Seed catalogs used to arrive in January; then it became December.  And this year they started arriving around Thanksgiving!  But since I’m a sucker for these things, it would be silly to complain.

For sheer size, coffee-table-style lavishness, diversity and excitement, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog earns my first place, as it has for several years.  Reflecting the vision, diligence, and quite astounding success of Jere Gettle, it invites the reader (yes, not just the shopper) to return to it again and again.  The full-page pictures are stunning and constitute an education in themselves.  This year’s catalog coincides with the publication of Jere’s first book (with his wife Emilee), The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally.  The book provides a refreshingly non-intimidating introduction both to contemporary food production issues and to basic techniques of vegetable gardening, with an excellent A-Z glossary on growing, harvesting, eating, and seed-saving individual veggies.  I recommend it highly, especially for those recently bitten by the gardening bug.

My other three favorites have been the same for several years, and each has its special virtues: Seed Savers Exchange (nicely-illustrated and informed by this non-profit membership organization’s pioneering commitment to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, based in Virginia with a strong regional focus; and Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that successfully markets to both professional growers and amateur gardeners and is a good source of gardening supplies as well as seeds.  Catalogs for each may be ordered by clicking on the respective images.