There are few things more exciting in the dead of winter than the arrival of a seed catalogue! It signals the impending arrival of growing season and encourages daydreaming of all the delicious produce which you will (hopefully!) be pulling from your garden.
My personal favourite catalogue is West Coast Seeds. As it name suggests, it is a seed company based in British Columbia. Its catalogue doesn't just read as an alphbetical list of seeds offered for sale. It is practically a gardening manual! It includes critical information geared toward coastal (~zone 8) growing, with offering for home growers, market growers, and commercial growers alike. It offers and encourages the use of organic and non-GMO seeds, with even some heirloom seed offerings. I purchase the majority of my seeds directly from West Coast Seeds, or their nursery resellers. Thankfully, I live within driving distance to their retail store so that I can show up with my seed list in hand and end up with a bushel of other fantastic must-have gardening items. If you do only one thing to prepare for planting vegetable seeds, I highly recommend picking up or printing a copy of their panting charts. I laminate my copies so that I can bring them in the garden with me, no matter the weather. I also find that I constantly refer to them so this makes them so much more durable. For what it's worth, I have no affiliation (financial or otherwise) with their company. I personally just love the quality of their products and their mission.
In your hunt for the perfect variety for your harvest table, I encourage you to check out and support organic, heirloom, and non-GMO seed growers, These seeds can sometimes take longer to grow or are more susceptible to pests, but the wait and the risk pays off in colour, flavour, and beauty! It is also important to ensure the future of these seed varieties; they don't cater to mass consumption and production of their commercially preferred counterparts (which are often bred or modified for shelf-life, mechanical processing, disease resistance, and uniformity above flavour and nutritional content). You have many options for suppliers within Canada, including Walkerland, Salt Spring Seeds, Heritage Harvest Seeds, and Hawthorne Farm Seeds. Hop on a search engine and you may be able to dig out a few more.
I must confess that I am often guilty of picking seed packets whenever I see a rack of them at a nursery ("did I use all of my arugula seeds...?" or "it's prime time for planting calendula!"), so I find that I have a variety of seed sources by the end of the season. Whenever possible, I try to stick with organic, non-GMO, untreated, or heirloom seeds. If I am going through the effort of growing and babying these beautiful vegetables, I want them to be the highest quality possible. They should be extraordinarily tasty and uncompromisingly healthy for my family and garden. The difference in cost between a generic packet of seeds and a carefully curated selection is minimal in the grand scheme of creating your ideal garden.
Right now, I am sitting at my dining room table in the thick of garden planning. It is only the first week of January but I've already been out in the garden, kids in tow, a few times. I can't wait to start popping some seeds into the soil and watching the magic unfold.
First things to hit the dirt are my artichoke seeds! I'll need to take an inventory of my several seed boxes to see what else I will need to purchase this year. I also try to grow something new each year, so I look forward to getting inspired!