Now We Can Talk About Seed Catalogs

When you get a new seed catalog in the mail, do you rush inside, drop your keys and packages by the door, forget everything else you had planned to do, and immediately read the seed catalog?

Or, do you set the seed catalog aside with all the other seed catalogs, and then wait until the holiday festivities are over, the decorations have been put away, and the house is more or less back to normal, before you sit down with your favorite hot beverage and read through the seed catalogs all at once?

When you do look at the seed catalogs, whether immediately or later, do you take notes as you read so you can compare prices and varieties and then split your seed order up between several catalogs?

Or do you browse through all of the catalogs but then order from the same one you always order from?

Do you write in your seed catalogs, circling everything you like with a big, bold black marker and turn down the corners of the pages so you can find those items later?

Or do you use sticky notes to bookmark the pages of each seed variety that you’ve marked with a little asterisk as one you might like to buy?

Once you’ve decided what seeds to order, do you set your seed list aside and then come back to it later and pare it down a bit before you send it in? Or do you go online and order the seeds right away?

Do you ever order more seeds than you could possibly grow? Or do you find out in the spring that you just don’t have enough seeds so you have to go to the store to buy more or place an emergency order online.

Perhaps you ignore all the seed catalogs, recycle them right away, and do your seed browsing all online?

Buying seeds is both an art and a science, and there is no right or wrong way. Over time, every gardener finds his or her own way through seed catalogs or through the seed aisle at the local garden center. (For those of you who garden where there used to be Frank’s Nursery and Craft stores, don’t you miss the big weekend when they would put all of their seed packets on sale for 50% off?)

My way? Most of the second choices above are how I buy seeds. Mostly. Sometimes I order too many seeds (I know that might surprise people) and I don’t always order right away.


It’s currently 22 degrees outside with occasional snow flurries, enough to make the grass look like someone sprinkled powdered sugar on it.
I’ve been outside taking down the outdoor holiday decorations because I like to have the decorations put away before I go back to work. Today I’ll define “put away” as heaped in a corner of the garage because it is too cold to stay out there to put the lights and cords away properly. Next I’ll tackle the indoor decorations.

My reward when I’m done will be a nice hot cup of tea (with no crab), and some time to browse through all the seed catalogs that have arrived so far. Then even though I’ll look at several catalogs, I’ll order most of my seeds from one source. Can you guess which one?


Coming next… tips for reading seed catalogs.


  1. I open them immediately (seriously--everything else comes to a stop), and I order what looks good without regard to what I may already have, or may have already ordered.

    I have waaay more seeds than I can possibly sow.

  2. I don't get that many seed catalogs, but I tend to save them for days like today where the snow is blowing horizontally.

    Now the Christmas decorations I am dying to put away, but my family would have a stroke if I broke ranks and did it before Epiphany. I don't dare tell them I put the new calender up yesterday.

  3. I have to flip through them immediately, but usually end up going through each page for days sometimes weeks. Right now I have a list from Heirloom Seeds on-line that I'm deciding on. Don't ask me how many packets I've already ordered, I won't admit to anything.

  4. Many catalogs come in the mail. Few are looked at immediately. They are saved for a moment when no chores are pulling at my conscience. I look online alot also.

  5. Carol,for some reason the seed companies haven't found me yet. So, if I were to go on line and order one catalog from one company, which one would you recommend? I really really want to grow lots of tomatoes, a large variety of peppers, and oh, yes, would it be feasible to order hostas on line? Advice, sister, I need advice!

  6. I usually look online. I get few seed catalogs. I have even ordered when one of the girls at work orders. It varies with the timing and my plan for the year.

    Hot tea with sugar and no crab for me. :)

    It is cold out.

  7. I usually go through them, circling and adding up the amounts, then compare pricing and shipping cost, then order from whoever has the most of what I want, for the best price. Yes, I remember the Frank's stores and those 50% off seed sales. I do miss those!

  8. I tend to go through the catalogs almost immediately but I'll continue to peruse them for weeks. They can be good resources to plan and inspire you for the spring, especially when the weather is dismal outside. I'll go through and mark each plant that I have any interest in then later I'll make a master list with prices and the company's name. When I'm ready to buy I'll check for any deals then probably order online. I like having the catalog in my hands to explore rather than sitting at the computer using searches. To me its just easier to browse that way.

  9. I usually wait until I have time to enjoy them...after the holidays or at least when they start winding down and the family returns to their own homes. I've been ordering from the same company for a few years but last year started ordering from a company that's much closer to me just to cut down on cross country seed travel. In the years before I ordered seeds I went to a favorite nursery and bought them. I always force myself to plant at least some of each type of seed ordered to justify buying them. This year I'm seriously considering using almost entirely last year's seeds...I've got so many left over.

  10. I'm not much of a seed grower. I'll usually buy a pack or two of zinnias or moonflower vine seeds, mainly for the kids to grow. I never look at seed catalogs. I'm not sure if I even receive any.

    Perhaps it's because a Southern gardener doesn't have those snowy days for dreaming by the fire? More likely it's because my perennial garden doesn't have much room for seed sowing.

  11. Dear Carol, a very happy New Year to you and yours with loads of garden and blogging fun too!

    I usually buy my seeds at a little shop in Dordrecht, called Vreeken. They have almost eveything as far as seeds are concerned. You can also buy them on line from their webshop www.

    Dordrecht is not too far a drive for me and the old city is wonderful to walk around in, as there are so many beautiful buildings and great shops too. ;-)

    But when a new seed catalog arrives at the Bliss residence, I get my hot little hands on it pronto and forget everything else until I've read it from cover to cover.

  12. Everything stops for a few minutes while I leaf through my new catalogs. Then, usually in the evening after the kids are asleep, I curl up on the couch and linger over them. I highlight the seeds I think I want, and then I'll compare and contrast a few catalogs' prices before I actually order. I always have way more seeds than I can actually grow!

  13. The temptation to flip through catalogs is too great to wait until later. I usually read them the day I receive them.

    I obsessively compare prices, but I usually wait until it's time to order. Last year I got way more seeds than I planted, which had more to do with not yet having the available space.

    I totally mark up the catalogs. They're an utter mess by the time I'm done ordering.

    I do most of my ordering online now. Saves paper, saves the wait.

  14. I save them for after the holidays! Curl up with a cup of hot chocolate, scan through the pages and write down everything you want, add up cost of everything, have a slight heart attack, then pare down the list!

    I get very antsy to garden once the seed catalogs start arriving. I even keep a couple at work!


  15. Yep, I drop my keys and sit down and read them. And, er, drool a little. Ah, the colors, the flavors... Then, I set them on my bedside table, and go over them in more detail before going to sleep. With a highlighter. Yep.

    And then I'll have so many catalogues with so many circles, that when it comes time to order the seeds in a month or so, I'll have to go through them again. At that time I'll compare the varieties and prices in each catalogue. I'll order mostly from the tried and true catalogues, but some from a few new ones to test out.

    And I'll order way too many seeds. I'm trying to do better, but there are so many things to try, and each packet has 100 or more seeds in it. How can I plant so many seeds? Guess I'll just have to make more garden beds.

    Ah, seed catalogues. I love them.

  16. I haven't gotten a single see catalog yet this year. Maybe they've realized I don't buy anything and that's why they've stopped sending them to me.

    But after Christmas is over and all the merchandise has been reduced to 75% off I get ready for seed buying season.

    Around here I know Home Depot and Menards have their seeds displays unpacked by the 2nd of January.

    I wait until about the 7th or 12th to check Kmart and Wal-Mart. Though I may check Wal-Mart sooner because they usually sell out of the dime and quarter seed packs within a day or two of opening the display.

    I'll take notes and compare prices and varieties and buy what I really want when I see it. But I mostly wait to buy the bulk of seed purchases when they start going on sale.

  17. This is a great post Carol!

    I'm a put it aside in a basket till they all arrive, and wait until the house is clean with my coffee cup and sharpie pen circling, comparing everything, asterisk marking, notebook paper listmaker, exact amount and wait until Groundhogs day to telephone kind of seed ordering (and usually find out in spring that i forgot something) type of girl.

    ...or from the sounds of it, the opposite of how you do it ;-)

    ps..haven't even peeked at a catalog yet, they look nice and neat in the basket right now....

  18. Oh-- and I am guessing from the way you have the catalogs stacked that you order from Pine Tree?

  19. I have received several catalogs already, but have my stack set aside to browse at a later time. You have several catalogs that I don't recognize, I'd love to know your favorites.

    I've only bought the usual tried and true flower seeds, impatiens, petunias, zinnias; you know, the kind that you can buy at the box stores. Maybe this year, I'll try something special. Oh, I just remembered that I also bought some heirloom seeds at the patio garden show. I can't wait for that again!

  20. I only get a few seed catalogs, but where all the other catalogs we receive go straight into the recycling bin at the P.O., the seed catalogs always come home. I save them up to read when classwork is overwhelming, and use the "magic marker and dog-eared pages" method.

    As much as I try to restrict myself, I nearly always over-order. One of my plans for this summer is to take all the extra flower seeds from last summer (what made me think I could put in a garden with a two-month old?), sow them all together in one plot, and see what comes up.

  21. Last year I went waaaay overboard with the seed buying, and then of course we had a drought. I'm going to try to be good this year. Well, better, anyway. :)

  22. All, thanks for the comments and insight into your seed buying habits. I really appreciate all the comments and what they add to this post.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  23. I like to look through all except the ones that I'm sure I won't order from, then formulate a plan of what I want, then try and figure out who has the cheapest shipping and order most from them. There is absolutely a "fantasy list" first, which gets diluted down to the "I think I can actually afford this" list. Then I try and put that down for at least 2 days, then look again to try and make more cuts, THEN finally orders get sent. Of course at planting time, I dig out all my seeds and kick myself over the duplicates and packets that are at least 4 years old.