Sunday 6 April 2014

(Limited) Ranking of Seed Companies - Best to Worst

I've been ordering regularly from William Dam Seeds in Ontario for about 5 years but I decided to branch out a bit and order seeds from some other companies this year.  And there are some obvious factors to consider when ordering that I did not always think about this year - I was too excited about the selection!  So this is a good reminder for me next year and to anyone else who cares about the same criteria for ordering seeds.

I based my list on the following criteria, some of which are more important than others. 

I would be interested in what criteria other people use when ordering seeds and what are your favourite seed companies!?  I'm still new at this and there must be many out there that I have not even heard of!


- Selection of seeds: sufficient choices, different and new varieties?

- Do they sell organic versus treated seeds?  Some people care about this, some don't.  I do.  Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention when ordering from Stokes.

- Are they GMO free? I'm all for tomatoes that bruise less easily but not to the point that I want cells from fish to be genetically engineered into them.  Not cool.

- Do they have a link to Monsanto? Monsanto is crazy for genetically altering food products. Creepy, creepy, crazy. Lots of interesting articles available if you haven't heard about this yet.

- Price of Seeds: This is an obvious criteria.

- Cost of shipping: So is this.

- Comparable growing conditions?  Sometimes it's good to know that the seeds were grown and developed in the same growing region as mine so I can be equally successful. 

- Growing guidelines/packaging: I want the package to tell me best practices for growing.

- Any freebies: Freebies are nice.

I only ordered from 4 seed companies this year, so my ranking is very limited. Here it is ...

#1 and #2: I can't decide which is better, so they tie for my favourite:

West Coast Seeds and William Dam Seeds

All the seed companies I have ordered from have a huge catalogue and large selection of vegetable, herb and flower seeds.  Both of these companies also have some fun "mixed" packets which helps when you want a few varieties without having to buy multiple packets.

Shipping prices are about the same, but West Coast is a bit pricier for the seeds; likely because they are apparently 100% organic and GMO-free.  William Dam is also fully GMO-free (the most important) but not all of their seeds are organic.  However, neither company treats their seeds.  And both have signed the "safe seed pledge".

They are both located in Canada, but William Dam has an edge for me because they are in Ontario so share similar growing conditions versus the West Coast. And both packets provide detailed and easy to read growing instructions.

And finally, West Coast provided a bonus pack of wildflower seeds while William Dam sent a little booklet on "Germination Tips for Beginners".

#3: Park Seeds

This company is in the U.S.; based in South Carolina.  Lots of selection as with the others.  Their regular prices are definitely on the high side, but wow, they have AMAZING sales - my purchase from them was during a 20 for $20 sale.  In the case of the sales, you have a limited selection to choose from but plenty of options in my opinion.  There were plenty enough that I was interested in, so what a great deal! 

 And shipping was similar to West Coast and William Dam - about $7-8 for a regular sized order.

They have some organic, but identify as being fully GMO-free.  And they do acknowledge that some of their hybrid seeds are purchased from Seminis (a division of Monsanto).  So if you trust that they are being honest, you just need to be careful about your choices.

What I didn't like about them is their packaging: all of the seeds I ordered come in this dark brown packaging so I can barely read the print.  They do show guidelines on the back for seeding, transplanting, etc. but it is very difficult to read.  A nice bonus was included: a Gardeners Handbook with tips from initial germination right through to planning your garden plot.

#4: Stokes

Nope, not going to order from them again.  Although they are located in Canada, they don't actually develop all of their seeds locally.  The sunflowers are from the U.S. and the Hollyhock packet says the seeds are from China. 

And some of their seeds are treated ... I know the chemical treatments are intended to help reduce pests or diseases, but I am trying to grow organically and that doesn't work for me.

I do not recall seeing on their website any reference to Seminis or Monsanto, but I have seen other websites that suggest they purchase seed from them.  I can't be sure.

But either way, the chemical treatments and purchasing seeds from other countries has me a bit turned off.  So they come in last place for sure and I won't be ordering from them again.

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