Plus trusted sources for shopping and a citizen-science seed project
Monarda punctata, or spotted bee balm, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
For many gardeners, January’s greatest joy is a pile of colorful seed catalogs, rife with opportunity. “Growing from seed allows you to raise plants that aren’t sold locally: edibles and ornamentals in colors, sizes, and forms you’ve never even seen,” says Charleston garden editor Joan McDonald. “It’s a great way to add personal flair to your garden and excitement to the kitchen.”
Most seeds can be planted in the ground according to the dates on the packet. But you often can get a jump on the season by starting them indoors; plenty varieties are ready to go this month. “The key is to use a grow light for 16 to 18 hours a day,” says McDonald. “And maintain temps of at least 70 degrees, using a heat mat if needed.”
(Left) ‘Thai Double Blue’ butterfly pea from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; (Right) ‘Red Noodle’ yard-long bean from Kitazawa Seed Company
Here, McDonald points to nine edibles, perennials, and annuals that make it easy to grow a sensational garden.
To find a more extensive seed shopping list, click here.
For specialty seeds, check out these trusted companies:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, rareseeds.com: A fascinating array of seeds dating to the 19th century is presented in the most swoon-worthy catalogs: a free one, as well as the $13 Whole Seed version.
Botanical Interests, botanicalinterests.com: You may find these seeds sold in higher-end nurseries. Each packet showcases a painting by a botanical artist and shares a wealth of information, from storage advice to culinary tips.
GeoSeed, geoseed.com: While this South Carolina enterprise is geared toward pros, it’s a great resource for gardeners desiring large quantities of seed—say to plant a swath of flowers or ornamental grasses.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, johnnyseeds.com: Johnny’s is a standout for ornamentals and edibles alike, but the herb offerings are particularly spectacular.
Kitazawa Seed Co., kitazawaseed.com: In business since 1917, Kitazawa is the source for Asian veggies and herbs, including carrots in every hue, pak choi, and yard-long beans.
Totally Tomatoes, totallytomato.com: Whether you’re after heirloom varieties, hanging- basket growers, or gorgeous bicolor fruits, Totally Tomatoes has them, plus peppers and veggies.
Turn seed shopping into a citizen-science project with an innovative start-up called SeedLinked (seedlinked.com). Gardeners who purchase a collection—like “A Slice in Time” from North Carolina-based Craig LeHoullier of The Dwarf Tomato Project—can use the app to track their growing and harvesting progress and get advice via live chats with the expert “curators,” while comparing notes with fellow growers on the social feed.