Cold climate seed sources (updated)

I have to admit that, right now, I’m rather obsessed with gardening! Mostly, I’m just glad we’ve reached a point, since moving here, where we even can garden at all, even if we really aren’t all that ready for it.

One thing I want to clarify when I talk about gardening. Growing up here, my mother maintained a HUGE garden, and in my mind “gardening” means “growing food.” There was gardening, and then there was flower gardening. They were always two different things in my mind. I still remember how startled I was, the first time I was talking to someone about gardening after I’d moved off the farm. I was so confused to hear her talking about planting flowers. Not a single vegetable! I eventually clued in that, when a lot of people talk about “gardening”, they mean growing flowers, and that very few of the people I met over the years grew any kind of food at all, except maybe some herbs.

It was the strangest of revelations for me! πŸ˜€

So I just wanted to make I don’t confuse anyone reading my posts here. Gardening, to me, is generic for growing food. My brain puts flowers, and even berry bushes and fruit trees, into completely different categories! πŸ˜€

With all the crazy going on right now, a lot of people are looking to grow their own food. On the one hand, I think that’s awesome, and it’s something I have always felt more people should be doing, if they are able. On the other hand, it means a lot of seed companies are running out of stock and are having a hard time meeting the demand!

Though I have already ordered what we’ll be planting this year, that hasn’t stopped me from researching, or just enjoying going through websites and thinking further into the future.

Image source

Researching is something I do for fun, which is handy, because I’m been spending a lot of time researching cold climate gardening and looking for seed, plant and tree sources. Unfortunately, most of the sources I’m finding that talk about “cold climate” tend to be US based, which means the coldest they talk about is zone 4. Mostly, zone 5. We’re zone 3 (or 2b, according to my Veseys catalogue label!).

So I have been making a point of bookmarking anything I find that is aimed at Canadians, where I know I’ll have more choices for things that will grow in our zone.

I will be including some of the sources I’ve found, here. My focus here is on Canadian companies, with items hardy to our zone, and I’ll talk a little about each one.

I will be including sources, in alphabetical order, that I’ve found for hardy fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and grape vines, as well as vegetables and herbs. I hope that these will be useful for anyone else who is trying to grow their own food in colder, short season zones.

Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company. This company, in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, specializes in Canadian wildflower seeds, specifically for the prairies. They also have a small selection of heirloom vegetable seeds. Mostly tomatoes. Their wildflowers are in many categories, including those that attract bees, butterflies, birds in general, or hummingbirds specifically. They also have categories for flowers that are deer resistant, flowers that prefer different types of lighting, and even a category of plants for tea. While my own focus is on food gardening, attracting native pollinators is really important, since our local pollinators come out at different times than in other zones. For us, we have to be careful where we plant flowers, due to my husband’s allergies to bees, but as we continue to expand our cleanup, wildflowers are going to be an important part of the ecosystem we will be building. More flowers -> more pollinators -> more food!

Green Barn Farm. Green Barn is a Quebec based nursery that specializes in hardy fruit, nut and berries that can survive our extreme winters. Their selections include nut trees, apples and crabapples, apricots, peaches and nectarines (!!!), berries and wild native species, cherries, pears, plums, grapes, passion fruit and kiwi (!!!), and permaculture plants. They even have coffee trees! Their varieties are amazing.

One of the things I like about their website is how easy they make it for you to see what’s already sold out – which, as I write this, is a lot! I find their prices are unusually high, but considering what they carry, and their efforts in genetics and agroforestry, I can see the prices are warranted for what you’re getting! They also have things like grafting workshops, seminars and consultations available. They do have a section for products for the US, but it seems to be down at the time I am writing this. They also have a YouTube channel. The last video was posted 8 years ago, but the videos that are there are very topical and useful.

Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery. When I started looking for food trees that would grow in our climate, this is the first place I found, and it’s still the one that inspires me! I really look forward to when we are ready to order from here!

This is another Quebec based company, and their specialty is fruit trees that can grow in our climate, but they also include a wonderful range of nut trees. They have quite a selection of trees hardy even to zone 2! They also carry plums, cherries, berry bushes, and more. Along with food trees, they also carry forest trees to reestablish and rehabilitate different regions. Their package deals include various collections at bulk prices, including a nut orchard, which I am pining for!

Harmonic Herbs. Unfortunately, this company will not be able to supply seeds for 2021, due to a combination of weather related crop failures, deer damage and the whole Covid thing. Hopefully, they will be up and running soon. This company is in Barrhead, Alberta, and provides vegetable, flower, grain, herb and other seeds. They don’t have a large selection, compared to other sites out there, but they do have things I haven’t seen anywhere else.

2022 update: sadly, another poor seed harvest has meant this company is retiring from their current format. They are changing focus, though, so keep checking on them.

Heritage Harvest Seed. This company is based out of Fisher Branch, Manitoba and… oh, my goodness… what an amazing resource! I’ll just cut and paste this blurb from the website.

All of our heirloom seed varieties are natural, untreated, non hybrid, open pollinated, non GMO seeds. We have over 800 varieties of rare and endangered heirloom vegetable, flower, herb and ancient grain seeds. Heritage Harvest Seed is a Canadian seed company with the largest selection of heirloom seeds in Canada.

I have spent waaayyyy too much time on this website, which was recommended in one of the cold climate gardening groups I’m on, and I’ve still only looked at their vegetables! They include all sorts of interesting information about the items, including historical background and even personal experiences with them, that I absolutely love. I’ve lost count of the number of items I’ve looked at and, after reading the info, wanted to order them just to be able to save seeds and help preserve the species!

Unfortunately, like so many other seed sources, they are overwhelmed with orders right now. Many items are sold out, and they’ve had to limit orders. I am really excited about ordering from here in the future!

2022 update: I was able to order seeds from Heritage Harvest for this year’s garden, and while it’s too early to say much about the resulting crops themselves, I can say that they have an excellent response time and great customer service. They have also revamped and updated their website, and it looks great!

Incredible Seeds. This Nova Scotia based company is run by an off-grid family. A small company with a remarkable selection of vegetable, herb, flower, fruit and tree seeds. Yes, tree seeds, not saplings. Which means they are much more affordable, but will take longer to reach food production stage. Nova Scotia has a warmer climate zone than ours, but they even have items that are hardy to zone 1! All their plants are heirloom and open pollinated, and they encourage seed saving.

Lindenberg Seeds. This site is a bit different, in that you have to look at their catalog as a pdf (or you can request a print catalogue). It’s 104 pages, so there is lots to look at! You can also print off their order form and fax it in, mail it to their Brandon, Manitoba address, or place an order by email. They’ve got vegetables, flowers, ferns, roots, bulbs, tubers, and more. Their selection is massive! They also carry growing mixes and pellets, plant pots and heat mats, fertilizers, row covers, and other useful things. I do wish they had a website you could view items on and order from, but I’m just spoiled that way. πŸ˜€

McKenzie Seeds. This is a company that’s been around since 1896, and in Canada, you can find their seeds all over. Like Lindenberg Seeds, they are also based in Brandon, Manitoba, and their selections of vegetable, herb and flower seeds, bulbs, crowns and tubers are massive.

Ontario Seed Company. This company is based in Kitchener, Ontario, and bills itself as the largest wholly Canadian owned and operated company. They started in Waterloo, Ontario, in the late 1800’s, and still have a presence there! They carry vegetables, herbs, flowers, lawn seed, ground covers, legume and forage crops, trees and ornamental grasses, as well as garden accessories and supplies.

Prairie Hardy Nursery. “An Artisan Nursery of Edible and Unique Trees on the Canadian Prairie. Cold hardy grown trees suited for cold climate growing.” Prairie Hardy Nursery is based on a third generation family farm north of Edmonton, Alberta, in operation since 1942. Their selections include apple, plum, pear, nut and apricot trees, as well as grape vines. Alas, for 2021, they seem to be almost completely sold out!

Stokes Seeds. This is a company that is in both Canada (Thorold, Ontario), and the US (Buffalo, NY). They also have a research farm in St. Catharines, Ontario. They supply a wide selection of vegetables, flowers, herbs and accessories. The accessories include everything from seed starting mixes and supplies, to decorations. They also have collections available, including herbal teas, sunflowers, stir fry, butterfly gardens, and more.

Saskatoon Farm. No, this is not a farm near Saskatoon, Saskatewan, but a farm that grows Saskatoons! They are a family farm in Alberta (their website gives directions from either Calgary or Okotoks) that includes a restaurant, bakery, outdoor Christmas Market, market garden, u-pick, gift shop, etc., and hosts events like weddings, private parties, cooking classes and other events. At least they did, until Covid happened. Some things are still open to the public, though closed for the season, and they do still have a catalogue, though only the 2020 one is on the website at the time I write this.

Silver Creek Nursery. This nursery is in Wellesly, Ontario, and ships bare root fruit trees. Their categories include apple trees, including a separate cider apple tree category, pear, quince, peach, plum, cherry, and apricot trees. They also have berries and vines (haskap, blackberries, grapes, kiwi, etc), nut trees, native and nitrogen fixing plants, and orchard supplies. They also have a lot of information on the site for each product (the most I’ve seen anywhere), a section on how to grow fruit trees, and they offer courses, including how to choose the right fruit trees.

T&T Seeds. I have to say, I was pretty excited to find this website. I remember spending many hours flipping through their catalogue as a child! I don’t know why we were on their mailing list, since my mother refused to spend money on seeds, but I sure was glad to get it!

T&T Seeds is a Winnipeg, Manitoba based company, where they also have a retail store. They have been around since 1946, and continue to be a family business. They claim to have the most extensive refrigeration facilities in Canada, to store dormant plants. On their website, you can shop by category: vegetable, flower, perennials, bulbs, sets & potatoes, fruit plants, shrubs and trees, garden accessories, home accessories, pest control, fertilizers and health products. You can also shop by catalog pages. Some of the more unusual items they carry (at least for Canadian suppliers) are things like lingonberry, jostaberry, figs, hops, wisteria, and sand cherry.

New: Tree Time. This nursery specializes in windbreak and shelterbelt trees, with a focus on a large selection of trees, shrubs and berries with a high survival rate and affordability. This is the place to buy in bulk! For 2022, we placed our first major tree order from here, which will be shipped when ready to be planted in our zone. They came highly recommended by people on several different cold climate gardening groups I’m on.

Veseys. Of course, I have to include Veseys! This is where I’ve ordered most of our items for this year’s garden, and the only place I ordered from, last year. Veseys is based in York, Prince Edward Island, where they have a garden shop and trial gardens. Their website has both Canadian and US versions. Their categories include vegetables, flowers and bulbs, herbs, fruits and berries, tools and accessories, plus a Gardening 101 section. They used to have a fundraising program, but that is currently on hold due to Covid. I can say from personal experience that they have excellent quality products, and their customer service is also excellent. I have been very happy with my orders from them.

West Coast Seeds. This is a Vancouver, British Columbia based, 4th generation family owned company. Vancouver is temperate rainforest. I don’t expect to find a lot here that will grow in our zone! However, it is another one that was recommended on one of the cold climate growing groups I’m on. Their seed categories include vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit, cover crops, microgreens, “lawn solutions”, ornamental grass seeds and plant stock, as well as garden supplies.

W. H. Perron. This company was founded in Quebec, in 1928, and “is the most important horticultural company in North America…” Their categories include garden accessories, annuals and indoor plants, herbs, fruits, sprouts and micro greens, vegetables, potatoes and bulbs, native seeds, perennials and biennials, organic or untreated and heirloom seeds. They also have sections for collections (patio collection, basil collection, cut flower mixes, easy pick green patio collection, etc.), urban gardeners and novelties, as well as top sellers. I admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time on this website, as I find it quite hard on the eyes. :-/

Whiffletree Farm & Nursery. This is a company based in Elora, Ontario and, compared to some of the others on this list, is just a baby company, having started in 2012. It is owned and operated by a family “of the Horse and Buggy Mennonite sect”. As such, they may take a bit longer to respond to calls, while using third party services for electronic communications.

On the website, you can scroll through an electronic version of their catalog, without having to download it separately. While in the catalog, you can click on individual item code lines to add them to your cart, though a lot of what I looked at had mouse-over notes saying they are not available this season. Among the unexpected items in the catalogue are things like persimmons, medlars, varieties of haskaps I’ve never seen before, and others plants I’ve never heard of before, like Schisandra Vine, and goumi. They also have items such as bee kits (for mason and leafcutter bees – bees included!), organic fertilizers and sprays, tools, orchard supplies and tree protectors. The catalogue also has a lot of very useful information included near the end. I do hope they are able to restock as the seasons allow, because there are some really awesome and unusual items here!

Update: Wiffletree has redone their website, and they did a fantastic job of it!

Wildrose Heritage Seed Company. This is another company recommended in one of the cold climate growing groups I’m on. They are based in Lethbridge, Alberta, family owned, and they grow, harvest, clean and package everything on site. Packaging is one of the more unique things about them: they use waterproof Mylar bags that are resealable and reusable, to encourage people to save seeds and still have all the packaging information. They offer bulbs (garlic and onions), vegetable, herb and flower (dwarf and giant sunflowers) seeds. At the time of this writing, they are shipping only within Canada.

William Dam Seeds. Another family run business, based in Dundas, Ontario, starting in 1959. They have a retail outlet, currently closed due to Covid restrictions. They offer a large variety of seeds for vegetables, herbs, flowers and green crops (including the largest selection of cover crops and nitrogen fixers I’ve seen, yet!), plus tools and supplies.

Younder Hill Farm. This company is based on a homestead in Nova Scotia, family run and commercially growing seed since 2009. They have farm stays and apprenticeships available. They offer vegetables, grains, culinary and medicinal herbs, flowers, live plants, willow whips, and even “basic apocalypse prep garden packs” in starter and deluxe! Both are out of stock, at the time I’m writing this, and from what I’m reading in the list of what’s included, I can see why. They are really well thought out collections.

Zappa Seeds. This company has store locations in North York, Brampton and Waterloo Ontario. You can even apply to become an affiliate or Zappa retailer. They offer a decent variety of vegetable seeds, as well as herbs and fruit (watermelon and tomatoes), but their most interesting offerings are their packs and collections. These include a beginners vegetable garden, a garden staples back, an East Asian international blend, easy seeds for kids, garden staples, and more. I think these packs and collections are a great idea, particularly for beginning gardeners. With so many varieties available, it can get pretty overwhelming to try and figure out which ones to try!

New: Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes. This Alberta company specializes in all things potatoes! It’s January, 2022 as I write this update, and I just finished ordering three varieties. The website provides all sorts of information, from maturity rates to storage capabilities to best cooking methods! I wish I’d found this company earlier, because they even have a list of what potatoes are good for grow towers – something that would have been handy when we tried to grow in bags!

There you have it! A selection of Canadian companies that supply seeds and trees suitable for colder climate and short season growing. I hope these are useful for anyone looking to grow their own food, even if you’re not in a cold climate zone! πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

6 thoughts on “Cold climate seed sources (updated)

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