Monday, April 16, 2012

Where do you get seeds?

Every spring, we get the question: Where do we buy our seeds?
Still germinating 5 years later!

Over the past 13 years, the answer has varied quite a bit.  Like most, we started at our local nurseries, which often have a good selection of the basics.  Some only have one brand of seeds, which may not seem like that big of a deal because they generally have a wide variety.  However, over time, our desire to grow heirloom and exotic varieties tended to make our searches go beyond our local geography.  Not necessarily because it could not be found, but simply because it was time-consuming.

We search for both organic varieties when we buy our seeds, which are almost always more expensive.  But before saying "I can't afford that", lets break down the costs in a logical manner.

1.  While there may be a difference in the package price between organic and non-organic, it's generally along the lines of $1.89 vs. $2.39.  Yes, in percentage terms, that is large.  But, you aren't growing acres of crops either.  It's an extra 50 cents, and you are getting many plants - often more than you have room for in your garden.  Try to think of the cost in terms of cost per plant.  It's pennies, if not fractions of pennies.

2.  You can purchase larger quantities.  The Spinach seeds we have been using recently are $2.39 for 3 grams.  However, if you buy the 12-gram package, the price is $3.99.  Don't worry about extras - see the next point.

3.  Most seeds will keep for multiple seasons.  And, even though they have expiration dates or germination predictions/deadlines on the packaging, we have found some to germinate just fine 3-5 seasons after the packaging would have you think you should try.  Our most famous example is some Sweet Basil we got from Seeds of Change in 2007, due to expire in 2009.  It was about 5000 seeds, and we probably have 1/3 of them still left in 2012.  They germinated just fine last year.  And we freeze at least 50 packs of pesto each winter.

Pepperoncini's are hard to find!
So here are the three main sources of seeds for us:

Seeds of Change: They are all organic, have excellent service, and we never worry about our orders arriving.  Unless, of course, we wait too late in the season for some varieties to be sold out.

Seed Saver's Exchange: We stumbled upon this source when trying to find Purple Pole Beans.  They are a great source of hard-to-find varieties.

Botanical Interest (also at Vitamin Cottage & Whole Foods in CO): A great source of unique types of seeds.  We like to grow lots of peppers, and we tried Pepperoncini - a pepper we know from our Chicago days eating Italian Beefs. It's one of the few companies we've found this variety. Both food store chains have excellent stock of these heirloom and exotic varieties, so a great place to shop if you don't know what you want ahead of time.

Bounty Beyond Belief: We recently got some purple and red carrots from this company at Bath Nursery in Fort Collins.  It's a new brand for us, but we were excited to see these unique varieties.

Because no garden is complete without purple and red carrots!

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