Seed Savers Exchange

comments (13) December 8th, 2009

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DanielleGardenGirl Danielle Sherry, Contributor
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As silly as it may sound, there is always a jubilant celebration when the Seed Savers Exchange catalog is delivered to the Fine Gardening offices. Any passerby might think that the staff has won the lottery. But there is good reason to celebrate the arrival of what I consider to be the best seed catalog out there. Not only is it beautiful (with hundreds of colorful photographs), but it offers a slew of heirloom varieties that can’t be found ANYWHERE else.


Seed Savers Exchange
3094 North Winn Rd.
Decorah, IA 52101

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Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares seeds passed down through many generations. Members have distributed an estimated 1 million samples of rare garden seeds since the founding of SSE in 1975. Those seeds now are widely used by seed companies, small farmers, and home gardeners. SSE was co-founded by Diane Ott Whealy, who was inspired to start the group when her terminally ill grandfather gave her seeds of two garden plants, ‘Grandpa Ott's’ morning glory and ‘German Pink’ tomato, that his parents brought from Bavaria when they immigrated to Iowa in the 1870s.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for this organization after attending their annual conference last year. I toured the enormous farm, explored the seed vault, and got to know the people responsible for saving the seed and distributing it to gardeners around the globe. I’ve always had great germination (nearly 100% for every variety) with the seeds I have purchased and I find their prices to be very reasonable (a discount is offered to those who join the membership).

Three varieties I’ve got my eye on this year

‘Hillbilly Potato Leaf’ tomato: Described as, “An absolutely gorgeous slicing tomato.” Prolific, bi-color, 1-pound fruits are supposedly very sweet and juicy. And who can resist a name like that?

‘Paris Market’ carrot: Early red-orange, rounded carrots are described as very sweet. But here’s the best selling point; “Does well in shallow or stony soil—can also be grown in containers.” Could a carrot lover like me with crappy New England soil have found a solution?

‘Petite Yellow’ watermelon: I had finally resigned myself to the fact that I live in the Northeast, and therefore will never be able to harvest a ripe watermelon. But this icebox variety boasts 6- to 10-pound sweet fruits which are harvestable in 65-80 days (super-short in watermelon terms).

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Comments (13)

kerrystone65 writes: When i visited in India then i eat this one
Posted: 2:19 am on October 26th
rubenrush34 writes: Good JOb
Posted: 4:15 am on October 7th
guydixon21 writes: This is soo nice.
Posted: 11:49 pm on August 26th
AlexVardy writes: It's great useful information
Posted: 9:05 am on August 14th
scottpena13 writes: Awesome
Posted: 2:28 am on August 1st
kevinalexis8 writes: Really nice
Posted: 1:02 am on July 21st
cavanilyn writes: superbbbbbbbb
Posted: 2:50 am on June 25th
toriwilson writes: impressive work
Posted: 1:42 am on June 25th
Andylee2 writes: greatt
Posted: 10:41 am on June 23rd
machirano writes: awesome
Posted: 6:39 am on June 22nd
Bear234 writes: I've ordered from SSE for a number of years, but... last year was probably the last.

First, maybe I'm just getting older and crankier, but the air of smug self-rightousness that oozes from the catalog (and the web site) is getting on my nerves. On the other hand, I'm a New Yorker who's been transplanted to California and perhaps we can attribute my irritation to that.

But, as with gardentotable, I had a batch of seeds that didn't germinate well - bean seeds to boot, which are pretty much bulletproof. OK, so foof happens sometimes, but when I sent them an eMail about it, I got no reply... whatsoever. One would have expected at least some soothing words of sympathy.

Perhaps trivial, but there's plenty of other places to take my custom to.
Posted: 9:46 pm on December 31st
gardentotable writes: I ordered from SSE last year and was disappointed. I also joined the exchange, and never got the scions that I sent and paid for.

As for the seeds, 2 packets did not germinate at all, 1 was the wrong seed (or it was cross-pollinated) and the other 2 had poor germination. The fact that I wasn't thrilled with the taste/performance of the variety was incidental, but added to the overall experience. I'm reluctant to order from them again.
Posted: 4:47 pm on December 27th
JohnLowe writes: My favorite catalog. Before, I had ordered pepper and tomato heirloom transplants from them, but this time I intend to start everything from seed, perhaps buying some tomato plants locally.
Posted: 1:06 pm on December 25th
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