Seed catalogs are great, not just for purchases but for inspiration

OK, I am continuing with the January seed catalog columns. You don’t need to buy from these, but they are great for learning all manner of stuff that will help you be a better gardener. Pay attention to days it takes to grow a crop, whether it is a hybrid or open-pollinated, and if the plant looks like a self-seeder. You know what to look for, and it is more than just the pretty pictures.

One source you should check is Fedco Seeds. These folks are in Maine and are another group that actually specializes in cold-hardy seed, bulbs, trees and gardening supplies. Fedco is an employee- and customer-owned coop and has all manner of socially benefiting policies.

Of course Fedco has always had a snail mail catalog, but you can now download PDF catalogs from them. A plea regarding their potatoes, however. Alaskans do not import potatoes from Outside. There is too much of a possibility or introducing pathogens which could spread to our disease-free commercial growers.

I enjoy cooking Asian dishes so I was disappointed when I couldn’t find Kitazawa Seed Co., which has a rich history of supplying Asian plant seeds. I found them as part of True Leaf Market. You can find them by clicking on Asian Garden Seeds. You will find some interesting crops and maybe even find some unfamiliar ones worth trying.

The True Leaf Market itself has lots of other offerings so play around with the website. I never knew there were so many kinds of sprouts to grow, for example. Want to grow your own tobacco? How about cotton? There are a few dozen categories to explore. Again, I encourage you to explore the various products

With the movement to non- or less-grass “lawns,” I point you to Prairie Nursery which is into prairie plants, obviously. Mind you, I am always extremely leery about telling folks to order other places’ native plants lest we introduce some really noxious weeds to Alaska. However, I did want to point out to our local nurseries the custom plant kits offered ... a flat of various prairie natives to stick into your lawn would be a sure and huge seller if someone offered local natives to use. Again, take a look. I am not sure about buying. It is sort of like the potato-pathogen thing.

Then there is Franchi seeds. These are Italian sourced. If you want different kinds of broccoli, zucchinis that produce great fruits as well as edible flowers, lettuces, carrots and lots more that are just a bit different than our normal stuff. Take a look and you will note the differences.


Ostensibly a tomato seed catalog, Tomato Growers Supply Company does specialize in tomatoes. It also offers pepper seeds and the whole range of vegetable seeds you have come to expect from a good catalog/weblog.

Tomato Fest on the other hand, has 650 different heirloom tomatoes. You want heirlooms to add diversity to your home-grown seeds as you develop your own heirlooms. They have some great cherry tomatoes and some really colorful full size fruits. Want a special color, shape or size tomato? This is the place to start.

Again, you don’t need to buy from any of these sources. Soon the Ed Hume Seed racks will appear. In fact, all area nurseries and hardware stores sell seed packets. Still, it is useful to look at other sources and, usually fun too!

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Last Call! Brighter Winter Nights on Jan. 19 and 20; tickets must be purchased in advance.

Houseplants: We gain lots of light in January. Time to start turning your plants so they get even light

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.