How to Select Your Seeds

Jan 23, 2015 | Gardening, Half Way Farm, Potager | 6 comments

How to select seeds

The time is here.  The black Sharpie is out… and the graph paper too.  I’m rounding up all the seeds I saved from last years plantings and pouring over my notes from last year and my dreams for this year.

It’s seed time baby.

Once the Christmas tree is out with the goats (Waste not/want not is a rule on a farm! And goats live pine needles!) and the ornaments are packed up the seed catalogs begin to arrive in the mail.  I know I’ve blogged on this before in my Potager 101 class (see sidebar) but every year it’s such a joy I just have to talk about it some more…


I’ve been at this long enough that by now I have my favorites and I’d love to share them with you… just the basics and how they’ve worked for me.    How to select seeds.  First of all, my two favorite catalogs are Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek.

I mean – YUM.

So, I love the idea of Seed Savers.  The catalog is SO interesting… full of stories on the history of the seeds… rare seeds get donated to SSE for preservation.  Seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation… often from the “motherland”.  I just love it.  They encourage seed saving and offer a variety of resources to novice and professional gardeners alike.  THIS YEAR SSE is offering heirloom apples… M-7 rootstock.  I will be planting a small orchard of these gorgeous apples and digging them up and taking them with us when we move!  I simply can not wait.  AND I am going to try to espalier them…. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!

You can request a SSE catalog here:  SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE  And this is the digital version.

You can request a Baker Creek Catalog here: BAKER CREEK

Baker Creek is another company that has simply captured my imagination.  I love that it was started by a young man passionate for heirloom seeds with a catalog he printed in his bedroom while still in high school.  The photographs are out of this world.  But a word of caution… they are so awesome it’s easy to lose self control and end up ordering a bunch of seeds you don’t have room or time to plant.

My next favorite catalog is COOKS GARDEN.  Clear and concise.  Though not all heirloom they do have AWESOME prices on things like strawberries.  You can plant a whole patch for as little as $35!  They (Cooks Garden) are handy to have on hand in that they offer live plants so if your greenhouse endevors are ever a bust you can order started plants at the last minute!  Cook’s Garden is ALWAYS offering coupons too.  You’ll find one for your purchase just by visiting the website.

Seed Starting

So let’s assume you are new to gardening or ready to try to new varieties… This is NOT a list of everything we are growing but I thought I’d tell you a bit about my favorite go-to seeds.  Everything in this list happens to come from Seed Savers Exchange.

Radish – French Breakfast – this is my favorite radish.  It’s gorgeous, delicious, resistant to funky radish syndrome (I made that up) and it reminds me of the markets in Paris.

Carrots – Jaune de Doubs – I love this carrot.  It’s yellow.  It’s sweet.  It grows WELL and is reliable.  I love the added color in my jardinera. 19th century French heirloom.  8-10 inch roots.

Leeks – Blue Solaise – 19th Century French heirloom.  I start these little guys in my greenhouse and transplant when they look like little blades of grass.  Their flavor is excellent and what I use for my leek and potato soup.

Green beans – Fin de Bagnol –  Old gourmet French hericot verte.  Abundant.  I love these in my potato salad.  Potato Salad

Lettuce – Baquieu This is a delicious little French head lettuce.  Best early or late.  Fabulous flavor and leaves that don’t wilt under dressing.

Lettuce – Lolla Rossa Gorgeous red, curly leaf.  Just as stunning in your garden and on your plate.

Beets – Chioggia Pre 1840 Italian Heirloom beet.  Seeds are nice and big so my girls are in charge of planting these.  The children LOVE the pinwheels.

Pickles – Parisian Pickling Quelle surprise right?  Yes, I love me some cornichon. 

Gourd Mixture – Why pay up to .80 per gourd when you can easily grow your own for fall decor?


Zinnia – Benary’s Giant Zinnia An AWESOME strain of Zinnia from one of Germany’s oldest seed company’s founded in 1839.  These beasts grow up to five feet tall though the package says 3-4 feet.  They attract butterflies, bees and look STUNNING in an arrangement.


Swiss Chard – Five Color Silverbeet  Nice and big seeds similar to beet seeds.  Gorgeous chard that grows ALL SEASON.  Just keep cutting it back and watching it grow!

Tomato – Brandywine  Passed down from seeds featured in an 1889 catalog.  Firm.  Disease resistant.  Gorgeous.  And I don’t even LIKE tomatoes.  But there’s no denying this is a lovely tomato!

So – those are some basics.  I’ll share our farm list in an upcoming post.

But – you want to select your seeds based on your needs, location and goals.  I go with heirloom seeds because they are meant for saving.  There are many, many seeds I won’t need to buy this year because I successfully gathered and stored them from last year.  And then have some fun with it… I select seeds based on my heritage.  Germanic… French… Irish… I imagine my ancestors enjoying similar vegetables and it helps me feel connected to the old fashioned way I life I have romanticized in my mind.  I also select varieties passed down by Native Americans as my children are 1/16 Cherokee Blackfoot.  For example – we also plant the Trail of Tears green bean.  Seeds for this bean were carried across the country on the infamously sad Trail of Tears.  It’s a great way to teach the children a bit of history.  That even food is a part of history.

The internet is FULL of resources on how to select seeds and it’s very easy to find a seed in a catalog and then simple type that into a Google search and read about other people’s successes and failures with that particular seed.  I will Google words like, “Trail of Tears green bean, Illinois” and I will find stories from locals which is very helpful.

How to select seeds

Hubby and I are working on a video from the greenhouse and in it I’ll go over the seeds I am starting this winter for early spring transplant… should be fun.

Got grass?

Dig it up and plant a seed.

This is your year!

Parisienne Farmgirl










  1. Christi {Jealous Hands}

    I have been a gardener for years, but your original Potager 101 series really inspired me to get creative with my potager! Your oeiginal stone potager? Be still my heart! Totally inspired my design! And we are starting Brussels sprouts, broccoli & peas today (although a little late).

    Can’t wait to read your farm list & see your greenhouse video! More inspiration to come!

  2. Nita Hiltner

    If the kids are 1/16 native, they are eligible for college scholarships due to that.

  3. Chanda

    We are hoping to take in a tour of the Baker Creek visitors center and gardens this year. I love their catalog also. I missed out on it last year by requesting to late and ended up ordering the Whole seed catalog. I sat and read it like any good book. It is fabulous. They also make a really handy pocket planter planner with this cool sliding system that figures up harvest and best time to plant. We also have a local merchant that is like a Walgreens of seeds. It is called Morgan County Seeds. They sell carrot seeds by the pound etc. It is mainly for truck patch/green house growers etc but anyone can shop there. They do sell smaller batches. I counted once like 35 varieties of cucumbers in stock. If you can say it, they have it. You might check into the program about setting up a green house to grow organics to sell. Many of my friends here got over half of the cost reimbursed. It is a gov’t sponsored program. I didn’t do it, the green house was kinda big for us. It was like 40 feet long etc. Not sure if that program is maxed out or not. It was still current last year across the US. Good luck with the garden, hope you have a fantastic growing year.

  4. Pam Moore

    Love this post! I’ve never used SSE, but do order from Baker Creek. I also really like Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. She’s out of MI and has a wonderful selection with great prices. I use a lot of the same varieties you mentioned. Some that I don’t I’d love to try. One of my favorite ways to eat the Fin de Bagnol green beans is a simple recipe I watched Julia Child make on PBS years ago. Get a deep pot of water to a rolling boil and and the beans for 3 minutes until they’re crisp tender. At that point strain them and plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain them and put them back into your pot and let the rest of the water evaporate from the heat. Once they’re dry (super quick) throw in some good butter and lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste – and toss to coat. This is so fast and easy to make and flavor is OH MY GOD! I look forward to these every summer just like I do BLTs made with my Brandywines. I miss summer food!

  5. Sue Neitzel

    I’ve got seed fever too, and since we only live a hour from Baker Creek, we made a seed run over the weekend and it was a treat!!

  6. Dorothy Donatello

    Thanks for your seed info. I use those also! Just to let you know I also order from Renee’s Garden. She has an online catalog that has some unusual seeds. Great for the kids! She has a watermelon that has moon and stars on the skin, also a child’s garden. I have ordered from her for a long time and have never been disappointed. Happy planting.


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