February 3, 2011

Starting Seedlings: Obtaining Your Seeds

There are many ways to obtain seeds for your garden. Seeds can be purchased at almost any big box store, grocery store, or hardware store. Seeds can also be purchased through seed companies via internet or mail order. Most seed companies offer free catalogues through the mail, so why not sign up for a few? My favorite companies are Pinetree Garden Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Browsing through seed catalogues is a great way to fight the winter blues and get ideas and plans your garden. You can even find seeds for sale on eBay and Etsy!

Want a cheaper source of seeds? Try one of these tactics:

1) Save your own seeds...this of course, requires that you have planted a garden in the first place. You can only save open pollinated seeds (not hybrids) and for many plants you will have to hand pollinate in order to prevent related species from crossing (but more on that later).

It's easy to save seeds from heirloom tomatoes (yellow pear shown here) because tomato flowers are generally self-pollinated.

2) Get your gardening friends together for a seed exchange. Have everyone divide up all their seed packets into smaller quantities and swap like trading cards (do you really need 500 carrot seeds anyway?).

After a couple years of vegetable gardening, you'll probably have a nice stash of seeds available to swap (or hoard for yourself).

3) For tomatoes: purchase an heirloom tomato from the farmer's market and save the seeds (and eat the rest). This won't work with hybrid tomatoes, so make sure you're buying an heirloom.  There is some chance that the seeds in your farmer's market tomato were cross pollinated and that the seeds won't "come true" (i.e. grow into the exact same heirloom tomato) the next year, but that chance is fairly low.

4) Go to a botanical garden in the late fall when things are going into seed and take a few "samples" for your personal use. I'm not sure if this is legal, but as long as you aren't destroying the entire plant (that doesn't belong to you, by the way), or hoarding every last seed for yourself, it shouldn't be a big deal. I was actually encouraged to sample some cherry tomatoes at a local botanical gardens by one of the employees. What they didn't know was that I tasted a few and pocketed a couple for seed saving (after writing down the species and cultivar, of course).

What is your favorite seed source?

1 comment:

  1. I smiled when I read your suggestion of visiting a botanical garden. I've been wanting to try different ornamental grasses, but have already exceeded my annual seed budget.
    Sneaky? Yes....but as long as I'm not plundering through there, I'm sure they wouldn't mind.

    Though I mainly order from catalogs, I love to browse different nursery/garden centers for unique or unusual seeds. You never know when you'll spot that new "must-have" variety.


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