The best free garden catalogs to help you plan your garden

Plan Vegetable Garden

If you don’t currently receive free garden catalogs at home, you’re really missing out. It’s so fun to peek inside your mailbox on a dark and dreary winter day and find a colorful seed catalog poking out.

One of my favorite weekend activities in winter is to curl up next to my wood stove with a stack of catalogs and organic gardening books and let my imagination wander.

Ordering seed catalogs is also a first important step in planning your garden. The most successful gardeners I know order their seeds ahead of time and are ready to go when the spring planting season hits.

I don’t recommend waiting until the first nice day in spring and then running out to your local garden store to stock up on seeds. This will likely lead to buying things you don’t need and wasting a lot of money.

Ordering through catalogs offers you time to really think about and plan out what you’re going to grow in your garden this season. And there’s no better way to spend a dreary winter day!

Colorful vegetable garden harvest

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Free Garden Catalogs Are a Great Way to Plan Your Garden

After you request a free garden catalog it can take a few weeks for it to arrive, so don’t delay!

There are a lot of great seed companies out there and it’s easy to end up with way more catalogs than you could possibly digest.

I recommend keeping things simple to start and ordering no more than three catalogs so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Most of my favorite and best performing varieties I grow in my garden come from the following companies. Click on the company name to grab your catalog.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Johnny’s is a Maine company that’s used by a lot of commercial organic vegetable farmers. This is what I like about it because it means they’re catering to people who are serious about growing food and run businesses doing it. Johnny’s consistently offers high-performing varieties and often features the latest in disease-resistant varieties.

High Mowing Seeds

High Mowing is a family-owned company in Vermont that carries all organic seeds. They have some of the same varieties as Johnny’s, but also feature many unique and interesting vegetables that have caught my eye over the years.

Their catalog also wins my prize for most beautifully designed!

seeds from free garden catalogs

Seed Savers Exchange

If you like the idea of growing heirloom seeds, then Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit located in Decorah, Iowa, is the company for you! They have dedicated themselves to not only preserving many old heirloom varieties, but also sharing the stories of the gardening families and individuals that grew and saved these seeds over the years.

Their farm and store in Iowa is definitely worth a road trip. The land they own is gorgeous, and you can spend a lovely afternoon walk through some of their trial gardens, exploring various hiking loops, shopping in their store, and even grabbing lunch in the cute town of Decorah.

Seed Savers also hosts several on-site events throughout the growing season.

Botanical Interests

Botanical Interests was started 25 years ago by a married couple in Colorado. One of their missions was to develop a unique seed packet that included art, garden history, gardening tips, recipes, and fun facts.

One of my favorite features of their seed offerings is their mixed variety packets. For some vegetables, like beets, you can buy a seed packet that has a mixture of red, yellow and chioggia beets. (See them here.) As someone who often creates my own fun mixes, this is a great bonus.

If you’re a Canadian gardener, check out these two companies:

Urban Harvest – 100% certified organic and heirloom seeds from the Toronto area

West Coast Seeds – specializing in heirloom and organic varieties, located in British Columbia

What to Do While You’re Waiting for Your Free Garden Catalogs

Once you submit your requests for catalogs, it’s easy to get impatient and want them to arrive in your mailbox the next day!

While you’re waiting, here are some things you can do to prepare for browsing through the catalogs and ordering seeds.

best garden catalogs for vegetables

Take a Seed Inventory

Ideally, you’re storing all of your vegetable, herb, and flowers seeds in one place. I recently upgraded my seed storage from an old plastic bin to these organizers and I love them! (Photo above.)

I ordered two and designated one case for seeds I start inside and the other for seeds I plant directly into the ground. If you want each vegetable can even have its own little container that snaps shut.

Whatever you use for seed storage, grab it and sort through the packets by checking the dates. Most seeds remain viable for 2-3 years, depending on how they’re stored.

I personally discard any seed packets that are older than that because I don’t want to take the chance they won’t germinate or produce well. It’s worth it to me to invest a few dollars in newer seed that’s reliable.

After you get rid of old seed, group the remaining seeds together by vegetable. If you don’t have a handy organizer to separate them like the one I shared above, just use paper clips, rubber bands, or binder clips to bundle the same vegetable seeds together.

This exercise is a good opportunity to take a look at what you already have before you start getting tempted by the seed catalogs!

catalogs for vegetables gardeners

Consult Your Notes from Previous Years

I highly recommend creating a garden map if you don’t have one already. Every year you should be writing down what date you plant each vegetable, the variety, and how many plants, rows, or seeds you planted.

I like to keep my maps in a garden binder that I take with me out to the garden every time I plant. At the beginning of each season, I always place a blank sheet of paper at the front of the binder for any notes or reminders for myself for later in the season or the following year.

For example, I recently read this great article about growing pansies and violas from seed. I’d love to have more options for early spring flowers, so I thought it would be fun to try starting those flowers next year.

So, I wrote a note on my notes sheet to remind myself of this the following winter when I’m ordering seeds.

I also keep a Pinterest board of plants I want to try. It’s a very simple and visual way to bookmark any interesting variety or plant you discover during the season and want to remember.

You can check out my board here and steal any ideas you want – Garden Plants I Want to Try.

Before ordering seeds, you can peruse any notes to remind you of what changes you want to make in your garden, and then slowly working your way through the seed varieties and narrowing down your order.

Whether you take notes in a binder or on your phone, snap photos as reference, or keep track of things in a notebook, this is the time to review past information to remind yourself of anything your summer self wanted your winter self to remember!

organic gardening catalogs

Think About What You Want to Grow

Most of us don’t have room in our gardens to grow everything we like to eat. That’s why it’s important to come up with some priorities for the season.

The best way to start is to take a look at your grocery shopping, eating, and cooking habits.

Check out this article where I share some important questions you can ask yourself to help set your garden priorities for the season. It includes a printable worksheet that leads you through this process.

catalogs for gardeners

What to Do Once You Receive Your Free Garden Catalogs

When your catalogs arrive, spend a little time just perusing and dreaming. It’s okay to get a little carried away into your garden fantasies at this point. Just don’t click buy yet!

I like to go through and start circling anything that catches my eye and looks interesting to grow.

When I’m satiated with dreaming and planning, I start to narrow down my choices by consulting my seed inventory, plant maps, and any notes. When I have my final selections I place my orders online and feel a great sense of accomplishment!

Thinking about and planning your garden in advance, before the gardening season begins, will help you make smarter decisions for spring. And smarter decisions usually lead to bigger successes throughout the season.

Ordering your seeds from a catalog is a great first step in the planning process and one you can do right now.

free organic gardening catalogs

Additional Resources for Garden Planning

I love trying and evaluating new vegetable varieties on a regular basis. I share my findings and recommendations in several ways:

You can read more about my favorite unusual vegetable to grow in your garden,

Get help with choosing which tomato varieties to grow

And learn about 15 purple vegetables you need to grow in your garden.

gardening planning book

 

 

My book, Smart Start Garden Planner, keeps planning down-to-earth, practical, and fun! You’ll work through your plan step-by-step, and at the end have a personalized blueprint for what a successful season in your garden looks like.

Check it out here.

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You can find several lists of my favorite seed varieties, as well as supplies, books, tools, and more, in my Amazon storefront and on Etsy at this link.

And if you want to read more about garden planning, check out these posts.

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