Seed companies get a boost from a growing clientele

  • Tue Jan 20th, 2009 4:08am
  • News

Spring is here – at least if you’re a gardener who believes spring arrives with the first seed catalogs. In all the doom and gloom of the recession the plant nurseries and garden centers are feeling the pinch but here’s a bright spot for the garden industry: Seed companies have a growing clientele (in more ways than one).

Not only are more people ordering and planting seeds than last year, with many seed companies reporting hefty 20 percent increases, but the biggest bloomers when it comes to seed sales are for vegetables, not flowers.

There are more reasons than just penny-pinching food budgets to grow plants from seed. Consumers now realize that home-grown food is more nutritious and less likely to be contaminated by pesticides than supermarket produce. Then there’s the superior flavors, textures and colors that fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, peppers and salad greens give a meal. Home gardeners also enjoy the added health benefit of regular outdoor exercise.

So join the crowd and plant some seeds this spring. January is when you should buy and order your favorite seeds. Last spring some companies ran out of favorite varieties, surprised by the sudden surge in seed sales. This spring there could be the same shortage, so buy now.

We’ll talk about the easiest vegetables to grow from seed later, but meanwhile, here’s the top three seed companies for gardeners in the mild, maritime climate of western Washington.

Ed Hume Seeds

The grandfather of local gardening and a great source of organic seeds, Ed Hume offers special advice with each packet of seeds for gardening in our unique climate. You can find racks of Ed Hume seeds at local garden centers and nurseries or order online. Go to

New for 2009: “Provider” green bean

A prolific green bean, the organic “Provider” was developed for cool soils like ours. This green bean has a heavy yield and is disease resistant. Beans are a good seed for kids to plant because their size makes them easy to handle and the plants grow quickly.

Territorial Seed Company

This Oregon company sells young plants, soils, organic plant food and lots of other gardening aids for organic gardeners. If you go online ( you can also order a free catalog, the old-fashioned kind with photos on each page and detailed descriptions of the seeds.

New for 2009: Super sugar snap peas

Sweeter in taste with a higher yield than the original sugar snap pea, this new variety is also resistant to powdery mildew. The vines grow to 5 feet tall and like all peas, it does best in cool soil.

Nichols Garden Nursery

This is another seed and plant nursery based in Oregon but Nichols is known for their herbs, cottage flowers and gourmet vegetables. They also specialize in seeds and plants for growing food in containers. Owner Rose Marie Nichols-McGee wrote the book “The Bountiful Container Garden.”

Visit them online at and you can request a catalog.

New for 2009: Neon color Swiss chard

One of the easiest and most nutritious greens to grow in the Pacific Northwest, this variety of Swiss chard has beautiful stems in shades of red, gold, hot pink and bright orange. It’s a stunning plant to use as an ornamental in the center of a large pot and then harvest throughout the summer.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.