Buying Seeds

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There are so many sources of seeds that it is often difficult to determine where you should actually buy them.

We see seeds at Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes and at our local growers. We even see them splattered all over the pages of Amazon and EBAY. There are also many other online sources including Ed Humes and Park Seeds. And we have even found one organization that will send you seeds for free!!

Our experience demonstrates that your primary concern above cost should be quality. Seeds in general, from nearly any source, are extremely cheap relative to cost of seedlings or the cost of the resulting crop. If you bought a packet of 60 seeds for $6.00, a ludicrous price for sure, that would still only be 10c per seed. If you have a high success rate with those seeds, it would be worth it to continue to use them. It would still be vastly cheaper than buying any seedlings from any store or local grower.

Quality seeds can be had commercially for as low as 20c a packet up to about $3.00 a packet. If you are paying more than $3.00 a packet, and they aren’t something very rare or hard to find, you are paying too much. Each packet usually has all the seeds a family of six would need for a year.   If you are frugal you can find some seed packets will literally cost pennies.

THRIFT STORES

Seeds can also be found in deep discount and thrift stores.  By the end of June, they want to get rid of their stock.  We recently went on a seed shopping excursion to Christmas Tree Shops.   We bought hundreds of packets of everything from radishes to squash to tomatoes,  and not one packet cost more than 30 cents.  Many were 12 cents.  We did get some super large packets as well and admittedly they were about 75 cents, but they contain as much as ten times that of regular packets.  These were brand name seeds!! “Lake Valley Seed” and “Pagano”.  The latter are imported, but distributed by Lake Valley Seed.  We have bought these seeds from Christmas Tree Shops before and have had very good luck with them.

SEEDS ARE SMART

For those that have financial issues, this is a great place to spend their hard earned money. One packet of quality seeds in some instances can generate more fresh produce than the purchase of fifty to one hundred pounds of quality produce at the supermarket at thousands of times the price.

Our advice has to logically be, DO NOT SKIMP ON THE SEEDS. Buy quality, but don’t be fooled into buying nonsense.  And you can get bargains at the right time of year.  Seeds are viable for years, and while you may lose a bit in terms of germination rate, it won’t be much for up to five  years if you store them in a dark place.

FREE SEEDS!!!

While we have found an interesting source for free seeds, we are not so sure yet that it is worth dealing with them other than for experimentation purposes. Wintersown.org sends you free seeds for the cost of the stamps. Most are heirlooms, but some are hybrids and FREE IS GOOD RIGHT?

However, when you get Wintersown seeds, you realize you have not received anywhere near what you would have if you just spent the cost of the the postage on a packet or two of good seeds. They provide you between five and ten seeds per type, and in our experiments using these seeds, we got few to germinate or deliver quality plants..

We believe this is because Wintersown accepts seed donations and distributes whatever they get without determining the quality of the source. We planted 12 seeds from Wintersown of various varieties and the result was sporadic at best. One group of seeds didn’t deliver a single sprout. This is extremely rare in our experience, but we will try again because the site does provide a source of wonderful information for gardeners.

In comparison, the use of Burpee seeds we purchased for $1.00 at Walmart had a nearly 100% germination rate and provided approximately 40 seeds in the packet. One packet of seeds we purchased delivered, literally 40 healthy seedlings. If we had planted them all, that would result in at least 1000 tomatoes if the plants remain healthy through the season!!! That’s a lot of sauce!!

American Seed

This past year we found some other seeds that were quite cheap. 20c a packet at Walmart from a company called American Seed. Unfortunately, we had inconsistent results, but we have to admit the company did offer a number of interesting varieties.

The lettuce seeds produced wonderfully. Carrot seeds were quite good as well. Brussels Sprouts and Cabbages were excellent. However, eggplant and pepper seeds we purchased from this company had poor results. Few germinated, and the results were obviously poor in comparison to our more favorite and well known brands. And we couldn’t even find an American Seed tomato variety at all. We also found that there were typically fewer seeds in American Seed packets, so it may not be the bargain it appears to be until you consider that you can buy 10 packets for the price of 1 in some instances.

But these seeds were not as good or in as large a quantity as what we were able to get at the thrift stores.

THINK WEIGHT, NOT PACKETS!

One thing that may not be obvious is that while two seed packets may appear to be the same exact size, they can contain a vastly different  number of seeds.  Seeds are small, and consequently, a packet can hold from one to thousands (in some cases) and still look the same or similar in the retailer’s display.

Do not compare weights of different seeds, they vary widely in size.  A corn or pea is vastly larger than a tomato seed, so comparing them based on weight would be foolish.  But within species, it does make sense.  What you will most often see is a statement of the weight of the seeds in milligrams or grams.  One packet of Spinach seeds we recently bought contained 15 grams of  spinach seed.  The other packets on the shelf contained only a scant 3 grams.  And yet the dimensions of the packets are quite similar.

When buying mail order, when you cannot see and hold the packets, this is vastly more important, because once you have them in your hands, it is rather difficult to return them.

Mail Order

Mail order was another great place to find seeds and we also found the variety of seeds to be staggering. Ed Hume is excellent in this regard. Ferry Morse seeds are also readily available. Park seed offers a wonderful variety of products. Burpee as well.

Our advice when purchasing online seeds is to purchase established brand names, at least initially. If you wish to experiment with other providers, that is fine, but don’t depend on them for the key portion of your crop.

And definitely DO NOT PURCHASE SEEDS ON EBAY!! It is tempting to purchase some of the products on EBAY, but what you are likely getting are seeds that the seller fermented. Fermenting is something you can do yourself with ease and costs essentially nothing. In other cases, you will likely not be getting what you think.

We have had horrible results with seeds purchased on EBAY. You just do not know what you will get. We purchased Habanero’s and ended up with tomatoes (seed substitution is common because some seeds are much cheaper than others).

You may think that because a seller has positive feedbacks, it is safe to purchase their seeds, but positive seller feedbacks mean nothing. You honestly don’t know how good the seeds are for months or even a year, so if someone says they were satisfied within a week, all it means is they received the seeds, not that the seeds were of acceptable quality. You may also find when purchasing seeds on EBAY that you are purchasing fraudulent seeds.
online seed stores

Our best experience is with these brand names:

  • Burpee
  • Ferry Morse
  • Botanical Interests (Available in Many Local Grower and Fertilizer shops).
  • Lake Valley Seed

We may add to this list as time progresses, but they are the seeds with which we have consistently had the best luck.

If you go the Mail Order route, our best experiences are with the following seed brands:

  • Ferry Morse
  • Ed Hume
  • Burpee (to get more variety than you can in the store)
  • Hirts (Often available on Amazon, but watch those shipping charges)

If you have other brands you have had good luck with and wish to share, we would love to hear from you.

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1 Comment

  • Hi YTgardner,
    Thanks so much. I enjoy your info, have you in my faves, garden file and subscribed to your cannel.

    I have been spending a fortune on Amaranth flour for backing breads and decided to grow my own. I live in South Florida so growing conditions are ideal for this crop. Calaloo in the Caribbean and is a staple among locals, you see it growing all over.
    I found a fantastic seed source: Baker creek heirloom seeds. http://www.rareseeds.com The catalog is packed w/ information and history.
    All seeds are non-hybrid,non- GMO (no seeds from Monsanto-owned Seminis) non-patented.
    I planted 60 seeds and have a 100% sprout rate, Now all I have to do is keep the squirrels from digging things up.
    Hope this helps. Good on ya and Happy planting.
    Pinkginger.

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