By Kathryn Pankowski

Being an incurable optimist, like most who garden, I am thoroughly convinced that by the time you read this, it will be spring and we will all be thinking about planting seeds. (Despite the fact that I am writing this while huddled under a wool blanket, shivering at both the temperature and the thought of the heating bill.)

And that raises the question: where to buy seeds? Especially ones that are locally-raised (so they have been selected from plants proven to flourish in our cool and breezy coastal summers) and that haven’t been treated with fungicides or grown on plants filled with systemic pesticides.

So here is a handy guide for James Bay residents seeking local, organic seed:

Seedy Saturdays

If you want to have the maximum choice in one place, go to a Seedy Saturday. The closest and one of the biggest is Victoria Seedy Saturday on February 18, 10-4, at the Victoria Conference Centre (more details below.) If you can’t make it, there’s a smaller one in Sooke on Feb 25. Go with a list and you can probably have most of your spring seed shopping done in an hour, as well as getting lots of good advice from the very knowledgeable growers.

Nearby markets

For the last few years, Saanich Organics has been selling their “Seeds of the Revolution”, grown on local certified-organic farms, at the James Bay Market.

Moss Street Market, which is open all year, has several seed sellers on its vendor list, including Full Circle Seeds from Sooke and Rebecca’s Garden from Victoria.

Mail order

If you love internet shopping, have a browse around these sites (This is just a sample. There are more small local seed companies on line, and more seem to get into e-commerce each year):

Seed, glorious seeds. Where can you find organic and/or locally grown ones?

Salt Spring Seeds - a large selection of edibles, including grains and a wide selection of pulses and legumes

Brother Nature Organic Seeds - edibles and flowers

Eagleridge Seeds - edibles and flowers with an interest in heirloom, endangered, and perennial veg

Ravensong Seeds - herbs and medicinal plants

And for traditionalists, who like to fondle a paper catalogue?

Salt Spring Seeds will send you a print catalogue for $2.

The granddaddy - and fattest - of all coastal BC seed catalogues comes from West Coast Seeds on the lower mainland. You can order a copy or sometimes pick one up at a garden centre. They sell a wide range of seeds for food growers; not all are organic, but the catalogue is clear about what’s what.

Local stores

As far as I know, Niagara Grocery is the only place in James Bay that regularly stocks local, organic seeds. Being a small store, they usually carry only one line – Metchosin Farms for the last few years.

Outside of James Bay, the garden shop at Capital Iron is, I believe, the closest store that carries organic seeds, though few of them are island-grown. On Oak Bay Avenue, both GardenWorks and Dig This carry a good selection of seed, including some local organic lines.

Can you add to the list?

Then send me an email at the address below.

Neighbourhood Gardening News

Even if you’re not in the market for seeds, don’t miss Victoria Seedy Saturday, Feb 18, 10-4, conveniently located at the Victoria Conference Centre behind the Empress. This year’s schedule of talks includes lots of particular interest to balcony and small-space urban gardeners. (That would be us in James Bay.) Here’s a taste of what’s on offer:

At 10:30 the folks from Hatchet & Seed talk about edible landscaping for small urban gardens.

At noon you can hear Christina Nikolic on choosing the right growing medium for containers – or mixing your own – very useful for anyone trying to grow food in pots.

At 1:30, Donna Balzer speaks on ways to pack more plants into a small space by ‘growing up’. 

And at 2:45, James Bay’s own Chris Adams will be presenting an A to Z of urban livestock. (I’m wondering what the ‘Z’ will be.)

You can find the full schedule of speakers at . Admission for the day is $7 and the event supports the James Bay Market Society.

Kathryn Pankowski is the James Bay Neighbourhood Association Gardening Advocate: she can be reached at The JBNA would like to acknowledge the financial support of the City of Victoria for this initiative.