One of the many unexpected consequences of the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic has been that seeds have gotten to be rather hard to find. And it makes sense — people are spending a lot of time at home and there have been interruptions in the food supply, so why not have your own victory garden?
It’s exactly the right season to start planting seeds, so where can you buy seeds online right now?
Local or Online?
Many people buy seeds locally, but in the recent years I’ve moved towards buying them online. I do this because I’ve become quite enamored with growing heritage varieties, which are quite abundant online but hard to find at your local gardening center or hardware superstore.
Seeds are so small and light that shipping them only makes sense if you are buying specialty seeds or buying in bulk, so most people seem to still buy seeds at local purveyors. This makes total sense if you want standard varieties or you want to pull from local expertise and buy/grow what’s going to do best in your area.
With covid-19 restricting local stocks and making a weekend trip to the gardening store a less relaxing prospect than it would have been in recent years buying seeds online can make a lot of sense.
What About Amazon?
I know the default for many people is to buy from Amazon, and yes, Amazon does have a good selection of seeds, but I (as a rule) don’t buy anything that gets consumed from Amazon. That’s just me and how I shop, so make your own choice on that. There are many amazing online retailer that will ship great seeds, just probably not as quickly and you will have to type in all your information instead of using that well-worn-in Amazon account.
The Big Names
Here are some of the names that always pop-up when you search for seeds online. They have been largely sold out since early March.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — more commonly known by their domain RareSeeds.com — is my favorite place to buy seeds online. I’ve been using them for a number of years and have even gifted seed bundles to family members. Their selection is huge, their site is extremely sell organized, and their plant information seems spot on. There are helpful user reviews too (though other sites sometimes have more complete reviews so it makes sense to cross-research).
Baker Creek has a great selection and really excellent customer support with fast shipping and response times. I’ve ordered from them more than a few times and always been happy with the result.
Baker Creek’s seeds seem to be, on the whole, top quality. I’ve always had good-to-great results, providing I didn’t completely mess something up, and I’ve haven’t once gotten a packet of dud seeds.
Their prices are OK, perhaps a bit high, but their free shipping tends to make up for any money you would have saved by shopping elsewhere.
Status: RareSeeds.com was down for a bit during the early days of covid-19 but they have been up lately with many items in stock. Most mainstream vegetables are sold out, but heirloom varieties can be still be found.
Burpee is, of course, the big name in seed packets. Their seeds are available all over and it’s probably the only seed company that most non-farmers could name. While Burpee’s site isn’t nearly as fun to browse as Baker Creek’s, they have a huge selection and probably the best information about planting and growing details on any seed site. Burpee also has a robust set of reviews if you want to learn more about how the seeds are actually working for people.
Status: Burpee has an OK selection now but was a go-to name for people so thing have been hit-and-miss there for weeks. They do have a “notify me” button which you can use to get alerts when stock is available.
Another big name in the seed space, Park Seeds has a great website, a huge selection, and the most well organized presentation of any seed company. This is the place I go to learn about what I’m growing, even when I’m not shopping!
Park is known for their flat-rate shipping fee — $3 for as many seeds as you buy. They also have really good prices so you’ll likely save a few bucks if you go this route.
Status: Park seems to have a good selection right now, considering the current environment.
Another big name in online seeds, Johnny has a good site and a big selection. I love their organic selection of over 400 items, it’s really well organized and easy to find. This site wins a feel-good award since it’s largely organic, it’s employee-owned, and your satisfaction is guaranteed.
Status: Not bad! Stock is better than I expected and you can still do a good seed shop.
The Little Guys
As we found with buying flour online, the smaller players can often been more reliable to have stock and quick shipping than the biggest names right now.
Row 7 Seeds
Row 7 Seeds probably isn’t a name you’ve heard of before, but it’s super chef Dan Barber’s collaboration with a plant breed and a seed expert. They only have organic seeds and their site is quite beautiful with the best plant photography of any site on this page. Their prices are rather high, but you’re supporting a cause in addition to buying seeds.
Status: Right now Row 7 has a very small selection (about 20 seeds types) but everything in stock.
You’ve probably seen Renee’s Garden seeds at some point or another as it’s a trusted brand with a distinctive seed package. Renee’s has a nice site with lots of great information that’s designed for humans to read. They also have a strong selection of organic seeds, which is great to see.
Status: Renee’s Garden is largely sold out and doesn’t seem like they’ll have much stock in the 2020 growing season.
Just because you are buying online doesn’t mean you can’t buy from someone in your region.
Hudson Valley Seeds
This Northeast favorite has a web presence that just makes me happy, but unfortunately has few items in stock right now. Most vegetable staples are sold out, but you can still find some less popular varieties if you have a few minutes to hunt around their site.