We gardeners on the coast who desire to grow something beyond the standard primroses and pansies offered in local grocery stores can find the selection wanting, despite the best efforts of our few retail nurseries. The answer for serious gardeners, especially those dreaming of Vegetables, is found in the wealth of seed catalogs arriving this month. Some of my favorites follow:
Territorial Seed, located near Eugene OR. Territorial is my "old reliable" for vegetable seed that will actually grow in our local climate of western Oregon. So many of the big catalogs are based in areas like the Midwest, with radically different climate conditions-- their seeds make promises usually not kept here. Other good ones for this area include Nichols (OR) and West Coast Seeds (BC).
A climate as mild and wet as this one makes growing fruit a monumental challenge. Raintree Nursery (WA) and One Green World (OR) provide fruiting plants and trees for the Northwest and great advice for growing them successfully. Selecting these plants carefully for chilling requirements, disease resistance and harvest dates will provide a coastal gardener with the best shot at quality fruit.
Other catalogs I regularly consult for specialty items include: the comprehensive Peaceful Valley Farm Supply (CA) for all things organic, Dripworks for waterwise gardening equipment, Ronniger's (ID) for seed potatoes and garlic, and Richters (Canada) for the largest selection of herb seeds and plants anywhere.
In general, search out sources that are as close to home as possible for the best-adapted seeds to your specific climate, and consult friends and neighbors for favorite varieties, especially those talented senior gardeners. Chances are if you're thinking of growing it, they've already tried once and determined if it's a winner or not.
Finally, look for companies that have pledged to avoid genetically-modified seed. I could write a mind-numbing screed on WHY, just believe me, it's important to respect nature. And try some heirloom seed if at all possible, then learn to save seed from your plants. You will be a better gardener (and citizen) for the effort.
Next: Winter Pruning