I often feature a post about now on the new vegetable seed catalogs finding their way into my mailbox, but this year I’ve been thinking about how much I actually use those printed seed catalogs compared to the websites that just about every seed company maintains these days.
You could easily make an argument that seed catalogs are obsolete and unnecessary in this age of computers, the Internet, and with all the attention focused on going green and saving resources!
Taking Care of Business without Printing Seed Catalogs
One of my favorite heirloom seed sources; the Sustainable Seed Company has taken the unique position of not offering a printed catalog at all. In the interest of conservation and preserving resources they carry out their seed business via the Internet.
I have mixed feelings on the matter, I believe it’s important to do all that we can to conserve resources, but I’m not totally opposed to printed seed catalogs. So far this winter I have received many catalogs from a variety of seed companies and nurseries.
Can a Seed Catalog ever be Considered Junk Mail to a Gardener?
Everyone from Burpee, Seeds of Change, Jung, Miller, Baker Creek, RH Shumway, Territorial, Johnny’s, Fedco, Southern Exposure, Nourse, Pinetree, Nichols, Seed Savers, Comstock, Cooks Garden, Terroir, John Scheepers, Maine Potato, the Maine Potato Lady, Select Seeds, and more have sent a catalog in my direction.
A few of these seed catalogs came from companies that I haven’t ordered anything from for years, and in some cases from companies that I can’t ever recall placing an order with. Some seed companies automatically drop customers from their mailing list if there are no recent orders, but that doesn’t seem to be a universal policy.
Other companies that I have ordered from do not necessarily follow up with a catalog mailing the next season. At the extreme end, are a few garden supply companies that seem to go wild and mail out catalogs just about every month in spite of maintaining an email contact list and a product website for their customers.
Printed Seed Catalogs that I would Definitely Miss
There are a few seed catalogs like the ones from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Fedco that I would really miss, but in the majority of cases I rely on the company’s web sites to select and order seeds and don’t need or request a catalog.
Sure, I could do without even my favorite seed catalogs but Fedco and Baker Creek in particular contain huge seed inventories and are used as references that I can refer back to from time to time throughout the year.
I also have some old seed catalogs that I hold onto for sentimental reasons; like the black and white Seeds Blum catalog that I’ve kept tucked away for years. It was one of the first seed catalogs I discovered that was devoted to heirloom varieties and it is more like art work with all the line drawings and hand written notations. Seeds Blum is no longer around but their catalog still holds good memories!
Setting New Standards for Distributing Seed Catalogs
Seed companies use their catalogs as sales aids, promotional material, and friendly reminders to their customers, but maybe it’s time to create some sort of “Do Not Mail” list for gardeners who don’t need a printed catalog and prefer to shop via the web. Regulars could simply be notified by email when the online listings have been updated to reflect the new season’s offerings.
How about an opt-out web page that will quickly remove customers from the mailing list but keep them in the loop when it comes to email notifications, updates, and special offers? Postcards could be used to reach out to new customers, invite them to visit a website or order a catalog if preferred, and save paper, postage, and resources all at the same time.
Maybe a good policy would be to send printed seed catalogs only to customers that request them each year, and to discontinue mailing catalogs that are unsolicited or when a customer stops doing business with a company.
How Much do You Use Seed Catalogs that Arrive in the Mail?
I like and enjoy seed catalogs as much as any other gardener but I also realize that there are some that I really don’t get much use out of. Guess I’ll just contact the ones that I don’t really use and ask to be removed, but it sure would be easier to process that request through their websites.
Do you still use seed catalogs, or do you rely more upon websites to browse and place your seed orders? Would you miss the printed seed catalogs if they stopped showing up? Have you received unsolicited seed catalogs or catalogs from companies that you don’t regularly do business with? Please share your own comments, ideas, or suggestions related to the pros and cons of printing and mailing seed catalogs.
Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts: