Urban Food Garden

What Are The Best Vegetable Seeds to buy?

I am often asked what are the best vegetable seeds to buy.  Others  insist that this type or that brand of seeds are the only ones worth buying.  So what  are the best vegetable seeds?  I think the answer is whatever seeds work best for you.  But for novice vegetable gardeners working that out can be daunting.  Below are some points to consider when working out which vegetable seeds you should buy.

Some points to consider
What is best is subjective

What vegetable variety to grow is very subjective. it depends a lot on the individual’s personal tastes and their experiences in growing vegetables.  Unfortunately there is no easy way around this, the only thing you can do is experiment with different vegetable varieties to see which ones work best for you.

Local knowledge helps

You can fast track finding out about what are the best vegetable seeds to buy by talking to experienced local vegetable gardeners.  They can’t help you in terms of your taste preferences but they will be able to tell you which vegetables varieties are best suited to the local conditions.

Open pollinated or hybrid seeds?

Both open pollinated and hybrid seeds have their pros and cons.

Open pollinated seeds are cheaper than hybrid seeds and easier to save seeds from but they are usually not as high yielding.  Sometimes they can be more resistant to diseases, other times less resistant as hybrid seeds are developed not only to increase yield but to improve disease resistance.

Hybrid seeds tend to be higher yielding and often more disease resistant but they are more  expensive than open pollinated varieties and harder (though not impossible) to save seeds from.  For information on saving hybrid seeds see: Saving F1 Vegetable Seeds.

Expensive or cheap seeds?

The price of seeds varies considerably, but this does not necessarily mean that the more expensive seeds are better.  The boutique seed businesses that sell premium priced seeds can suffer from low product turnover resulting in stale seeds with poor germination rates.  Whereas  high volume discount seed packets can be filled with poorer quality seeds that were rejected by seed companies supplying to the commercial market garden industry.

Make your purchasing decisions not on the price of the seeds but the results that you get from the seeds you buy.

Heirloom or non-heirloom seeds?

Many seed companies offer seeds labelled as heirloom*, being seeds that have been grown by vegetable gardeners for many generations.  But while it is important to maintain the vegetable seed gene pool by growing these seeds the term heirloom is subjective.  Some long lived vegetable varieties are labelled as heirloom while others are not.  For example the Little Gem lettuce variety has been grown for over 100 years now but it does not usually get labelled as heirloom.  What is or is not labelled as heirloom can in some cases simply be a marketing decision.      While heirloom seeds can have better taste and growing characteristic than non-heirloom seeds this is not necessarily the case for all heirloom seeds.       

While supporting the preservation of heirloom seeds is important make your choices not on whether a particular seed  variety is heirloom or not but on how well it does in your garden.   

* Sometimes heirloom seeds are also labelled as heritage seeds but to simplify matters I have only used the term heirloom.            

No seed company offers every type of seed

The range of different vegetable seeds for sale is huge, as such there is no seed company that offers the entire range in their seed catalogue, so you will probably have to buy your seeds from more than one source.

My personal experience
No single category stands out

There is virtually no company in Australia that offers vegetable seeds  for sale that I haven’t bought seeds from, whether that be boutique mail order seed businesses or the larger seed companies offering seeds to retail outlets.  And in doing so I have bought every type of seed, from expensive organic heirloom and F1 hybrid seeds right through to the discount Country Value seeds.  The seeds that I regularly buy come from all of these types of seeds and no business or company stands out as better than the others. 

seeds that i have saved myself

However there is one exception, that being the seeds that I have saved myself.  Over the years the germination and vigour of my saved seeds has been consistently better than bought seeds.   Why?  Partially because my seeds tend to be fresher, but probably because the vegetables I grow from the seeds I have saved are being grown in the same soil and climatic conditions as their parent plants.  Whereas bought seeds could be saved from plants grown far away in other states in Australia or even in another part of the world.

Not every seed can be saved easily, which is why I still have to buy seeds on a regular basis.  But saving your own seeds will give you better seeds and save you money.   For information on  saving seeds see: Vegetable Seed Saving Suitability Guide.

There is virtually no company in Australia that offers vegetable seeds  for sale that I haven’t bought seeds from, whether that be boutique mail order seed businesses  or the larger seed companies offering seeds to retail outlet.

Seeds I have saved hanging up to dry in my garage. Over the years the germination and vigour of my saved seeds has been constantly better than bought seeds.