Gardeners! Are you Buying from the Best Seed Companies?

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Ever heard of terminator seeds? Terminator technology is the genetic alteration of plants to make them produce sterile seeds. In simple terms, terminator seeds are good for biotech companies but bad for gardeners and farmers.

Closely related is the issue of genetically modified organisms, which I believe is the violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values, tampering with nature by mixing genes among species and domination of food production by a few companies. The debate has been with us for years now, begging the question of ethics and integrity for those dealing with the seed business.

There’s only one question in every gardener’s mind; with so many rogue seed companies out there, how can one spot the best seed companies to do business with?

Actually, there are still so many good seed companies out there that are ethical and appreciate seed diversity. You just need a little bit push to identify them.

Well, before you buy any seeds,

Allow me to define some of the concepts I’m about to introduce in this post. If you are a pro and probably you’ve been gardening for some time, I believe that you know what they are. Just feel free to skip or scroll through the section and go straight to the list of best seed companies as voted by thousands of gardeners worldwide.

However, it doesn’t hurt to get my perspective on those concepts. But, if you’re new to matters seed technology, you’ll love me for introducing them to you. Just thank me later. Remember that knowledge is power.

Well, here we go.

Vegetable seed viability.

Viability in general terms is the ability of something to give the desired results. Actually, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “viability is the ability to continue to exist or develop as a living being.” Seed viability is, therefore, the ability of a seed to germinate and develop into a healthy seedling. Usually expressed as a percentage.

It’s important for you to understand this concept because it will tell you how much seed you need to sow to get your desired number of healthy plants. For example, take two seed lots A and B with 50% and 85% viability respectively. You will require more of seed A as opposed to B to grow a given amount of plants. That makes seed lot B is a better option.

What affects seed viability?

  • The conditions the mother plant went through during production or growing phase.
  • The way the seed was harvested.
  • Any post-harvest treatments that were applied.
  • Storage conditions of the seed, for example, moisture content and temperature.
  • The age of the seeds (Understand how long different seeds take to lose their viability. I’ll show you what to look for in the seed pack later on). At this point, let me say that, it’s also critical that you understand the life expectancy of every vegetable seeds stored under favourable conditions.

That’s essentially what you need to know about the viability of the seeds. Right now you might be wondering, “That’s cool for you Chris, but how can I calculate the viability myself?” Short answer, do a germination test.  Failure of seeds to germinate will be because they are either dead or dormant.

Long answer, I’ll show you at the end of this post. Just keep reading.

Vegetable Seed Dormancy

Seed dormancy is the 2nd concept I want you to understand. I’ve already suggested that some seeds can be viable but still fail to germinate. We technically call that, seed dormancy.

I checked the dictionary and this is what I found on dormancy and kind of liked the definition. Of course, there are several other definitions but this seemed to explain better. It says, ‘Dormancy is a state of being in a condition of biological rest or inactivity characterised by cessation of growth or development and the suspension of many metabolic processes.’

The dormancy of the seed is a survival mechanism employed not only by the seeds in this case but by all other living things when the environment is unfavourable. Which, if you ask me, it’s a darn good thing for them. It’s called adaptability.

However, it’s paramount for the seeds to germinate and grow when we want them to, not the other way round. After all isn’t that the reason most vegetables are called domesticated crops? For that reason, it’s equally imperative for you to understand;

  1. What causes the dormancy, and
  2. How to break that dormancy.

I will shed more light on this two towards the end of the post. Sounds good?

I guessed so.

Seed purity

When you make a purchase of your favourite seeds, it’s expected that a 100% of the contents are actually seeds.

But that’s not always the case. Naturally, the seeds will be mixed up with small proportions of inert materials such as chaff, small stones, and other debris, thus reducing the percentage of those seeds to let’s say 98%.

The remaining 98% is what we call percentage seed purity.

Key Take Away: All high quality seeds are viable and when subjected to germination test, the percentage germination should be as high as possible. Preferably 80-100%. It’s also important to check the percentage purity of any seeds purchased and don’t confuse dormancy for viability. The seeds can be dormant but still viable – which is a good thing.

Where to purchase the vegetable seeds (The best online seed companies)

Let’s now get to the elephant in the room. The enterprises that sell you seeds are they trustworthy? Are they selling safe quality seeds or are they using your ignorance for their own gain? Are they selling terminator seeds without you knowledge?

Over the recent past, there have been numerous debates on the use of Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) and possible side effects. Some companies (signed Safe Seed Pledge) will actually dupe you into believing that they are selling non-GMO seeds while in reality, they are not. Others will sell you the seeds at a very exorbitant, unjustified prices just to get profits.

Small and beginning gardeners might not even be suspicious of such companies. But that’s where I come in. I want to take away your ignorance and make you a powerful, informed consumer that you should be. Read Dave’s Garden another excellent resource to learn who owns which company and their reputation and so much more.

Furthermore, I’ve done the dirty job of digging deep and suggesting the best seed companies based on ethics, value and performance. However, this should not be a substitute for your own judgement. The list is not arranged in any order of importance but, to the best of my knowledge, these are the biggest boys in the seed business across the world.

Best Seed Companies and Merchants Worldwide

1. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed

2. Botanical interests

3. Bountiful gardens

4. Burpee

5. Clear creek seeds

6. Eden seeds

7. Fedco seeds

8. Ferry Morse Seed Co.

9. Grow Organic

10. Gurney’s seed and nursery

11. Harris seeds

12. High mowing organic seeds

13. Johnny’s Selected Seeds

14. Marshalls seeds

15. Natural Gardening Seeds

16. Ne Seed

17. Nichols garden nursery

18. Onalee’s Seeds, LLC

19. Park seed

20. Pinetree

21. Real seeds co.

22. Renee’s garden seeds

23. Salt of the Earth

24. Seed of change

25. Seed Saver Exchange

26. Seeds Now

27. Simlaw seeds

28. Southern exposure seeds

29. Sow True Seeds

30. Sustainable seeds and trade

31. Suttons

32. Territorial seed

33. The seed collection

34. Thompson and Morgan

35. Unwins seeds


What to look for after the purchase of seeds.

Once you’ve requested a seed catalog from these companies or through major online retailers like the Amazon, chosen the seeds that you require, placed an order and even received your merchandise, it’s time to conduct some due diligence. Get your notebook and make the following checklist.

  1. Seal present or absent on the package
  2. Seed variety indicated
  3. Batch number seen
  4. Seed lot number indicated
  5. Manufacturer/Distributor indicated
  6. Manufacturing date and the date of expiry
  7. Germination rate or percentage
  8. Percentage Seed Purity indicated
  9. Product description and Safe Seed Pledge.
  10. Any other relevant information; for example, GMO or non-GMO labelling and any warranties and guarantees.

Keep that record safely. Should anything go wrong, follow up and giving feedback will be as easy as possible. This information will also help you to determine what works and what doesn’t in the long run and help you make more informed buying decisions.

However, it’s important to note that some of the above information are only applicable if you are buying packed seeds. Some gardeners might not have the time or the necessary facilities to start their own seeds, and therefore, purchases seedlings which are a different case.

Basic Seed Tests

I had promised to show you how to carry out quickly basic seed tests and calculate their percentages to verify whether the information on the pack is correct. Of course, there will be some small variations but at least, it should be more or less the same.

Seed viability Test

There are two ways to test seed viability. The first is by doing a germination test and the second is more precise but advanced referred to as tetrazolium test.

Germination is my primary focus today. All you need to do is place a paper inside a petri dish and moist it a little bit, place a reasonable sample size of seeds on top of the wet paper and cover with a lid.

Ensure that the seeds are getting enough light, warmth and moisture. Once the germination occurs, start counting those seeds that have germinated as you remove them from the sample. After you are satisfied with the test, get the percentage of those that have germinated – The value that you get is your percentage seed viability.

Alternatively, you may conduct an inspection of the seeds using a hand lens. Just observe to see whether the seeds are healthy and full, well-developed. That could also be an indication of viable seeds.

Seed dormancy

Seed dormancy is also determined by germination test. But in this case, the seeds look moist and swell but do not germinate. In most cases, dormancy is caused by either a hard seed coat or unfavorable temperature. You can scrape off the seed coat and provide the necessary temperature to induce germination.

Seed Purity

If the weight of your pure seed is X g and that of the inert materials is Y g, then the percentage purity is simply = (X/X+Y)*100. In other words, percentage purity is the weight of pure seeds divided by total weight of the sample and multiplied by 100.

There you have it. If you need more information on viability, purity and germination tests visit here.


If you want to succeed in gardening, you can’t wait for the world to give you what you need the way a cripple wait for food stamps to arrive in the mail. You have to be aggressive. You have to attack with the madness of a mother whose child is surrounded by an army of predators.

Because let’s face it, your garden is your child, its future is as tender and delicate as that of any new-born.

That means spending time nurturing it and spending hours appreciating its diversity.

That means being selective with what seeds you plant in it. That means only buying from the best seed companies with a track record of performance and ethics. You have to realise that realizeerve only the best and as of that know exactly what you’re eating or what you’re feeding your community.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what else the unscrupulous biotech companies are going to throw at you today or in future, what matters is that you’re the hero of the story and with what you’ve learned in this post you are unbeatable.

Next Post: How to Plant Your Vegetables

7 thoughts on “Gardeners! Are you Buying from the Best Seed Companies?”

  1. Thank you for including Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. We offer more than 1800 varieties of open pollinated heirloom seeds and strive to offer quality service, as well as quality seeds. Kathy

    • Hi Kathy,
      I’m glad you liked the inclusion. Featuring Baker Creek served as an awesome extra resource. Thumbs up for your quality products and services.

  2. “rogue seed companies” nonsense. With so many seed companies out there any rogues would quickly lose market share. Also, This author reveals ignorance on the basic topic of seeds by even mentioning the terminator seeds. They have never been released for sales. thus the crack about “good for biotech companies but bad for gardeners” is complete nonsense. More thorough fact checking is needed. The 2 seed companies I use the most

    • Hmm. I read the article in the link and it doesn’t seem to bust any myths. It says that Monsanto holds a patent on terminator genes and promised not to use it. That would not stop rogue seed companies from violating their patent. But even without the “terminator gene,” many plants are hybrids. Hybrids might or might not produce seeds with high viability, and those seeds might or might not breed true. Rogue companies raise a crop from hybrid seeds, then sell the second generation seeds from those crops. These are the peope you have to beware of.

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