January 7th, 2007
Seed Buying

“The possessor of a garden, large or small, should have a seed-bed, where seeds of perennials and some of the annuals can be sown and grown until large enough to be permanently placed…The knowledge that you have raised them gives a thrill of pride in the result which no bought plants, however beautiful, can impart.” — Helena Rutherfurd Ely “A Woman’s Hardy Garden”

Carol at May Dreams Gardens asks What kind of a seed buyer are you? Actually she posted a long questionaire.

Q: Do you carefully read all of the seed catalogs sent to you and then browse the Internet to compare and contrast all the options, then decide which seeds to buy?
A: I love reading descriptions in seed catalogs and I carefully compare the descriptions with any information I can find in books and, now, on the internet.

Q: Do you buy seeds from ‘bricks and mortar’ stores and get whatever appeals to you as you are browsing?
A: I typically buy my seeds from ‘bricks and mortar’ stores; companies I like such as Renee’s Gardens, Seeds of Change, and Botanical Interests are easy to find at our local nurseries and even at supermarkets like Central Market. I do my research by reading the catalogs and then go to the stores to buy. If I wait to send in an order, the seeds often arrive too late for our climate.

Q: Do you buy vegetable seeds in bulk where they scoop them out of seed bins, weigh them and put them in hand-marked envelopes?
A: The only seeds I’ve seen sold this way are seeds for winter groundcovers at The Natural Gardener.

Q: Do you buy seeds for just vegetables, or just annual flowers? Do you buy seeds for perennial flowers?
A: I buy seeds primarily for annuals and some vegetables. However, I’ll buy any type of seed if I’m interested in growing the plant. I like to experiment.

Q: Do you know what stratification and scarification are? Have you done either or both with seeds?
A: Yes. Yes. The advice for growing bluebonnets often suggest scarification because it has a tough seedcoat so that not all the seed sprouts at once. That way if conditions prove unfavorable (typical in Central Texas) some seeds are left to sprout when conditions improve. I find, however, that fresh seed (my own) sprout readily. I have the most success with soaking tough seeds overnight–or until they swell up.

Q: Do you order seeds from more than one seed company to save on shipping or buy from whoever has the seeds you want, even if it means paying nearly the same for shipping as you do for the actual seeds?
A: I typically get seed from one source; whoever has the most thing I want to buy. I haven’t ordered from a catalog in several years because we have such a good selection in our many local “brick and mortar” stores.

Q: Do you buy more seeds than you could ever sow in one season?
A: Of course! I’ve stopped buying tomato seeds, though, because I always end up with far more plants than I have room for.

Q: Do you only buy seeds to direct sow into the garden or do you end up with flats of seedlings in any window of the house with decent light?
A: When I worked in an office I sprouted seedlings on top of my computer monitor. Great bottom heat. Now I sow in a seed bed and transplant. Many of the plants I originally started from seeds are rampant self-sowers so I don’t have to start them anymore…just transplant them from wherever they sprout.

Q: Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers?
Yes. And I’ve given away seeds, too, via this blog. But I’ve stopped doing that because I discovered that too many people were demanding and unappreciative.

Q: Do you even buy seeds?
A: Yep. There’s a stack of seed packets right here at my elbow making me feel guilty.

Q: Do you have a fear of seeds? Some gardeners don’t try seeds, why not?
A: Obviously not. I started with bulbs and then moved to seeds because I didn’t have the money to spend on large plants. Because I wanted year around flowers I did then move on to perennials…thinking that in the long run that they’d be more cost-effective. This year, though, after losing many perennials to drought, I’ve decided to go back to seeds and have a spectacular spring and then take a rest through summer. I also propagate plants (such as lavender) from cuttings.

Q: Do you understand seeds? I once bought seeds at a Walmart in January (Burpee Seeds) and the cashier asked me, “Do these really work? Yes, they do. “Isn’t it too cold to plant them now?” Well, yes, if you are planning to plant them outside. I don’t think this cashier grew up around anyone who gardened.
A: Yes. Well some of them. A lot of information about seeds is written for gardeners in a different climate than Austin’s. Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to plant them. I’ve decided to do more trials on my own to see what’s appropriate for Austin.

Q: Do you list all your seeds on a spreadsheet, so you can sort the list by when you should sow them so you have a master seed plan of sorts?
A: I don’t use a spreadsheet for my seeds but I do make other kinds of lists. One of my resolutions for 2007 is to consolidate all the data I’ve collected so far and figure out what I’ve done. I do have a spreadsheet for my oxblood lilies and for my irises.

Q: Do you keep all the old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes, and baskets?
A: Every once in awhile I throw them out and then regret it and begin hoarding them again. Maybe someday I’ll make a huge collage of seed packets on the side of the garden shed.

Q: Do you determine germination percentage for old seed?
A: Nope. At some point I just throw them all into the seed beds to see if anything will come up.

by M Sinclair Stevens

4 Responses to post “Seed Buying”

  1. From Carol (Indiana):

    Welcome to the seed club! Thanks for answering the questions. I think if some seed company or two wanted to find out what gardeners really do with seeds, they just have to read these posts.


  2. From Carol (Indiana):

    I just saw the quote you included. I love it, it fits perfectly.

  3. From Kathy (New York):

    “At some point I just throw them all into the seed beds to see if anything will come up.” I have done this, too. It seems more fair than just throwing the seed out. Though of course, if I did throw seed out, it would be on the compost pile, and goodness knows enough seeds sprout there. Hmmm. Maybe that would actually be a kinder fate . . .

  4. From Annie in Austin:

    M, I love the way you write! And you actually answered the questions, too, which is more than I did.

    Your line about the seeds arriving too late for Austin planting makes me feel better about no longer finding catalogs in my mailbox; by the time I got an order ready it would be too late for planting.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose