Yipes, it’s been longer than I’d planned to wait before saying a few words about saving money on seeds. So time to get this out while the ordering is still good.
When we first started gardening, we had more expenses. Tools (mostly from garage sales and sometimes garbage bins), plastic seed trays, pots and cells, a tiller–these are all part of the start-up expense that people must consider if they want to put in a garden. (Our best advice here: Start with a small garden and build gradually.)
But now that we’ve been at this a while, our single biggest yearly expense is the seed order. Usually it’s around $40, which includes live sweet potato plants, which are always the single most expensive item.
Of course the obvious way to save on seeds is to order only standard non-hybrids one year and then save the seeds every year after that.I do this on some of my tomatoes, and also the occasional melon. But we also like hybrids for their resistance to certain wilts and viruses, so we still have to buy from catalogues.
You can save money, but the seed companies do not make it easy. Here are a few ways I look at the order each year to get the most out of my money:
*Line up all the catalogs and go right away to the shipping charge. It’s truly amazing how creative mail (and online) companies can be when it comes to shipping. It’s almost like the shipping of the goods has nothing whatever to do with the actual cost to the company. No matter where you order, the shipping will be a sizeable percentage of the cost.
*Yes, but there’s no shipping when you buy from a local store, you say. Quite right. The only problem is their limited space often makes for a very limited selection. But if you already know what you want, it wouldn’t hurt to go up and check if your store has it. Maybe if enough people do that, local stores will start stocking up their seed shelves–and putting in more to choose from–in January, when a lot of us start planning.
*The catalog with the best shipping option becomes my “preferred” catalog. Any buying decision I make after that point will be biased in favor of keeping everything in the same catalog. Of course, that might change if I find that 90 percent of what I like is in another catalog. At that point, I might consider switching preferred status to the other company. The main point, though, is to avoid more than one shipping charge.
*From there, it also pays to remember that you can’t necessarily compare prices easily. A packet of seeds in one catalog might look like a great deal until you read the fine print, and find that’s because there are way fewer seeds!
*Remember you don’t necessarily have to order ALL of your seeds each year. If you have some leftovers from that packet of broccoli you got last year, they’re still good this year (provided you didn’t heat them up or get them wet or radiate them or something). I’ve kept seed for 2 or 3 years and still got plants. The germination rate does fall off–especially after that second year.
About those sweet potatoes. Yes, it is possible to start your own slips with a store sweet potato and some water or soil. But I don’t because a) I don’t know what variety the store has or whether it grows well here b) you can’t be sure store potatoes are not treated with something to inhibit sprouting and c)it’s just more trouble than I’m willing to go through.
But if you’re interested, here are instructions from the University of Illinois extension service at this link.
Okay, now get going. It’ll be spring before you know it.
Posted by: Roxie
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