I can’t remember exactly what it was I was looking for when I found Wild Garden Seed, but I do remember they were the only ones who had it at the time. This company is one whose seeds may appear in other catalogs. When you find a Wild Garden Mix, it is one of their ‘land race’ seeds. I’ll get into that further into the profile though.
Wild Garden Seeds hasn’t been around for a very long time as far as I am aware. Their first catalog didn’t come out until 2006. Having not been in direct contact with anyone from the company, I have to make a few assumptions. Initially, I was guessing that they were around prior to the publication of their print catalog. I say this because they have some seriously well-developed original plant varieties. They are dedicated to not just reproducing seeds, but to improving on existing crops on behalf of the market grower.
Further digging proved this out. Frank Morton originally had the idea for the company in 1983. A chance cross between his ‘Salad Bowl’ and “Red Winter Cos’ lettuce led him to realize he could have seeds unique to himself. Luck was the only thing that caused that lonely plant among a sea of ‘Salad Bowl’ lettuce to make it to seed. It was planted late in the season. He planted the 65 seeds from that strange little cross and ended up with 65 entirely different plants (As is typical of second generation crosses). He began to notice the crosses in other plants as well and realized that with 20 years of crosses, he could have a huge variety of seeds unique to himself and bred to favor organic methods.
By 1993, ten years from his first beginning the journey, They had so many seeds of all sorts stored that his wife Karen said they’d have to start selling some if they wanted to have room to keep collecting. By 2001, they no longer sold any salad greens (their primary merchandise originally) and were now selling only seeds to various companies. In the next year, they began the company as we know it. Applying for a special grant to do 3 years of disease nursery work on the farm, intentionally plaguing the lettuce. This allowed them to move forward with a much stronger disease resistance in the remaining lettuce. As far as I can determine, 2003 is when they first opened the website and the rest I already mentioned at the start of this little history lesson.
The website is what you expect from a seed company. The left side is dedicated to products and the right is mostly other aspects. Recently, the latest additions button hasn’t been working for me, but everything else works just fine. There is a resources section that displays the covers of all previous catalogs, a listing of the essays that have been found in all previous catalogs and a blog called The Chaff Pile. The site isn’t fancy, but it is effective for what it needs to do.
The catalog is small, about half the size (one quarter the paper) of a typical catalog. Most of the entries have no pictures to go along with them, but there are a few black and white photos of a few. The front and back cover are color printed to display their newest developments and additions to the catalog. It isn’t fancy, but the paper quality is good and the entries are informative. I especially like that they have a symbol dedicated to seeds they have developed themselves. It can be a brow-raising surprise to realize just how many seeds you find in other catalogs that were developed by this company.
My experience is that the catalog seems to always have more than the website. I’ve never run into issues purchasing anything I wanted though, so I am not sure if the website is being limited to only their most well stocked items or if they are removing items from the website after they have been sold low. One thing to be aware of is that the catalog can confuse some people because the price of packets isn’t listed with the varieties, but is instead set as a header on every other page. Pricing by weight is listed with each variety.
Isolation methods are used to ensure the seeds are free of genetic contamination. Everything they sell is GMO free and they are a member of the Organic Seed Alliance. The company has a strong opposition to GMO, and in fact are against a number of other unethical agricultural practices. Their dedication to avoiding contamination leads to the next segment.
Where the seeds come from
The bulk of Wild Garden Seed‘s stock originate from seeds they have been growing themselves. Some of their lines date back to the original samples from those first few years! Others are varieties they dehybridized or ones they improved on. The varieties of six quinoa, for example, originate from two initial varieties crossbred back in 1984. Even now, they are bringing out new varieties each year.
Pricing and Shipping
There is a flat rate on packets of $3. Weight pricing is listed per oz, 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb and 1lb increments. These can vary greatly depending on the total supply of a given seed. This can go as low as $8 per ounce to as high as $39 per ounce! In some cases, the total you can buy may be limited such as some newer varieties being limited to only ounces. Considering the supply and demand limitations, this is understandable. If you are on a tight budget, only buy packets or else wait a few years on that great new variety so the price goes down with greater supply of the seed.
On packets, just add $6 to your total order. Bulk orders start at $6 for the first pound and then depending on where it goes, additional funds per extra pound. $2 for US Bulk, $4 for International. These shipping prices may have changed slightly in the newest catalog, as I didn’t order from them this year, but I doubt it since the packet prices are identical to previous years.
This company really shines on its lettuce varieties. They have had 30 years to develop lettuce and it shows. Right now they have just over 100 varieties available. Most years, they offer up newly improved varieties of old favorites or completely new varieties that they have stabilized.
They also shine when it comes to land races. These are varieties of seed that have been heavily cross pollinated so you have a grab-bag of genetic diversity. Growing them offers a huge spread of random plants. Some will be named varieties from their collection. Some will be varieties they are still developing. Some will be completely new hybrids that have sprung up and some will even be wild varieties such as is included in their kale mix. Anyone who wants to breed a completely new variety to their own tastes and location can really get a huge bargain by purchasing one of these mixes. These are ideal for someone who wants to get their feet wet on plant breeding.
Looking to the future
This one is probably a no-brainer. They are going to continue to do what they have been doing. This means strengthening and broadening the genetics of numerous crops. They are undoubtedly going to continue fighting the good fight on behalf of market gardeners and standing against the interests of Big-Ag.
I don’t order from Wild Garden Seed as often as I probably should, but when I am interested in getting more of a variety they created, I try to make sure to buy directly from the source. It isn’t that the seeds are any different when sold through another catalog, but more that I like to put the money directly in the pocket of the ones who put so much work into the breeding program. This is also the company I look towards when I want to try something in a situation that may be questionable. Their stock is often very strong against disease and tends to have enough genetic diversity even among the stable varieties that it can perform better than similar products from other sources. Heck, even the old stand-by varieties that they have are often improved versions of what is found elsewhere. They are well work having among your list of seed sellers.