lots of pectin, like a Granny Smith. Good for baking and storage.

Honeycrisp”: Woodland, ID. From Fred’s property, picked during the Fall Festival 2022. Late summer/early fall apple. He said they were a honeycrisp, and were of similar characteristics, although the tree was not grafted. Few seeds collected.

Green Apple: Possibly a duplicate of Pappy Smith; same characteristics, no red blush but could have been earlier in development. Acquired during the 2022 Fall Festival apple pressing.

Ott’s Basin Crabapple: Sagle, ID. Collected with owner’s permission from a roadside tree in my travels for raw milk. Green crabapple type with a red blush. Very tart and unpalatable but the tree wasn’t grafted or property cared for.

Cherry Lane Apple: Troy, ID. Collected from ground fall a roadside tree in a rural residential area between our house and Mom’s. Fall apple; eye-catching yellow apples almost overtaken by red blush; softer flesh, like a pippin, wouldn’t store well but would make great sauce and cider.

Celestial Apple: Kamiah, ID. Collected from a tree on public property that I used to pick from every year for Thanksgiving mulled cider, but was banished from picking by the neighbor for whatever reason after the fourth year. Late fall/early winter apple; a nice green apple with a red blush and smooth, shiny skin; good for cider and pies. Makes amazing canned pie filling.

Have you ever tried to start an apple tree from seed? Would you like to swap some seeds? Let me know in the comments!

Where to Get My Favorite Free Seed Catalogs

In the colder months when the wind blows snow flurries over our lifeless garden and the fire burns cozy in the living room, one of the most anticipated events in my house is the mid-winter arrival of the annual seed catalogs. There are few things more comforting than relaxing on the couch with a colorful magazine full of page after page of beautiful vegetables, flowers and herbs. Even though I rarely purchase from more than one or two companies every year it’s a wonderfully cathartic way to ward off the chilly weather.

In the colder months when the wind blows snow flurries over our lifeless garden and the fire burns cozy in the living room one of the most anticipated events in my home is the mid-winter arrival of the annual seed catalogs. There are few things more comforting than relaxing on the couch with a colorful magazine full of page after page of beautiful vegetables, flowers and herbs. Even though I rarely purchase from more than one or two companies every year it’s a wonderfully cathartic way to ward off the chilly weather.

There is an undeniable joy that comes from leafing through an old-fashioned ink and paper catalog; however, I know that there’s a lot of benefit to shopping online, including the ability to use advanced product filters and check out quickly. Two of my favorite storefronts that provide amazing selections online but don’t offer a paper catalog are True Leaf Market and Renee’s Garden Seeds. I have ordered from these two companies for many years and I love to spread the word about quality, sustainable seed sources!

While the annual addition of fun and unique new varieties offer temptation in many forms (such as that new purple-striped beefsteak tomato, or a particularly fungus-free cucumber) what really draws me in are all the stories and valuable growing information peppered in with the products. Below I have listed a few of my favorite places to get free seed catalogs so you can enjoy them too!

Baker Creek (Rare Seeds)

Baker Creek, the leader in quality rare and heirloom seed selection, offers two different versions of their catalog; the free edition is the one I get every year and while I’ve never paid for the whole seed catalog, I’ve never been disappointed by the smaller counterpart. It’s chock full of gorgeous, high resolution photos of their unique and exotic varieties. As I’ve mentioned before I always find Baker Creek’s lack of growing information a little bothersome; however, I will continue to peruse their catalog and make small orders from them for years to come, I’m sure.

Botanical Interests

Another fan favorite, Botanical Interests is a serving of eye candy similar to Baker Creek but in a much more artistic way: each variety is hand-illustrated and they take great pride in including copious amounts of growing information. Kevin over at Epic Gardening has just acquired this company and I’m excited to see the direction he takes it.


I hardly ever order from Johnny’s because I grow exclusively heirloom varieties, and they are a company that focuses a lot on new and developing hybrid types; however, I do use them if I am looking for something very specific. I also am continuously impressed with the amount of useful growing information they pack into their catalog and in their online grower’s library as well.

Seed Savers Exchange

SSE is my favorite publication for light reading. They always include touching ancestral stories of seeds from the catalog as well as from the vault that are fascinating and enjoyable to read, and they even sprinkle in recipes throughout! Their mission is a valuable one to support and their selection of exclusively heirloom seeds can’t be beat.

Territorial Seed Company

My grandpa told me about Territorial a few years ago and since then I have made purchases from them here and there. I really enjoy thumbing through their newsprint catalog with oldschool feel and loads of fabulous growing info.

Chances are that after you get on some of these lists (or order from gardening suppliers, who knows) you will receive catalogs in the future that you haven’t even requested! I found one of my favorite seed companies, Pinetree Garden Seeds, this way. And that’s not a sponsored statement whatsoever!

For some quick info on how to start those garden seeds, see my post category on seed starting.

Do you have any favorite seed catalogs not listed here? Share them with me in the comments below!

How I Organize my Garden Seeds

Welcome (or welcome back) to the cabin! I’m sitting down with a cup of tea and my seed purchases for the 2023 season to chat with you about what I’m most excited to grow this year as well as how I organize my seed stash.

Welcome (or welcome back) to the cabin! I’m sitting down with a cup of tea and my seed purchases for the 2023 season to chat with you about what I’m most excited to grow this year as well as how I organize my seed stash.

I did do some hapless department store seed shopping, but this year I tried to stick to only what I needed to round out my vegetable garden as well as selecting some flowers to transform my patch into the cottage-inspired space I’d like it to be. The larger ticket items I was in need of this year were alliums, paste tomatoes, greens, and herbs. I went through a lot of these seeds in prior years and I needed to round out my stock for this year not just for my personal garden but for the seedlings that I sell around town in the spring.

I shop mainly for heirloom vegetable seeds, and I would love if you would visit our Affiliations page to see which brands we use and love here on the homestead, and which give back to us through referrals!

Photo Storage Full-Size Seed Organizer:

Photo Storage Half-Size Seed Boxes:

Renee’s Garden Seeds:

Seeds ‘n Such:

Seed Savers Exchange:



You can get 10% off your order using my code SAVE10NOW.

Sandhill Preservation Center:

Baker Creek Rare Seeds:

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe:

STRATCO Raised Garden Beds:

As an Amazon Associate I may earn a small commission from any purchase made from links that I share, at no additional cost to you. To find out more please view our privacy policy on our website.

Lavender: The Complete Growing Guide

Lavender is a hardy perennial herb renowned for its aromatic blooms and soothing medicinal qualities. Popular with pollinators and astoundingly deer-proof, this classical, compact shrub is a fabulous choice for low-maintenance landscaping or beautifying a kitchen garden. Dating back to the Old World and being native to the Mediterranean, lavender is drought-tolerant, easy to grow and thrives in poor soil conditions as long as it has good drainage.

Scientific Name:Lavandula angustifolia
Hardiness:Hardy perennial Zones 5-10
Spread:12”-36” tall by 12”-24” wide
Light Requirements:Full sun, 6-8 hours
Soil Requirements:pH between 6.5-7.5; prefers dry, sandy, or well-draining soil; even barren or alkaline
Days to Maturity:18-23 weeks (126-160 days) after germination
Start Indoors:10-12 weeks before last frost
Germination:14-21 days at 70°F
Direct Sow:Not Recommended
Succession Plant:Not Recommended
Difficulty Level:Easy
Lavender Gardening Facts
English Lavender

About Plant

Lavender is a hardy perennial herb renowned for its aromatic blooms and soothing medicinal qualities. Popular with pollinators and astoundingly deer-proof, this classical, compact shrub is a fabulous choice for low-maintenance landscaping or beautifying a kitchen garden. Dating back to the Old World and being native to the Mediterranean, lavender is drought-tolerant, easy to grow and thrives in poor soil conditions as long as it has good drainage.

Popular Varieties

Lady Lavender – classic and beautiful
Munstead Lavender – hardy and easy to find
Ellagance Lavender – uniquely shaped, highly fragrant blooms


Transplant (recommended): Germinate on damp paper towels (moist stratify) in the fridge for about 4-6 weeks; or surface sow seeds in a flat 10-12 weeks before last frost. Seeds require some light for germination, so press lightly into the soil or cover thinly with vermiculite. Transplant to individual cells when two sets of true leaves have emerged. Direct seeding is not recommended.


Transplant started plants in spring after the last frost. Plant shallowly, so the soil line is just above the top roots of the plant. Space plants 12-18″ apart in rows 24-36″ apart.
Lavender can be easily propagated from cuttings. Take softwood cuttings no less than 3” long, and remove leaves from two lower nodes on the stem. Stripping the stem on one side can also aid in root development. If desired, dip in rooting hormone or honey and bury the bottom portion in moistened potting soil in a small container. Cover with a humidity dome or plastic bottle and place somewhere warm with ample light exposure. When you can see root development, remove the plastic cover and put the pot into a location with full sun. Transplant after about a month of outdoor growth.


Plant in a loose, well-drained, gravelly or sandy soil. Lavender favors a protected south-facing location. Soil that is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline is most desirable. If the soil pH falls below 6.5, the soil should be amended to adjust the pH to no more than 8.3.


During the second year, cuttings can be taken from August-November, when the stems are semihardened, but before they have been subjected to a hard freeze. Harvest the flower spikes on a dry, warm, sunny day just as the flowers are about to open. Hang to dry in a well-ventilated space out of direct sunlight.


In late fall, clip plants back to below the flower stems and mulch heavily.

Sissy’s Notes

Season 2019:
Attempted to germinate in plastic cups with little success. Maybe one or two sprouts that died off shortly after germination most likely due to damping off.

Season 2021:
Tried cold stratifying on paper towels in the fridge, had about 30% germination. These seedlings died after transplanting as well, I believe from damping off. Need to isolate lavender from other seedlings in flats that don’t get as much water.

Season 2023:
Tried two different germination methods: broadcast sown in 4×4 flats, half covered with a thin layer of vermiculite and half just pressed into the soil; and spread on moist paper towels and taped to a south-facing window and left for 4 weeks.

Sparse germination in the flats of Livingston and Burpee seeds; 50% germination of Baker Creek seeds. I do not know whether these brands have been cold stratified prior to packaging and have not been able to find out.

Best germination was achieved in the window baggies – close to if not 100% of the two types from Baker Creek. Saw better germination of the department store brands but not much, and not enough to transplant. I suspect the differences stem from stratification prior to packaging. I’ve placed a few more packets of Livingston and Renee’s Garden lavender seeds into a baggie to dry stratify in the fridge, and will try again on paper towels. Transplanted the baggie seedlings to individual cells and they’re putting on good growth.

Four Different Seed Starting Methods

If you’ve found me via the rabbit hole of seed starting, welcome! A cursory internet search will turn up an overwhelming amount of advice, and I’m glad you’re here to check out mine. Through all my research and personal experience I’ve come up with the four most popular methods of seed starting and I want to share some information about all of them in one place (spoiler: I use all four!). If you’re not sure where to begin or you’re not super happy with the method you’ve been using this is the post for you. I list my pro’s and con’s for each type of container as well as shopping recommendations!

Plastic Cups

AffordableCan be out of stock due to supply issues
Easy to labelMay start to decompose if not treated properly
Semi-ReusableNot environmentally friendly
Locally AvailableRequires modification for drainage holes
Plastic Cup Pros & Cons
Cup Seedlings

This is the route many people take when they’re first beginning to start seeds at home, and for many it’s an enduring solution! I still prefer to pot up my tomatoes into plastic cups because they’re easy to store, they’re reusable, and they’re usually easy to find – I say usually because since the pandemic hit there has been a shortage of the particular type of clear Solo cups that I like to use, and while generic brand plastic cups work perfectly fine, my experience is that they really are only viable for one year of use. This is neither practical nor sustainable, so I prefer to buy name brand and they’ve occasionally been hard to come by the past two seasons. That being said I still have cups that I’ve been reusing since my first season nearly 4 years ago, so that tells you how long they can last when properly cared for! Even though they’re recyclable, these are probably the least environmentally-friendly option on the list if that’s important to you personally.

Plastic cups are a really attractive option for those who don’t want to continue to pot up their seedlings as they get larger, meaning they’ll experience less shock as a result of repeated transplanting. Some of the latter options I list here require potting up and like I mentioned earlier, I still prefer to pot my tomato plants into plastic cups after about 4 weeks because I can bury the stems as far as I want when I do so.

Now, are colored or clear cups better? Some people say that using clear plastic isn’t good for root health because of light exposure, but I have noticed absolutely no difference in root development using the classic red vs. clear Solo cups. I like to use the clear green plastic cups to provide a little opaqueness but still enough clarity to keep an eye on the roots. Having a window into the condition of your seedlings beneath the surface is a wonderful tool. Whichever you decide to use you can rest assured that they will all provide the same results. Just be sure to drill a hole in the bottom to ensure proper drainage!

You can also write directly on them using a permanent marker, which makes labeling your plant starts super easy. Any seedlings that I sell or give away make the journey to their new homes in plastic cups just for this reason – no tags to fuss around with or get lost in transit!

Plug Trays

ReusableRequires potting up
Available online and sometimes in storesCan be difficult to label
Easy to useMid-level startup cost depending on brand
Many types to choose from
Plug Tray Pros & Cons
Plug Seedlings

When it comes to plug trays there are many different options to choose from. Products vary in material, plug size, tray size, and usage. I haven’t personally bought many plug trays because I have limited use for them, but I can attest to the quality and functionality of Burpee’s Super Seed Starting System. I stocked up on these thinking that I would use them for all my starts but I ran into a potting-up problem early on since I have to start seeds so far in advance in my cold climate. However, I still use them for starts that are indoors for a relatively short amount of time and I love them for what they are. The silicone bottoms made for easy pricking out, and the bottom trays are pretty sturdy. They’re a mid-range option in cost and since Burpee is a large company they have superior customer support if any issues may arise, like a cracked tray or handle. This didn’t happen to me but my mom experienced it twice in one shipment of this product.

A brand that is highly recommended across the board is Bootstrap Farmer. They have a line of durable, quality seed starting materials in many different configurations and even colors to choose from. I am the proud owner of a few precious flats from their old-style products, and I can tell you with great conviction they’re made to last!

Open Flats

AffordableRequires potting up
Locally availableCan be difficult to label
Many types to choose fromNot suitable for all seed needs
Good option for multisowingCan’t bottom water some types
Reusable, depending on type
Open Flat Pros & Cons
Flat Seedlings

Another option for seed starting is simply a shallow, open container which you fill with soil and then plant with seed. This can be a designated gardening product or something you can repurpose of the same shape and size. The possibilities are almost endless for this type of planting, and I’ve seen gardeners use foil pans, Tupperware containers, or even takeout boxes for this method. I start my onion bulbs in flats and I prefer to use cake pans which I sourced from the Dollar Tree (score!).

One of the things I dislike about this method of seed starting is if you’re not using a specialized seed starting product, most of these containers must be modified for drainage. If you use this type of container be mindful of overwatering and be sure not to let them dry out either.

Plants that are more sensitive to transplanting like cucumbers and squash shouldn’t be planted in open flats since they usually require potting up. However, flats can be a wonderful solution for gardeners that multi-sow and prick their seedlings out directly into the garden plot.

Soil Blocks

Infinitely reusableHigh startup cost
Reduced plastic wasteCan be difficult to label
Many types to choose fromNot suitable for all seed needs
Good option for multisowingTakes time to learn technique
One-time investment
Soil Block Pros & Cons
Soil Blocks

I’ll just say up front that soil blocks are my favorite way to start seeds! I own the entire series of Ladbrooke blockers from the micro to the large size, although I have yet to use the latter. The system I’ve devised uses cookie sheets (again, Dollar Tree or Walmart special, so very affordable) to stamp out my soil blocks onto, and I attach miniature binder clips with tape labels to indicate each row and what type of seeds it contains. Soil blocks boast many health benefits for your seedlings, including the natural pruning of the roots as soon as they hit the air – so no bound-up roots or soggy rot to be dealt with.

However, soil blockers can take some trial and error before you’ll become really skillful when using them. They require a very particular type of soil mixture in order to work, and getting the dampness of the growing medium just right is what will make or literally break your blocks. Too wet, and they won’t shape well. Too dry and they’ll crumble apart. So achieving the proper seed starting mix and moisture ratio is very important to using these tools effectively. There are many videos out there on mixes and moisture levels and I encourage you to do lots of research and not to get discouraged. It took me a few times to get the hang of them, but since I have I’m enamored of them! I’ve never had better results with my seedlings and they eliminate the need for plastic waste.

While there are plenty more seed starting methods out there I’m sure we’ve covered the most popular in this post. Please share in the comments your favorite tips for seed starting!

10 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Began Seed Starting

Let me preface this post by stating that I am in no way an expert gardener. It takes many years of research and experience to gain such an illustrious title, and although this will be my fourth year gardening at the homestead I still have so much to discover. Nonetheless I have learned enough in the past few seasons that I thought I would share my fortune (and follies) with those who find themselves falling down the seed starting rabbit hole! To see all my posts on seed starting check out my category here.

Let me preface this post by stating that I am in no way an expert gardener. It takes many years of research and experience to gain such an illustrious title, and although this will be my fourth year gardening at the homestead I still have so much to discover. Nonetheless I have learned enough in the past few seasons that I thought I would share my fortune (and follies) with those who find themselves falling down the seed starting rabbit hole! To see all my posts on seed starting check out my category here.

I will also update this post in subsequent years with anything I find pertinent.

Lighting is important, but doesn’t need to break the bank

Lighting is one of the most important factors of starting seeds, especially if you do so indoors while there is still snow on the ground (like me.) However, an internet search will produce all kinds of results for fancy or expensive lighting systems that for a budding indoor grower such as myself, just simply weren’t attainable. Upon doing more research on what types of light are best for growing seeds indoors I found that most of these options aren’t even necessary. Yes, spectrum of light can make a difference, but I have been starting seeds with a combination of LED and fluorescent shop lighting for a few years now and I’ve had great success using what I already had.

Kansas State University has an article that I found very informative on the subject of grow lighting – I’ve linked it here.

So while an array of lamps and fixtures may not be the most aesthetically pleasing solution, I implore you to peruse your local buy and sell pages to find affordable lights before making a huge investment in integrated or advanced systems. Fluorescent bar lights, broad-spectrum LED lamps, and sometimes even heat lamps (which can be converted to fluorescent with a simple bulb change) can be found used at a very good price and will be a minimal cost for a new hobby – which, like many other extracurricular activities you’ve tried over your lifetime, may not even be right for you! Let’s be honest – if you find that your climate doesn’t really necessitate indoor seed starting, that you really just aren’t good at it, or you don’t feel like putting in the effort when you can go plant shopping at the hardware store, then it’s better to minimize your startup cost (and perhaps your losses if it doesn’t work out.)

Hybrid, Heirloom and Non-GMO

I expand on this topic in my post about How to Shop for Garden Seeds Like a Pro because it’s one of my favorite things to talk about when it comes to seeds. The bottom line is that organic and non-GMO labels are a new gimmick and don’t mean anything to you OR your wallet as a home gardener. Every seed you’ll find on the shelf, readily available for the general public will be non-GMO. Hybrid seeds aren’t bad, they’re just cross-pollinated varieties that can actually be really beneficial to us as hobby farmers. So when it comes to seed starting, unless you want to harvest your own seeds, you can go ahead and buy whatever you want and be free of judgement from those who really know what seeds are all about (wink, wink!)

Organic seeds are a rip off

As harsh as that sounds, unless you’re a die-hard organic supporter, there is only one difference between organic and non-organic seeds: cost – and that’s a scientific fact. The only thing you’ll gain from buying organic seeds is the peace of mind that may come from supporting industrial organic farming practices. While I absolutely encourage whole food consumption, I’ve never been able to justify the added expense of buying organic, especially because scientists have found that there’s no tangible difference between the two. So when you’re buying seeds that aren’t labeled organic, you can rest assured that any undesirable chemical treatment you’re trying to avoid in your home garden isn’t carried through generations via seed.

Bottom watering is the way to go

The first year that I started seeds I painstakingly watered my seedlings by hand with a spray bottle, sometimes twice a day. But as I continued watching educational videos and learning more about seedling care I discovered bottom watering, and I haven’t looked back! Not only is it a more reliable way to water your tender plants, it allows for some independence from your seed starting operation especially as your seedlings age. I’ve found that through using flats or cookie sheets I can sort of bottom water my soil blocks as well, something I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do after reading up about the method. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll always want to ensure proper drainage for your seedlings not just for soil health but for the ability to bottom water. Your plant babies will thank you!

Heat mats are worth the investment (especially in colder climates!)

I struggled with germinating any type of peppers in my colder climate before I discovered seedling heat mats. They’re affordable and commercially available at most hardware stores that sell seed starting supplies, which makes them accessible for most home gardeners nowadays (they didn’t used to be so easy to come by.) Now I use them for any seed that can benefit from warm soil! Even with my portable greenhouse at its best it will only reach max ambient temperatures of about 70 degrees in the attic where I start my seeds in the winter. So for things like peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes, the constant 70-80 degree tray warmers improved my germination rates up to 100% even with older seed stock. Which leads us to our next topic…

An old seed isn’t a bad seed

If you look at your seed packets you’ll always find a “best by” or “packed for” date. It’s important to remember that these are guidelines more for stocking purposes than anything. Most types of seed (save for alliums which have very limited viability) will have good germination rates for up to 3 years past their expiration date as long as they’ve been stored away from heat and moisture. Beyond that, it’s not like they just die – you’ll most likely get reduced germination as the seed ages. You can test viability by pre-sprouting your seeds on a damp paper towel in a plastic baggie if you’re really concerned about wasting space in your trays. However, there are lots of stories from both laboratory and home gardeners which document the sprouting of ages-old seed, even as ancient as 1500 years! The biology of a seed is pretty amazing. So if you have or happen to come by some older seed packets don’t throw them out just yet – you might be surprised by what you’ll get!

Proper drainage is important

Soggy soil is as detrimental to your seedlings as dry soil. I made the mistake my first year starting seeds of not drilling drain holes in my plastic cups. As a result I had a terrible incident of damping-off, a fungal disease that kills seedlings at the soil level. Sopping wet soil is thought to contribute to this terrible affliction, so don’t waste time and money by letting your seeds sit in their juices. I use a power drill and a long 1/4″ drill bit to make holes in my plastic cups about 6 at a time, making quick work of a dirty job.

Fans are your friends

Oscillating fans are an inexpensive but invaluable addition to your germination station. Not only does it help with overall seedling health, it keeps the top of your soil dry and may prevent that darn damping-off. Simulating wind for your plants is like hardening them off while they’re still indoors because it builds tolerance and stronger stems. I start with a gentle breeze when my seedlings have a few true leaves, and move the fans around to different angles about twice a week. Adding this easy process to your regimen can greatly increase your plants’ chance of surviving while making their transition to thr outdoors.

Organization will Make or Break You

Whether it’s arranging your seed collection or labeling your plug trays, organization can make your seed starting experience fun and easy; whereas the lack of proper labeling and cataloguing can ruin everything. If you’re starting any decent amount of plants from seed you’ll want to make sure to label them accurately and effectively, and don’t ever trust yourself to remember what something is or where it’s at! I’ve made the mistake many times of thinking, oh, I’ll remember what that is tomorrow. Nope, not even close! For some people this may not make any difference on their hobby farm. But for someone like me who starts hundreds of seeds and sells dozens of starts, it can mean the difference between making some of my investment back. I can’t very well deliver cherry tomatoes to a friend who ordered paste because I didn’t label my trays properly!

Failure is what Cultivates Expertise

Whether you’re a new or seasoned gardener you will have mistakes or even catastrophic failures in the garden every year. We all do, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of! One of the things I love the most about the gardening community is that knowledge is lovingly and generously shared, and every experience one has, good or bad, is a lesson to be learned from. The more trial and error you experience firsthand will compound your understanding of your particular patch and its individual needs.

Are there any tips you’d like to share with me? Please leave me your best advice in the comments!

How Many Plants For Your Family? Vegetable Planting Chart

feed your family through the summer? What about for your home canning needs? Depending on what type of fruit and veg your loved ones eat the most, it can be more than you think. I’ve compiled this handy chart to help you plan your seed starting or plant shopping, and below you’ll find tips on how to use it well.

Ever wondered how many of each plant you’ll need in your vegetable garden to actually feed your family through the summer? What about for your home canning needs? Depending on what type of fruit and veg your loved ones eat the most, it can be more than you think. I’ve compiled this handy chart to help you plan your seed starting or plant shopping, and below you’ll find tips on how to use it well.

Crop (number of plants per square foot)Number of plants per personNumber of plants for a family of 4
Asparagus (1 plant)5-1020-40
Beans (8 to 10 bush)12-1548-60
Beets (thin to 9 seedlings)15-3060-120
Cucumber (2 bush)24
Carrots (thin to 16 seedlings)48192
Corn (4 plants)10-1540-60
Kale (1 plant) 2-78-28
Leaf Lettuce (6 plants)2496
Melon (1/2 plant or 2 squares per 1 plant)1-24-8
Onion (9 bunching)12-2048-80
Peas (9 plants)15-2060-80
Pepper (1 plant)3-512-20
Potato (4 plants)1040
Radish (thin to 16 seedlings)10-1540-60
Spinach (9 plants)3-612-16
Summer Squash (1 bush)1-24-8
Tomato (1 plant)2-48-16
Winter Squash (1 bush)1-24-8
Zucchini (1 bush)1-24-8
Plants per Person Chart

You’ll find many charts of this type online, although a lot of them won’t include any kind of information about what’s behind these numbers!

The first thing to note when using this chart is that it’s mainly for fresh eating. It’s also just a guideline. If your kids really love to eat zucchini, you may want to plant one or two extra bushes. The same goes for the opposite result – if your spouse doesn’t like home-grown tomatoes, file for divorce reduce the number of tomato starts you plant out.

Secondly, what does this chart mean for your home canning needs? If you’re just starting out and you want some extra produce to play around with, you probably won’t need any additional plants. But if you want to put up a substantial amount of food for the winter months you may need to increase or even double your harvest. I’ll use tomatoes as an example because they’re a popular canning product.

The average tomato plant will produce around 8 pounds in a season. A full canner load of whole or halved tomatoes, or 7 quart jars, requires about 20 pounds of fresh tomatoes. That means you’ll have to grow an extra 2-3 plants for your canning needs for each load of jars you process. For a family of 6 that needs 30 pints of processed tomatoes, that can be a ton of tomatoes – not literally, but dang! That’s a lot of plants, and a lot of garden space, especially if you’re urban gardening.

You can do all the planning in the world and you’ll probably still need to make some adjustments to your numbers each year. This is a fabulous reason to keep a garden journal! You can keep record of how many plants you had each year and if you had too little (or way too much) of a crop.

Keep in mind that even if you can’t fulfill your family’s food needs for the entire winter (or through a summer of fresh eating for that matter) every step you take to supplement your groceries is a step in the right direction. A few fresh salads and squash are enough to warrant a celebration because you have made the decision to start gardening for food supply, and that’s a great accomplishment. So use these types of info-graphics as a guideline, not a hard rule.

For the 2022 season I’m planning on growing a lot more paste tomatoes rather than slicing, because my husband doesn’t favor beefsteaks and I’m shifting my focus to canning for winter food supply. If you need a resource for heirloom tomato seeds, TomatoFest is my go-to every year! They have an amazing selection of heirloom tomatoes of all kinds and I’ve always had fantastic results from their seeds. Gary Ibsen, the owner, is an experienced breeder and has written one of my favorite books, The Great Tomato Book. I can’t wait to receive my order of new-to-me paste tomato varieties!

The Great Tomato Book on Kindle
Click here to visit TomatoFest

Let me know in the comments what vegetable you’re most looking forward to growing this year!

How To Shop For Nursery Seedlings

veggie starts may look herculean compared to humble home-grown seedlings, looks can be absolutely deceiving. Read on for my best tips on how to shop for nursery-grown plant starts.

There is so much more to plant shopping than you think! While those department store veggie starts may look herculean compared to humble home-grown seedlings, looks can be absolutely deceiving. Read on for my best tips on how to shop for nursery-grown plant starts.

Look For Signs of Stress

Your first indicators of a seedling that’s best left for the bargain bin are obvious signs of stress. These can include wilt, discoloration, legginess, dry or cracked soil, or dropped leaves. Many of these signs are related to poor watering, fertilizing, and accommodations – many nurseries send out seedlings in prime condition, but by the time they make it to the garden center in your area they can be outgrowing their pot and in desperate need of some attention. For best results try to find the perkiest, greenest looking one of the bunch, and not necessarily the largest! We’ll talk specifically about size in a moment.

Avoid Flowering

While it may be intriguing to see flowers on seedlings they’re the last thing you want on a plant before you take it home. A seedling that is setting flowers usually means it’s reached a point in its lifespan that any further growth will be stunted, because something has signaled the poor little thing to be fruitful and multiply! This can mean it’s outgrown its container, has not been getting enough water or nutrients, or has come in and out of dormancy too many times. If you must take home a plant that has begun flowering (or even worse, fruiting) go ahead and pinch those babies off until it’s planted in its permanent location and has some time to settle in.

Check on Root Development

I promise you won’t get yelled at by the clerk if you check a plant’s roots before putting it in your basket! Go ahead and pop that sucker out of the cup and check out the root situation underneath. If you see a lot of spiraling or “balling” of the roots, pass on that one. More root problems can be indicated by dryness, discoloration, or even mold and mush. Healthy roots will be relatively straight, firm and light colored.

Be Mindful of Size

While you may be tempted to go for the tomato that towers above the rest, be careful! Don’t spend a cent of your precious garden budget on a seedling that won’t get any bigger once you plant it out. When shopping for starts younger is usually better and while this may surprise you it’ll soon be evident in the garden. Seedlings that have outgrown their environment will be quickly surpassed by their more petite companions for the simple reason that they peaked too soon. If you see a larger plant that isn’t suffering from any of other the signs above, lucky you! However, I’m willing to bet that gargantuan plant is root-bound as can be, already flowering, in need of a fertilizing and won’t see much success no matter how well you care for it after you bring it home.

Beware Pests or Disease

While this is uncommon for nursery-grown plants it’s not unheard of. If you see any kind of pest damage like holes or chewing, beware! You wouldn’t want to bring that pest home and introduce it to your own garden plot. For the same reason you should be on the lookout for any kind of black, brown or white spots, or a powdery residue on the leaves or soil. These are good indicators that there is disease present in the nursery and that you probably shouldn’t spend your money there. You may even want to notify an employee if you see something suspicious – there’s a chance they may not know yet that there’s a problem.

Strive to Shop Local

Last but definitely not least (this may be the most important item on the list!) please do your best to support local businesses and keep your hard earned money in your community. There are many hometown nurseries to visit in your area and they will be forever grateful for your patronage. Their plants are often started from seed right there on the property and you can ask for specialized advice, which they are often more than happy to share. This will translate directly to your garden through healthier plants and better production! The benefits from shopping small for your seedlings are endless, so do your part to stimulate the local economy and visit a small farm or greenhouse for your gardening needs this season!

I frequently buy herbs like rosemary, sage, and lavender from my local nursery because they’re hard to germinate and will do much better in my climate as started plants. However, if you haven’t tried your hand at seed starting, I highly encourage you to take the leap. You can read my Home Gardener’s Guide to Seed Starting for more information.

What are the veggies that you just can’t live without? Let me know what you pick up from the nursery in the comments below!

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Saving Your Own Garden Seeds

Did you know that with proper selection and care you can grow your own seed stock right in your home garden? Planting heirloom fruits, vegetables, and herbs can provide you with an unlimited supply of garden seeds for generations to come. Read on for my top reasons why you should start saving seeds this season.

It Will Reduce The Overall Cost of Gardening

Saving your own seeds can be a very economical way to garden! Aside from purchasing online, seeds can be found in all sorts of places from swaps to public seed libraries and even in the wild. Whether you begin with purchased, gifted, or foraged seed, it will soon become the gift that keeps on giving. With isolated or open-pollination practices you can continue to harvest seed year after year and never have to purchase that variety again!

Your Plants Will Adapt to Your Environment

When you save seeds from the healthiest fruits that your garden produces you’re taking the genetics from that very plant and passing them on to the next generation. That means that as seasons pass you’ll be preserving the most desirable traits of that plant as well as the hardiness it’s developed from living in your particular patch of dirt! Amazingly, these adaptations include but are not limited to: pest and disease resistance, cold or heat tolerance, soil condition, and sun exposure. It’s pretty mind-blowing the difference you will notice from a plant that was grown in an industrial greenhouse from commercial seed stock versus one that you’ve been planting at home for years.

It’s Fun and Easy

Seed saving for the most part is a hobby more than a chore, and is pretty easy to figure out! There’s one thing that Mother Nature designed fruits and vegetables to do and that’s procreate, which is great for us hunter gatherers. Just you wait – soon you’ll be eyeballing flowers and herbs in a whole new way, and searching on the internet for how to propagate apple seeds from your neighbor’s tree. You’ll want to pick your bounty when it’s far past its prime, normally at the end of its peak season and way beyond the point of edibility. The seeds from these fruit will be fully mature and will have the best chance of germination come the next season. Seed Savers Exchange has a wonderful chart for seed saving which can be found on their website here.

With all these fantastic reasons I’m sure you’ll be anxious to start collecting seeds this season! Let me know in the comments below what fruit, vegetable, flower or herb you’d most like to try harvesting.

How to Shop for Garden Seeds Like a Pro

Hybrid, heirloom, non-GMO? Oh my! What do all these things mean for a gardener when shopping for seeds? I’ll tell all in this lengthy post and I’ll also share some of my favorite vendors (and coupon codes!) with y’all. If you’re ready to dive into my best practices for seed shopping, grab a hot drink and let’s get going! First, we’ll start with the different types of seed that are (and aren’t) available to home gardeners.

Hybrid vs. Heirloom vs. Non-GMO Seeds

I want to preface this section with the statement that hybrid seeds are not bad seeds! Hybrid seeds also are not GMO seeds. This may sound confusing but it can be broken down as such: a hybrid seed is a lot like a dog who is purebred. You must breed these pure hybrid seeds only with other pure hybrid seeds in order to get a descendant true to their type. They aren’t genetically modified – they’re really only cross-pollinated! How simple is that? And the benefits we can reap from growing hybrid seeds in our home gardens are very high – they can boast qualities such as pest and disease resistance, earlier harvests, and premium taste as a result of careful and precise breeding by the companies who develop them.

One of the downsides of purchasing hybrid seeds is that you essentially won’t be able to save seed from your harvest for next year’s planting. If you find a hybrid that you really like, such as the Early Girl tomato, you could continue buying seed from Burpee for years to come. But should any unforeseen circumstances arise(such as what we’ve experienced in the years since COVID came about) there can be problems with stock and supply chain that may prevent you from having those plants some seasons.

Consequently there has been a huge jump in demand for heirloom seeds in the past few years. Heirlooms are rich with history and flavor, as well as being reliable and most importantly, saveable. By definition a plant must be considered stable for at least 50 years to be labeled as an heirloom, meaning you will always get the same product as the very first parent plant you started with as long as it’s been pure in pollination. Sometimes this can take a little extra effort in a home garden but it’s absolutely doable! This means you can purchase a packet of seeds your first year, harvest some of your own seed from a fruit you grew in your garden, and use that new seed you’ve saved to build your very own collection of heirloom seed stock tailored to your growing climate and conditions. Not only does this save money in the long run but it creates an incredibly hardy variety of plant that over the years becomes genetically adapted to your individual plot. To read more about the benefits of saving your own seed see my post detailing the 3 Reasons Why You Should Save Your Own Garden Seed.

Fairly recently (within the last decade or so) many heirloom and organic seed companies have also started labeling their seed stock as non-GMO. While it’s true that their seed is absolutely free of modified genetics, it’s a bit of a misnomer for the home gardener. Unbeknownst to the general public, GMO seeds aren’t available to anyone who isn’t a large-scale farmer buying wholesale seeds. We’re talking the corn and tomato farmers of Central California – they’re really the only ones who are able to purchase such costly seeds for the purpose of food supply agriculture. So in essence, your seeds being non-GMO is guaranteed whether they’re hybrid, heirloom, organic, or anything else under the sun. Southern Living wrote a great article on the non-GMO trend that can be found here.

Start Small (and keep track of what you have)

When seed shopping it’s easy to go overboard (go ahead, ask me how I know!). So when it comes to buying seed, especially as a beginner seed starter, stick with varieties that are easy to grow and keep it simple with one or two types of each vegetable or herb. Instead of buying every type of tomato on the rack, try one each of a cherry, paste and beefsteak. This way you don’t end up spending a fortune when you’re trying to save money in the first place by growing your own food!

It’s also a good idea to keep track of what seeds you’ve purchased even if they haven’t arrived yet. It may seem like overkill but I keep a spreadsheet inventory of my seed collection so that I won’t order duplicates, as well as to keep myself in check – while it’s easy to pick up a packet here or there while browsing online or at the hardware store, if I don’t have a need for it as determined by my list, I try not to buy it. Obviously there are exceptions but as my seed collection has grown I’ve tried to reign it in a bit. So when I’m ordering seeds, especially from multiple vendors, I’ll enter what I’ve purchased onto my spreadsheet to avoid getting too many duplicates in my stash. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get to this point if you are at all serious about gardening!

Store Wisely

Storage is also an important factor of seed collecting especially if you’re wanting long term viability from your seed investments. Whether you’re purchasing or foraging your seed (or both) you will need somewhere appropriate to store them in order to keep them healthy – a seed is alive, after all, and they require relatively specific conditions in order to get the best use out of them. A shoebox in the garden shed would probably be fine but don’t you want to maximize your efforts and store them properly? They need a generally stable temperature to stay viable if they’re not being refrigerated, and dryness is imperative for long-term storage. I use a 4×6 photo storage suitcase for my seed collection and I’m very happy with the organization and ease of use this provides especially during indoor growing season. If you’d like a glimpse of my personal collection of heirloom seeds you can check out my post here!

So without further ado (and in no particular order), here are my top recommendations for seed suppliers!

Renee’s Garden Seeds

Renee’s is a wonderful resource for seeds online and in-store. They’re one of the first companies I ordered from and I still get a few things from them every year. The owner curates beautiful artwork for their packaging as well as their publications, which are a joy to read; and they’ve published a handful of garden-focused cookbooks which I can’t wait to read (I’m impatiently waiting for their arrival in the mail!)

They don’t necessarily focus on heirlooms but their selection contains many open-pollinated and organic vegetable and herb seeds as well as a gorgeous selection of cut flowers. Their products can be found online but I’ve found them at my local co-op as well.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek is a very popular and successful seed company, and for good reason. They have a selection that could be considered excessive but is amazingly diverse and obscure. They specialize in heirlooms and they have beautifully curated packet and catalog photography. They are widely praised by many home gardeners and are often the first vendor recommended on forums and videos.

Personally, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Baker Creek. Often I will order a handful of items from them just because they have rare items that are fun and colorful (their web address is, after all, However, they don’t offer a ton of information on growing these varieties and sometimes there is some trial and error when you are raising seedlings of these more obscure types. Namely, the (inconveniently large) packets contain only the most concise growing instructions.

Their seeds also come in quantities that are much more than I will ever need or use, but admittedly are fun for sharing if you have the opportunity to do so. This comes at the cost of more seed – you end up paying sometimes twice as much for their seed than other companies. If it’s a specialty item, I’m totally fine with that! However, I’ll usually save my money for a company who can give me a smaller amount that can get me started building my own heirloom seed stock.


I like to play with new cultivars in my garden and SeedsNow is my favorite way to accomplish just that! The greatest benefit and one of my favorite reasons to shop their store is they have seeds available in smaller quantities at discount prices. This means you can try something new without spending the whole $3-$4 on a pack of seeds you may not end up liking. For me, this includes things that I’m not sure my family would eat a lot of, as well as plants that are harder to germinate that I want to experiment with. Thanks to SeedsNow I am able to purchase new items in a small and very affordable quantity.

I have been ordering from SeedsNow for nearly five years and I have nothing but great things to say about them. I have always had amazing germination and results from the seeds I purchase from them and I am never disappointed by their heirloom selection. They may not have many super-obscure types like Baker Creek, but they have all the tried and true varieties of fruits, veg, and herbs that a beginner seed starter could ever want!

Luckily for you, my dear reader, Whistling Rooster Homestead is an affiliate with SeedsNow! Click here to shop and receive a 10% discount on your entire order, and click this link to receive free shipping!

Territorial Seed

I first ordered from Territorial on the recommendation of my dear grandfather, an avid gardener, when we moved to the homestead in 2019. They have a wonderful selection of all kinds of seeds and they also publish a very informative newsletter that I enjoy reading on a regular basis. I love when companies promote education alongside their products and Territorial Seed is the best of the best. I enjoy reading their print catalog every year because there’s information to be gleaned from every page. They also have a library of growing guides and other resources on their website that are absolutely amazing!


If you’re anything like me and you’d like to go strictly heirloom MIgardener is going to be your BFF! I have been watching Luke’s educational YouTube channel since 2017 and I thoroughly enjoyed his book The Autopilot Garden. In 2018 he opened a brick and mortar shop in Port Huron, MI and sells a wide variety of 100% heirloom seed stock as well as merchandise. Not only do they carry a good variety, they are also priced to sell at just $2 a packet for most products. If you’d like to gain a reliable source for tried and true heirlooms head over to their site.

Snake River Seed Cooperative

Allow me to introduce one of my absolute favorite seed companies – Snake River Seed Cooperative! They are local to my home state of Idaho and they provide a wide selection of heirloom and localized seeds that I have yet to see from another company. I love that the seeds they provide will be tailored to my zone, and as such they offer varieties that are fare better in the short and cool growing season of our region.

Snake River is a collective, which means their inventory is supplied by family-owned and operated farms which have taken the Safe Seed Pledge to ensure a better seed supply in our nation. They began as a seed library and expanded to supply high quality, home-grown seeds to gardeners everywhere. They’re my kind of company!

Seed Savers Exchange

SSE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds. They’ve been around since the 70’s and as their name states, they host an online exchange website that’s free to join and browse. They also list a selection of their voluminous library for public sale, offering hundreds of lovely heirloom varieties for purchase. I love that they’re especially focused on the origin of their seeds and they share the story behind each cultivar whenever possible.

Alongside their extensive inventory they offer a variety of programs and resources for home gardeners nationwide. Visit their website here.

BONUS – TomatoFest

Click here to shop TomatoFest

I’ve included TomatoFest as a bonus vendor on this list because they deal solely in heirloom tomatoes. They are my favorite supplier for tomato seeds and I’ve always had fantastic results from their product! Whistling Rooster Homestead is an affiliate with TomatoFest and I’m happy to refer you to their website for superior selection, prices, and customer service.

There you have it! I hope you enjoy perusing my favorite seed suppliers in preparation for your next growing season. If this is your first time starting your garden from seed you can check out my comprehensive guide to seed starting.

I would love to hear what your top varieties are. Please feel free to share your favorites and where you got them in the comments below!