Seed catalogues may at first glance look like a regular catalogue of items to purchase. But most good seed catalogues are much more than that.

There are five features you should look for when deciding what seed catalogue to get, either free or paid.

I’m basing this article on the seed guide/catalogue put out by a local western Canada supplier of seeds, West Coast Seeds (WCS), but most other popular seed companies also provide catalogues with most of these features as well.

Please note that this post is not sponsored by West Coast Seeds.

Seed variety information

Seed catalogues feature a wealth of information of course on their namesake: seeds.

Seed companies want to give you as much information as you need to make educated decisions about what seed varieties to buy and grow.

After all they want you to be a satisfied customer! It’s easy to buy the wrong varieties that either won’t grow well in your area or are not your particular taste. But if you read carefully each seed variety’s information there is more chance you won’t make that mistake.

I’ll give an example of one entry and go through all the info contained in it:

From West Coast Seeds Gardening Guide 2021

Growing information

Most seed catalogues will have their seed varieties categorized under the veggie, fruit, herb or flower. That gives the seed company a chance to provide growing information for that particular crop.

Following the growing information is key to have the best success and greater harvests.

Again I’ll provide an example of one entry so you can see the wealth of info contained within:

From West Coast Seeds Gardening Guide 2021

Planting charts

Good seed catalogues will also have a planting chart. In the past West Coast Seeds has only included planting charts for the west coast of Canada, specifically the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island here in the western-most province, British Columbia (BC).

But they’ve now realized that they have customers all across Canada, especially since they’ve recently opened a warehouse in Ontario. So they are now publishing some planting charts that cover Southern Ontario as well.

And on their website they have planting charts for many US states.

So why are planting charts so important? They take the guesswork out of knowing when to start seeds, transplant and direct-seed types of annual veggies, flowers and herbs.

But they also provide a guide for what seeds should be started indoors and which ones can be started outdoors, but under row cover or other protection.

So let’s look at the veggie planting chart for my area and the info contained in it.

From West Coast Seeds Gardening Guide 2021

Growing tips and tricks

Most seed companies are run by staff who are passionate about growing food and other plants, but also have many years of experience. 

So if space permits, the seed catalogues will contain sidebars with tips and tricks on growing. WCS for instance has tips on how to deal with pests, crop rotation, companion planting, seed saving, etc. 

It is worthwhile to read through the whole catalogue/guide as you’ll likely pick up some information you didn’t know or at least it will be a refresher.

Just as an example, here is one particular tip that is useful to know when deciding what cucumbers to grow:

Gardening tools and supplies

In addition to seeds, seed companies try to be a one-stop shop for other garden supplies and tools. WCS is no exception. 

They have several pages at the back of the guide that lists common tools and supplies, especially related to seed starting such as grow lights, seed trays, seed-starting soil and warming mats. 

But they also address what growers need once they transplant their seedlings into the garden. So they also sell row covers, stakes and ties, pest deterrents, hand tools and fertilizers. 

And they’ve also added mason bee, honey bee and birding supplies, seeing as those are important to support food growing organically.

As some supplies are heavy, you might prefer to go to your local nursery or garden centre to pick up these supplies if available. However looking through the supplies and tools section in the catalogue may give you some ideas of what to buy.

You can also check out the companion video on my YouTube channel:


Seed catalogues or guides are a great way to learn more about the wide variety of food plants you can grow at home! 

If you haven’t picked up a copy or two yet, be sure to do so and spend a quiet hour or two with the seed catalogue, dreaming of all you could grow this year!

For other popular seed catalogues, here is a list of websites where you can either download a digital copy or request a mailed copy of the physical catalogue:

How many catalogues do you usually get? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s see who has the most!

If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Wishing you all the best!

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Marc Thoma

Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC

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