If we avid gardeners were to be brutally honest with ourselves, we would all probably have to admit that we spend way too much money on seeds. There are always new and exciting varieties to try, and we want to have some extra seeds on hand just in case, and sometimes we get carried away and plant too much of something, etc., etc.
We must allow ourselves some slack to experiment and make mistakes because that’s how we learn. But we should also seek to be good stewards of both our seeds and our gardening budgets!
Here are some ways to cut down on the seed costs:
- Save your own seeds. Homegrown seeds, almost free of cost. How much better does it get than that? Let your lettuce bolt and some of your pea pods dry up. Rescue the seeds from your melons and pumpkins. Let the seeds dry naturally in a cool, airy place, and store in bags or envelopes. This will not work as well with some hybrid varieties. In some cases you will also have to take steps to keep the cucumbers from pollinating the melons or Queen Anne’s lace from contaminating the carrots. But if you have a favorite variety, by all means, save those seeds!
- Waste not, want not. If the seeds are fresh and the soil is moist, you really don’t need to plant three or four seeds in every hole. One or two will be quite sufficient. Yes, small seeds are harder to handle, but with a little care it can be done. And of course we should all try to avoid things like dropping seeds, carrying them around on windy days, and especially picking up seed packets by the bottoms when the tops are open.
- Know why before you buy. Don’t just buy the “Certified Organic” packet unless you have a reason to. For example, if you plan to sell certified organic produce, you will need to buy certified organic seeds. On the other hand, if good farm-fresh produce is all you want, you will probably be just as happy with uncertified heirloom seeds.
- Check the store. Sometimes you can get what you want from the grocery, dollar, feed, or home improvement store much cheaper than you can from a seed catalog (especially toward the end of gardening season). True, the store may not have all the varieties you want. If you specialize in rare vegetables, you’ll be better off buying straight from a seed company. Standard varieties, however, are generally offered for very good prices at many stores. But be forewarned—this is a general principle, not an absolute rule! Always check the price of each individual packet, or you could be in for a surprise!
- Store seeds carefully. Now that the growing season is finished, it’s a good time to make sure your seeds are safely stored for the winter. Are they in a cool, dry, dark place? Heat and moisture will damage your seeds. You may even want to consider keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer.
Fortunately, saving money on seeds is not that difficult. Just a little time and care will go a long way in reducing waste and making wise purchases.
Our own guide to growing vegetables includes step-by-step information on saving seeds.