I love getting seed catalogs in the mail. The flowers are so big and bright, and the veggies are worthy of blue ribbons. Everything looks absolutely perfect. Just order these seeds and you too can have results like this!
Except, we live in Colorado. There’s a very good reason most seed companies are situated in places like South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Oregon, where the soil is fertile and the climate is conducive to growing most crops. With our erratic weather, often we don’t have time to ripen those luscious tomatoes. Long-season flowers freeze before they bloom. Isn’t there a seed company for us?
Yes, there is. Appropriately named High Altitude Gardens specializes in short season, cold-hardy varieties that thrive at higher elevations. If you live in the mountains, this is the seed catalog for you!
High Altitude Gardens is a subsidiary of Seeds Trust, which was started 25 years ago with the goal of preserving genetic diversity in our garden crops. Most of their seeds are open pollinated so you can save your seeds from year to year. In fact, they encourage this practice—rather unusual for a company that sells seeds! Over half their stock has been grown organically, and they’re constantly searching for organic sources for the rest of their seeds.
To quote from their website,
By finding and growing varieties from around the world, we act as a resource for thousands of gardeners looking for diversity and reliability. Our varieties of vegetables and wildflowers have proven vigorous, early-maturing, tolerant of a harsh climate, and also exceptionally tasty in fruit and beautiful in bloom.
I originally stumbled across High Altitude Gardens because I was searching for a native wildflower and grass mix for our field. I placed an order and was delighted with the results. In the process, I discovered their vegetable offerings. I was impressed at all the varieties that were appropriate for my growing conditions.
Not only that, but they sell strains specifically selected for short seasons and cool summers. For example, you can buy Blue Hubbard squash from a number of catalogs, but their seeds came from a gardener who had been saving seeds from the plants that matured first. You can help in this process by saving the seeds from your own earliest squash and sending them back to Seeds Trust.
After years in Idaho, the company relocated (in 2005) to Cornville, Arizona (just south of Sedona). They now have an additional line of seeds appropriate for that warmer climate.
Seeds Trust doesn’t just collect and sell seeds. They also educate. Their website includes a section under the heading “Know Thy Seeds” that I found very informative. There are also directions on saving seeds, seed exchanges, and a link to The International Seed Saving Institute (ISSI).
The ISSI is a non-profit NGO that extends the work of Seeds Trust worldwide. They have over a dozen projects in such diverse places as Haiti, Congo, Honduras, and Kyrgyzstan.
Most of us aren’t thinking about saving the world when we place our seed orders. Perhaps we choose to buy organic or open pollinated seeds, but mainly we’re looking for vegetables and flowers that will perform well for us, at a price we can afford. Buying from one of Seeds Trust’s catalogs will not only meet our needs, we’ll be participating in the preservation of agricultural biodiversity—and helping people in some of the hungriest parts of the world have plenty of good food to eat. How can you beat that?