Where To Find The Good Seeds
I was joking the other day that I'd had a hard time finding the "good" seeds for my spring garden.
Real gardeners know exactly what I mean by "good" seed. I prefer heirloom and open pollinated seeds because you can save seed and still have them breed true.
Not that I have anything against hybrids because they have their strengths too, but many times the flavor isn't as rich as old era seeds.
Alas! The pandemic (real or imagined) is still gripping society. Worse, now it's getting nasty and drying up all my best sources for seeds.
Lots of people are gardening, so much so, that a couple of our most beloved seed companies shuttered their web sites until they could catch up or rebuild their stock. Others keep a permanent "Out of stock" label on popular seeds.
When businesses shutter because they have too much business, that's saying something about the mindset of society.
I might be a little tiffed that my seeds are hard to find, but I'm rather pleased to see so many people getting interested in growing their own. I like to see people do for themselves even if it's just a pot of basil.
We had an absolutely phenomenal garden in 2020, thanks in part to the lockdown. It forced me to pay more attention to my plants and prevent the dreaded squash bugs from taking over. For the first time in 5 years I had squash. Even in January, I still have a few squash sitting on my counter waiting to be eaten.
In January 2020, Greg and I had gotten sick. Little did we know, we had gotten the plague before the hysteria had set in. With no media frenzy to worry us, we treated it like any other flu and recovered. But we lost all of January with either me being sick or taking care of a sick husband so I missed my window for buying fresh seed. My favorite seed company (with free shipping) had shut down for the foreseeable future.
I had just enough old seed to get the garden going.
Meanwhile, I started gathering other resources. Good seed is out there if you learn to expand your network. Here's how:
Start with family and friends. Surprisingly, there are few real gardeners in my social circle. There are a lot of casual gardeners, but most of them aren't diligent about saving or storing seeds. It never hurts to ask though.
- I mentioned to a neighbor that I never got basil seed last year and she gifted me a basil she had grown from a grocery store seedling. I returned the favor by giving her cuttings of my tomatoes and hibiscus.
- My niece likes to experiment with new plants and she sent me some seeds she saved. I traded her my extras too.
- My mom sent me a couple of packages of seeds she never planted the year before.
The moral of the story, just ask around. You never know. And don't forget to return the favor. If you can't trade seeds, make sure they get some of the harvest.
Seed Libraries: My sister introduced me to this. Many regular book libraries also give seed away. Sadly, we have no seed library near me, but my sister did and I got to try seeds I never would've bought on my own. Google "seed libraries near me" and see what's available.
Make a Wish List at your favorite seed company. The one I use promises to email you when their stock is replenished, but emails were slow to arrive, if at all. So I kept the Wish List page up on my browser and refreshed it a couple of times a day. In the past, I would wait until I had a big order, but since stock disappeared quickly, I started ordering as soon as the seed was available. Since it was free shipping, I spent nothing extra getting them piecemeal.
Farmers Markets: This one is iffy because farmers markets are getting to be big business. Some vendors are real farmers who grow their own stock, but some are 3rd party vendors. A few questions about their produce should tell you if it's truly home grown or not.
The reason produce from farmers markets are a good seed source is because the produce probably isn't sprayed with any chemicals or kept in long storage. You won't know (unless they tell you) if seed is open pollinated or hybrid, but there's a chance it's not hybrid in which case you can use the seeds to grow your own.
Think tomatoes, peppers, squash, garlic, and beans. I've done this and it absolutely works!
Social Media Seed Exchanges: Check out the social media sites you frequent and type in "seed exchange" in Search. Facebook has plenty as does MeWe.
By the way, if you're on MeWe, I'm there too. Feel free to Friend me there. It's small, but I like it.
County Extension Office: Your tax dollars pay for this. Why not use it? Not all extension offices offer seeds, but they have enormous resources and resource library. Most also offer Master Gardener classes.
Churches/Schools: Every year, there's a church in a neighboring town that sells seedlings twice a year. The prices are reasonable, the plants are healthy, and the money goes to a good cause. I've lived in towns where the local high school will do this as their fundraiser too.
Local Garden Groups: In most good-sized towns and cities there is invariably a garden group. Strangely enough, I've never joined because they tend to meet on Saturdays which is my prime garage sale hunting day. I have gone to the occasional plant swap meet though. Chances are many aren't meeting as often as before, but since it's usually outdoors, they might still sell seeds and plants.
Amazon: I'm listing Amazon with a caveat. Unless it's grown and packaged in my country I won't buy seed from Amazon. There was some weird veiled operation in 2020 where someone (or more) were shipping unknown seeds from China to the US without anyone ordering it.
If you can verify the seller and the product, it's safe, but stay away from Chinese imports.
It's a little more legwork to find seeds this year (and last) but it's not too hard. You can actually make some new friends this way.
Do you have any plans to garden this year? I am expanding into more flowers this year. I know how to grow a good tomato, but flowers are hit or miss with me. But we have to have goals, right? 😏