Seed Catalogues 2020 – Which One(s) To Use


Well, it is that time again. The seed catalogs are pouring in and us “farmers” we have to decide which ones to use. This has always troubled me – so many catalogues to choose from. In 2007, Mother Earth News estimated there were 88 garden seed catalogues in the US. They missed a few. Today, Dave’s Garden lists 7,989 mail order gardening companies worldwide.

In what follows, I will look at a somewhat randomly selected set of catalogues that I have used in the last few of decades: Burpee, Harris, Johnny’s, Jung, Natural Gardening Company, Park, Pinetree, Scheepers, Seeds ‘n Such, RH Shumway, and Totally Tomatoes.

How To Choose

What are we looking for in a seed catalogue? My criteria include:

  • Comprehensiveness – it is just easier (and shipping costs less) if I can order most of my seeds from one catalogue. Back in 2014, there was no contest: Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalogue, at 210 pages, was the most comprehensive and informative. For 2020, Johnny’s Catalogue has expanded to 244 pages.
  • Beauty – yes, I know I can go online. But every year, I like to spend time reading my catalogues. I enjoy looking at the pictures, imagining what it would look like in my garden (never as nice as in the pictures), and getting excited about trying something new. Digital information will never take the place of a beautiful catalogue/magazine. Beauty – I know, the eye of the beholder. But Burpee’s and the John Scheepers’ catalogue, the latter with its hand-drawn pictures, are both appealing.

·        Organization/Economy in Presentation – do you have to jump around in the catalogue when you are trying to decide what beans to buy, or is everything sensibly organized? And is there a good, easy to find index? Where is it? I don’t mind back page (Totally Tomatoes), inside front cover or near-first page (Harris, Johnny’s, Pinetree), or in the mid-section adjacent to the ordering page (Park, Scheepers, Seed’s n’ Such), or back page (Totally Tomatoes. But Shumway and Gurney’s: where is your index?

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