Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Piles of catalogs! More on the way! Familiar companies and seed companies you never heard of! Do not fret! I am here to help you in your decision making.
When I discover a new source for seeds or plants, the first place I check is Dave’s Garden Watchdog. According to the website, “The Garden Watchdog is a free directory of 8,036 mail order gardening companies. Here gardeners share their opinions on which companies really deliver on quality, price and service." Since 1994, over 4,500 companies have been reviewed in the Garden Watchdog, and almost 90,000 comments have been posted (59,535 positive, 12,737 neutral, 17,376 negative) by customers.
The largest listing of garden vendors, listed by category, seems to be Garden Savvy. If you find a new-to-you company here, I would check it out on Dave’s Garden Watchdog first.
If you look at a comment on Dave's Garden Watchdog and see a positive review (for example, “I ordered seeds online. The seeds arrived in a week. I was delighted with my free seeds. This is the second year I've ordered from them and I will order again in the future”) you might want to order from the company.
However, if you read negative reviews (like “I ordered a couple of things from this company but the plants came DEAD, dried out and moldy”), you might hesitate on sending your money to this company.
Another place to check is the All-America Selections. Each year new varieties of vegetables and flowers are tested in gardens around the country and the very best variety performers are deemed All America Winners. Many winners become the go-to varieties that gardeners choose for their own gardens year after year.
Each year, the American Hosta Growers Association picks a Hosta of the Year.
The Perennial Plant Association chooses the best perennial of the year.
In our own state of Minnesota, Master Gardeners grow and evaluate groups of plants each year, and choose the best performing varieties in our state. Don’t forget to check out the University of Minnesota Extension Yard and Garden website and Yard and Garden Blog for great articles about gardening in Minnesota. Best tried and true varieties are often listed in the articles.
If you are crazy about tomatoes (and who isn’t), check out a brand new website, The World Tomato Society. Each day it seems to be adding more varieties which are described in excellent detail. Add to that, articles on growing tomatoes, tomato pests, and recipes and you have a good site.
What if you read about an exciting plant described in a gardening magazine? Where would you go to find it?
I would check out the service of the Andersen Horticultural Library, part of the University of Minnesota, called Plant Information Online. This database offers “Information on where to purchase plants and seeds, with shipping sources for more than 100,000 plants from more than 1,000 North American plant suppliers (the largest listing currently cultivated in North America)”.
The list above should provide tons of reading material for the cold winter months. Don’t forget to start gardening again as the weather warms.
Joe Baltrukonis Ramsey County Master Gardener Volunteer