The High Cost of Gardening

Have you seen the price of seedlings this year? It's appalling.

The biggest change this year is that many outlets are selling individual seedlings instead of the six or nine pack. But get this. They're selling the singles for the same price (and higher) than the multi-celled packs.

There are still some retailers that sell the multi packs, but they're few and far between. In my area, I've only seen the multi packs at farm and ranch stores.

When I started gardening back in the 80s, I could get a six or nine celled seedling pack for about 59 cents. Today that same pack is upwards of $3.59. (Usually more.) That's a pretty steep increase.

Granted maybe most people don't need more than one tomato plant, but is that any reason to jack the price up to ridiculous levels?

I used to divide my garden spending between seeds and seedlings, but I can see I'll have to start nearly all my plants from seeds from now on.

Some seeds are easy to start. Tomatoes, squash, corn, radish. They come up like weeds given the right conditions. Others are better bought as plants. I have a hard time starting cumin, parsnips, and rosemary from seed.

Peppers can be tricky from seed. They really need warm weather, but they'll grow like crazy once they get started. What plants do you have trouble starting from seed?

Greg has promised me a greenhouse/garden shed this year, complete with electricity. If he delivers, I'll be able to start my seeds in January and have them ready to plant by March/April.

So what can you do to offset your seedling costs?
  • Start seeds at least 2 months before planting season.
  • If you do get seedlings, look for pots that were over planted. If you're very careful, you can easily divide the seedlings. Easy to do with squashes and cucumbers, but trickier with longer rooted plants. Soak the soil block and gently pull apart.
  • Keep an eye out for farm and ranch stores, flea markets, and your neighbors for big discounts.
  • Don't forget the clearances. I was at a grocery store only yesterday and they had put plant bulbs on clearance. I stocked up on potatoes, garlic, horseradish and an assortment of flowers. Every box of bulbs for 50 cents each. Cha ching!
I'm sorry retailers got greedy and started selling only single cups of seedlings. I noticed the trend last year, but I didn't expect all the big box stores to go all in this year. What a killing they must be making.

On the same token, I have noticed that people were loading up on mulch and soil at the garden centers, but far fewer people were buying seedlings even when they were on sale.

How do seedling prices look in your part of the world? Have you noticed any price increases? Do you prefer to buy plants or start from seed?


Joy said…
I have been following seed origination a while back. My Uncle ordered his organic seeds from Canada. An East Indian woman was hassled knowing that seeds will be controlled for some scary reasons. I lost track since. It’s not the stores controlling alone .
Lisa Lombardo said…
Hi Maria,
I noticed this trend last year. My pepper and eggplant seedlings failed to sprout so I went in search of the 6 packs. I found one local nursery that had 4 packs for about $4 each.

This year I bought fresh seeds and started extras. This way if something doesn't germinate well I have a fall back.

I took a greenhouse management class in the early 90s and found out what some of the costs are in raising all of those little seedlings...both financial and in environmental terms. It helped to reinforce my desire to raise my own vegetable starts each year.
Hi, I have noticed a trend to the single plant/single pot but only for the larger plants that are ahead in age.. at least locally last year (its to soon this year, but I will repost back in a another six weeks what is happening in this regards) you could still get the six and nine packs but at no point could we get them for the price you are talking about.. they tend to run 3.99 to 5.99 depending on the plants..

Those prices have been pretty solid for the last five years, so I am hoping that they are not going up again this year. For me the shock value is the cost of seeds.. the bigger seed houses are charging so much for seeds. it used to be that most seeds where 99 cents a package.. then they moved to 1.29.. then 1.69.. now the cheap ones are 2.20 and the "more value" interesting plant ones can easily cost 3.99 and if you want the "value" packs that have a good amount of seed.. they are now sitting at 5.99 plus tax of 13 percent on top of that at the till

I just shake my head, we need to save seed for a lot of reasons but honestly, this is a new up and coming reason.. plus! so many of the seed houses that do heritage seed sales you need to read every single package now to see how many seeds you are buying for your 3 to 5 dollars a package..

While most are between 30 to 40ish.. I have seen them be as low as 10 to 15 seeds in a package.. hubby brought home a interesting flower from the store.. seeds in that 3.99 seed package.. 6.. six seeds.. I was like what??

Maria Zannini said…
Joy: You're absolutely right. Stores are the middle men. Price control starts way before that. I should've been paying attention more. There's been a certain disparity on inflation for specific items. Plants and seeds being two of them.
Maria Zannini said…
Lisa: I'm where you were last year. I decided to use up all my old seeds this year. The peas have come up and one of the squashes, but few of the lettuces and none of the peppers came up.

At the start of next season I'm starting with fresh seeds.
Maria Zannini said…
Farmgal: I noticed the price of seeds inching up a couple of years ago. I try to save seed where I can, but if you want any specialty seed, you're doomed to pay the special price for the privilege.

Worse than that, they charge a fortune for very few seeds. You have to treat them like gold hoping you can raise one veggie big enough to save the seed.

I'm sorry your plants are so much more expensive than ours. That bites! I wonder if it's because we have a longer growing season and the wholesalers are closer?
Mike keyton said…
I found chilis very easy to grow from seed. They did grow like weeds. I never thought about tomatoes before. Do you dry the seeds first? I'm a cheerful ignoramus
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Squeeze the seeds out of the tomato in a jar with water. Make a slurry to separate the membranous parts of the tomato from the seeds. This might take a couple of days. Then empty the seeds onto a screen or heavy paper towels until they dry.

Here's an excellent video on the process, from a fellow Brit, no less. :)
Morning, I think its because everything just costs more here. I watch different bloggers talk about prices of things and almost all the time, we pay more here for the same things. At least locally, everything costs more and the greenhouse's pass those cost onward to the buyers.
Himawan Sant said…
From the price of 59 cents it rose to $ 3, 59 ... wow ... it was very drastically up in price.
Why can it be that expensive there?

In my country, plant seeds are sold quite affordable.

Hopefully the price of seedlings in your city will quickly recover and your gardening activities will be revived.

Regards, Himawan Sant.
LD Masterson said…
With my black thumb, seeds don't stand a chance, so I always buy seedlings. I haven't shopped yet this year but based on the past couple years, prices are definitely going up.