19 Sources for Seeds and Seedlings
If you’ve never grown a garden before, getting started can be a little overwhelming. Sure, Tower Garden simplifies things by taking out a lot of the guesswork. But for those of us without green thumbs, there’s still a bit of a learning curve, particularly when it comes to starting plants.
Should you use seeds or seedlings? Where should you get them? And then there’s all those terms—organic, non-GMO, hybrid, heirloom—just muddying the water.
Tower Tip: Are you also wondering what you should grow? Learn how to pick the right plants and more in this Tower Garden planning guide.
Read on for helpful info about seeds and seedlings, followed by a list of quality providers. If you still have questions after reading, be sure to let me know in the comments.
It's time to master seed- and seedling-speak.
Seed and Seedling Glossary of Terms
Care for a quick vocabulary lesson? There are a few terms that may confuse beginner gardeners looking to buy seeds or seedlings (it took me a little while to get total clarity on these):
Organic seeds come from organic farms, which promote ecosystem health by refusing to use unnatural pesticides and other chemicals. Such chemicals are believed to be partially responsible for declining honeybee (i.e., pollinator) populations. Organic seeds grow organic produce, which you’ve likely seen at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Non-GMO stands for “non-genetically modified organism.” Typically, the DNA of GMO seeds is altered to make plants more resistant against a particular pest or other problem. But the food that grows from GMO seeds hasn’t been proven to be safe. For this reason, GMO seeds have been banned in many countries, and many gardeners avoid using them. Click here for more info about GMO.
Hybrid seeds are the result of cross-pollinating similar plants. The goal is to produce a plant with desirable characteristics (e.g., bigger fruit, greater hardiness, better color) of both parent plants. The primary drawback with hybrid plants is that the seeds they produce often don’t yield plants that match the parents. In other words, you can’t use the seeds of hybrid plants. Grocery store produce is often grown from hybrid seeds.
Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated. So, unlike hybrids, the seeds you collect from these plants will produce plants with similar characteristics. Most heirloom varieties have been preserved for decades.
I grow both heirloom and hybrid plants. But I always buy organic, non-GMO seeds (and my provider recommendations reflect that).
There are benefits to starting from both seeds and seedlings.
Seeds vs. Seedlings: Which Is Better?
Before I share my list of seed and seedling providers, let’s consider the benefits of starting from seeds compared to those of starting from seedlings.
A Tug of War contest on the Tower Garden Facebook page actually covered this topic. Growers were encouraged to vote for their favorite way to start their Tower Gardens: seeds or seedlings. The results surprised me a little. Votes for “seeds” nearly doubled those for “seedlings.”
Several growers commented with their reasoning. Here’s what a few “seed” voters wrote:
“I prefer to start my own seeds, this way I know they are organic and non-GMO.” – Nadine Moller
“It is fun for the kids to see the whole process, from seed to food on the table!” – Jenni Davenport
“More variety with seeds. Plus there's joy in watching the miracle of a sprouting plant.” – Clayton Shivers
Those who voted for seedlings had great points, too:
“I use seedlings because I kill everything, even fake plants!” – Terry Shepherd
“Strawberries are very difficult to grow from seeds, so those I love the seedlings for.” – Shelley Briand
“Definitely seedlings for me! I don't have the patience to wait for seeds.” – Brenna Ballard
To get a clear idea of the benefits of each method, I divided user comments into groups based on common themes. Here’s what that looks like:
Key Benefits of Seeds and Seedlings
Benefits of Seeds
Benefits of Seedlings
I thought it was interesting that both groups wrote that variety was a benefit. In my own experience, I’ve found seed providers typically offer the most options.
Find a seed provider that fits your needs.
6 Sources for Seeds
According to the results I shared above, you should start from seeds if you want to save a few dollars, are interested in witnessing the full growing cycle, or value plant variety or quality. You can use any seeds you like with Tower Garden. If you’re looking for a seed or seedling source, here are a few I recommend:
If you’re a new Tower Garden owner, why not start with the seeds that shipped with your system? These are non-GMO seeds that have been proven to grow well in Tower Garden. For reference, here’s a list of the seeds you receive:
- Beefsteak tomatoes
- Bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Gourmet lettuce
SeedsNow is an excellent provider for organic, non-GMO, heirloom vegetable and herb seeds. I’m a big fan of its $0.99 sampler seed packs, which provide an inexpensive way to experiment with new plants. Everything I’ve ordered from SeedsNow has arrived with a freebie seed pack and germinated well.
Be sure to check out the seed finder tool, which allows you to browse seeds based on growing region, conditions, method and other criteria.
Since 1996, High Mowing Organic Seeds has been offering a wide array of organic, non-GMO vegetable, herb and flower seeds. Added bonus: all orders ship for free!
I turn to Rare Seeds for—you guessed it—rare seeds. And I’m not the only one. Several voters in the Tower Garden Facebook contest mentioned Rare Seeds as a trustworthy source for unique seeds.
Urban Organic Gardener Seed Club
Want someone else to select seeds for you? UOC just launched a Seed Club that sends subscribers organic, non-GMO seeds each month for $10. All you have to do is answer a short survey, and your shipment will be customized to fit your needs. I prefer to pick my own seeds, but this is a neat idea for the busy gardener.
Local Seed Swap
I attended my first seed swap earlier this year, and I left with more seeds that I brought with me. Seed swaps are a fun way to meet and learn from other gardeners in your area and find (or share) unique seeds. For example, last month I got tulsi (holy basil), meadowsweet, a mystery chili mix and a few other interesting seeds. If you don’t have any seeds to trade, don’t worry. Most seed swaps allow you to buy seeds or “swap credits.” Or you may even find some seeds are given away for free.
Get a jumpstart on growing with seedlings.
13 Tower Garden Seedling Farms
If you’re looking for the most convenient way to start your Tower Garden, seedlings are the way to go.
I’ve actually never bought seedlings from any of these providers, as I’ve always started my plants from seed. So I can’t offer any personal commentary on the following list. But I have read several positive reviews on the Tower Garden Facebook page.
These are certified Tower Farms, which means they grow seedlings specifically for Tower Gardens (i.e., they’re already growing in rockwool cubes, so you don’t have to wash dirt off the roots before transplanting).
Tower Tip: If you choose to buy seedlings from a local nursery instead, select only those with perfectly formed leaves and no evidence of bug presence. Damaged leaves typically mean plants have been sprayed for pests.
Shipping and on-site pickup:
Montecito Urban Farms
ATL Urban Farms
WNC Urban Farms, LLC
Oak Creek Farm and Homestead
LA Urban Farms
G2 Urban Farms, LLC
On-site pickup only:
Space Coast Gardens
So Cal Urban Farms
Tennessee Urban Farm
Once you’ve got them, be sure to read how to start your seeds (page 7) and/or transplant your seedlings. If you prefer to watch rather than read, here’s a great video tutorial:
And don’t forget about the 10 growing guides in the Resource Center. They cover everything from planting to pest control. Review this information to ensure your new plants flourish.
Do you have a favorite source for seeds or seedlings that I didn’t mention? Share it in the comments.
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