Johnny’s Selected Seeds has been around since for 50 years. From humble beginnings and only a few varieties, they have grown to offer hundreds of unique vegetable, herb and flower varieties. “In spring 1973, when founder Rob Johnston, Jr, at age 22, and with $500 in savings, started the fledgling seed company in a New Hampshire farmhouse attic, moving in the fall to his parents' home in Acton, Massachusetts.” They still maintain their research farm in Albion, Maine while the rest of the operation is in Winslow, Maine.
Their mission is simple and inspiring: “Our mission is helping families, friends, and communities to feed one another by providing superior seeds, tools, information, and service.”
In 2006, as Johnston, Jr and his wife were heading toward retirement, they started the process to become employee owned. Since 2012, Johnny’s Selected Seeds is 100% employee owned. They have taken safe seed pledge and sell only non-GMO seeds. They have it all, seeds, tools, vast resource library and outstanding service.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds continues to breed and research new vegetable varieties. That may explain the abundance of F1 hybrid varieties. I typically steer away from hybrid seeds, purchasing open pollinated or heirloom varieties because I want to have the option of saving seeds. Here’s how they define Hybrid (F1) “The offspring of a cross between two genetically distinct parent lines. Hybrid varieties are selected for traits such as improved flavor, disease resistance, fruit quality, yield, and climate adaptability. An (F1) hybrid refers to first filial or first-generation offspring of the cross. Seeds saved from an F1 hybrid will not produce plants with characteristics equivalent to the F1 hybrid.”
This is a big catalog with a huge offering of seeds and supplies. Some times when a favorite variety is dropped from other seed houses, I can find it at Johnny’s. The color photos in the catalog are helpful as you read through juicy description. Scattered throughout the print catalog are information boxes about different crops and growing tips, this helps with decision making. I am particularly fond of the illustrations that compares different “colored carrot varieties.” You could get lost in this catalog all afternoon.
The cover sports an incredible bunch of pumpkins so that is the first place went . . . the selection is vast! Many of these varieties were developed by Johnny’s. They have more than a dozen Jack-o’-lantern types from kid-sized Jack of Hearts to the 40 pound Champion. They have multiple varieties of pie, gianr and white pumpkins. I hadn’t expected to see six different white pumpkins, amazing. I spent a long time exploring their giant selection of ornamental pumpkins. The colors, textures and shapes of these pumpkins are captivating and I found a couple varieties that have snack seeds. You’ll have to skip over the website for descriptions of Johnny’s ornamental pumpkin collection.
Pumpkin – Kakai. This is a beauty. A small to medium sized squat fruit with orange skin and black/green striping. It produces large hulless seeds that are an exceptional snack when roasted.
The other collection that really caught my imagination were the herbs. Johnny’s offers four pages of basil and many surprising varieties of herbs. I was excited to see two varieties of chervil, three kinds of chives, four kinds of dill and five kinds of parsley – who knew!? This is a compelling collection with so many interesting varieties.
Shiso – Britton Shiso. This variety is sure to dazzle in the garden. It sports green leaves with deep red undersides. Same delicious shiso flavor – it is on my list.
Garden with Lisa Newsletter My monthly newsletter helps the year-round edible gardener stay on track. In each issue you’ll find lists of what to do inside and outside. Learn more with timely and practical tips for the organic gardener. Get the whole family involved with the monthly hands-on garden craft.
In the small town of Grass Valley in northern California is one of my all-time favorite seed and tool sources – Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply. Providing supplies and seeds for organic farmers since 1976, they have grown to be the largest independent retailer in the country focused on organic farm and garden supply. I am excited to learn that in 2022 they opened a second retail location in Albany, Oregon in the heart of the Willamette Valley. I will definitely put a visit on my travel wish list.
As a gardener living on the west coast, I have looked to Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply for seeds and supplies for decades. Serving both farmers and gardeners, they have quality, long-lasting commercial grade tools and supplies. PVFGS offers several weights of Agribon floating row cover in widths of 10’ or wider. They even offer 50’ lengths for gardeners. They offer exclusive products under the PVFGS brand which includes fertilizers, soil amendments, seeds and seed starting kits and much more. Find out more here https://www.groworganic.com/collections/exclusive-peaceful-valley-products
This is where organic farmers shop so there is always something new to be discovered. PVFGS used to print wonderful catalogs but with over 3,000 products in stock, they have put all their focus on the online version. Searchable and easy to navigate, I could spend hours looking through their website. It is bookmarked for easy access!
For years they have been creating an excellent video series with how-to videos about their products, gardening techniques and more. If you want to know about how to build a low tunnel or what to do with those cover crops, tune in and all will be revealed. They add new stuff each year so check it out https://www.groworganic.com/blogs/videos
Their seed offerings are all non-GMO and include organic, open pollinated, heirloom and some hybrid varieties. You’ll find just about all the crops you are looking for and many are available in larger or bulk quantities. If you are working in a school or community garden, look into their bulk pricing.
I have grown some really fine vegetables from PVFGS seeds but what I return to again and again are their massive selection of cover crops. They have one of the largest selections of cover crops for any season and all soil conditions.
Grains – Cereal Rye, White Oats, Bearded Barley. These hardy cereal grains are easy to grow and help build soil structure or tilth. Beautiful vibrant green grass brightens the winter landscape. These can be sown through October or early November but earlier plantings have better germination and weed suppression.
These two mixes are worth consideration.
Cover Crop Mix – Sod Buster. If you have heavy, compacted soil, try this mix. These plants can break up soil with their tenacious roots. Triticale, Cereal Rye, Nemfix Mustard, Bell Beans, Biomaster Peas, and Common Vetch.
Cover Crop Mix – Cold Zone. Good for places that have temperatures below 25°, this cold-hardy mix fixes nitrogen and builds soil structure. Purple vetch and cereal rye.
mature cereal grain photo credit: Lisa Taylor
All images unless otherwise noted are from www.groworganic.com or royalty free sources and are used for educational purposes only.
Garden with Lisa Newsletter
My monthly newsletter helps the year-round edible gardener stay on track. In each issue you’ll find lists of what to do inside and outside. Learn more with timely and practical tips for the organic gardener. Get the whole family involved with the monthly hands-on garden craft. Sign up here: https://www.gardenwithlisa.com