Well, it’s cold outside, and the seed catalogs are arriving, so what can you do? Like everyone else, I’m thinking spring, and starting to shop for seeds. Here are my best tips for how to do that without busting the seed budget. (Always a good goal.)
- Look for bargains online. Many seed retailers have a “sale” section on their websites with reduced prices. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re already placing an order and will be paying that processing and shipping fee regardless. My best bargain so far were the “White Cherry” tomatoes I got last year from Johnny’s for $1. They’re the pale yellow ones in the photo above.
- Visit retailers in the off season. If you happen to be close to a big seed retailer, it doesn’t hurt to check in during the fall to see if they’ve marked down last year’s seeds. Last year we picked up a lot of on-sale seeds during a fall visit to the Seed Savers Exchange headquarters and store in Decorah, Iowa. This past weekend we stopped in at Planters, a terrific seed store in Kansas City, Mo., and got seeds at clearance prices: 50 cents a packet.
- Make a list of what you already have. With a few exceptions, most seeds are good for more than one year, so take a close look at whatever you have leftover from last year, check the dates on the packet to be sure it’s still good, and then write it down so you have it in front of you when you’re buying more seeds. Because who can remember if they already have dill and basil seed? Not me, apparently.
- Save seeds from your garden. It can get complicated, so I would suggest starting with something simple, like heirloom beans. Last year I great my first crop of beans from seeds I had saved. It was pretty cool.
- Check out seed fairs and seed libraries. We have a great local seed fair that I’ve been going to for the last few years. Our library also offers free vegetable, herb, and flower seeds in the spring. It’s a good way to get new seeds you want to try (and the seed exchange is a good place to donate your extra seeds.)
- Shop for seeds with friends and relatives. I started doing this more last year, and it’s really nice. One benefit of combining an online order is that you save on shipping costs. Another is that you can also make plans to share seeds even before you place your order (and then actually divide them up as soon as they arrive.) To be honest, I’m not sure this resulted in me buying fewer seeds last year: I just ended up with a lot more variety because we split so many seed packets. It was great!