Heaven Comes in a Seed Packet

Monday, February 4, 2013

Seed Haul: Lockhart Seeds
Now that is a beautiful sight indeed isn't it? That little bundle of seed picture to your right comes from the "Best Little Seed House in California!" I am, of course, referring to Lockhart Seeds, located in the most romantic city in the world: Stockton, CA. Trust me on this: "Date Day" at Lockhart Seeds with the wife that is Venus is an event for the ages.

Sadly, we haven't had a chance to visit much. And the fine folks at Lockhart Seeds don't make it easy on us weekend warrior type garden punks (sorry, Katie). They're not open on weekends. They're closed on most major holidays as well, as we would rather unfortunately discover during a President's Day holiday two years ago. The doors were locked as tight as a drum.

The Most Romantic Spot in Stockton
If you happen to work full-time like the both of us -- there are only two options. One, duck out early at work. Two, take a vacation day. We opted for Choice #2. We figured that we could follow up a 49ers blowout victory in the Super Bowl with a celebratory trip to Lockhart Seeds the every next day!

Yeah, uh, unfortunately the 49ers didn't cooperate. But that's a story for another day. There's always next year.

As I've mentioned before in a previous post about Lockhart Seeds, this place hasn't changed much since the day it opened. This is as old as a storefront as you're going to find still standing anywhere in the San Joaquin Valley. It's a throwback to the day when major department stores were still located in old downtown buildings. Shopping malls? Never heard of em'!

Still in the same spot! Check!
From the heavy wood door that requires some effort to push open to wood floors that creak, you get the impression that generations of small farmers and gardeners have walked these aisles before you. And you just might be right. It's been quite some time since tomato seeds were sold in containers resembling V-8 juice cans. But you'll find them stashed in a corner here and there with gardening implements that are nearly as ancient. I've come to discover that Lockhart Seeds is half store and half museum.

If you're a nutcase gardener like me and the wife? You could spend hours in this place and never get tired. Store employees might get tired of you as you walk up each aisle again and again and again, but the Lockhart Seeds experience is one to be savored. This is truly one of Stockton's tiny treasures. Most seed stores in California up and vanished eons ago. But Lockhart Seeds not only survived the onslaught of the big box retailers, they've thrived in a niche market catering to nutcase gardeners and small farmers.

Lockhart Seed Bank
In a frantic pursuit for peppers? Fishing for some fennel? Hunting for Honey Dew melon? You get the idea. You're going to find it against this wall or in that row. A world of discovery awaits. Don't for a moment think, "you can't grow that here." Because, if they sell it at Lockhart Seeds? You can "grow that here."

Lockhart Seeds is also one of the few places that didn't rush headlong into the heirloom vegetable craze that's sweeping the country. It got its start with heirloom tomatoes, but has now branched out into heirloom melons, heirloom asparagus, heirloom radishes and, yes, even heirloom peach trees (See: Hale Peach). What Lockhart Seeds does offer is even more valuable: tried and true varieties that produce and produce well in our hot summer climates.

Franchi Sementi Spinacio (Spinach)
You'll also run into seed providers not often found anywhere in California, such as Franchi Sementi (Sementi is the Italian word for seeds). I've heard of this seed company, but never saw any of their offerings until I walked into the front door of Lockhart Seeds. Franchi is a rather big name in the seed business. Seems they've been around for a spell. How long you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked!

From the website: "In 1783 (the year the American Revolution ended) Giovanni Franchi started selling seeds around the market squares of Parma from his horse-drawn cart. The company is still in the same family 229 years later, with Giampiero Franchi at the helm and modern facilities in Bergamo, near Milan."

One of each please!
Remember! You asked!

Lockhart Seeds also offers another advantage not found in your local big box stores. Sometimes? It's more economical to "buy in bulk." Costco shoppers will understand this. Why purchase a small packet of cilantro seeds for $2.69 when a quarter-pound of the good stuff can be had for just thirty cents more?

It's safe to say that Venus and I departed Lockhart Seeds with enough vegetable seed to plant our spring and summer garden, plus the entire neighborhood's spring and summer gardens. Does 15 packets of green onion seed sound like a little too much?

Come to Papa...
Bill Bird loves his green onions more than anything else (other than a fat, vine-ripened tomato of course). So, to Bill Bird? 15 packets of green onion seed sounds just about right...

Lockhart Seeds is located on 3 North Wilson Way in Stockton. We always make sure to call ahead at (209) 446-4401 to make sure they're open. The company started building a website years ago, but never finished and I sometimes wonder if they ever will.


Dree said...

Watch that cilantro. You let it go to coriander and it will come up all over your yard forever. At least, that's my experience!

Bill Bird said...

Yeah, I'm finding out the same is true with California poppies and a few other items. Once the seed spreads, it's hard to stop. That's where Roundup comes in, though I hate to spray roundup on poppy plants.

Darryl Musick said...

I want to go to Lockhart Seeds. Next trip up to Amador and I'm saving a weekday to run down the hill to see them.

Greg Damitz said...

Talk about spreading.... I think borage is merely a small purple sunflower.

Bill Bird said...

Oh man, tell me about it Greg. Venus made the mistake of putting that in one of the raised beds two or three years ago and spread right out of the bed and into the bark (where nothing is supposed to grow). The only plus is that bees LOVE Borage. It's fat with pollen it is.

Bill Bird said...

Another item? Dill weed! Grow that once and you'll grow it forever! Even in places where you really don't want it!