Seed Buying - Method or Madness?

What kind of a seed buyer are you?

Do you carefully read all of the seed catalogs sent to you and then browse the Internet to compare and contrast all the options, then decide which seeds to buy?

Do you buy seeds from 'bricks and mortar' stores and get whatever appeals to you as you are browsing?

Do you buy vegetable seeds in bulk where they scoop them out of seed bins, weigh them and put them in hand-marked envelopes?

Do you buy seeds for just vegetables, or just annual flowers? Do you buy seeds for perennial flowers?

Do you know what stratification and scarification are? Have you done either or both with seeds?

Do you order seeds from more than one seed company to save on shipping or buy from whoever has the seeds you want, even if it means paying nearly the same for shipping as you do for the actual seeds?

Do you buy more seeds than you could ever sow in one season?

Do you only buy seeds to direct sow into the garden or do you end up with flats of seedlings in any window of the house with decent light?

Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers?

Do you even buy seeds?

Do you have a fear of seeds? Some gardeners don't try seeds, why not?

Do you understand seeds? I once bought seeds at a Walmart in January (Burpee Seeds) and the cashier asked me, "Do these really work? Yes, they do. "Isn't it too cold to plant them now?" Well, yes, if you are planning to plant them outside. I don't think this cashier grew up around anyone who gardened.

Do you list all your seeds on a spreadsheet, so you can sort the list by when you should sow them so you have a master seed plan of sorts?

Do you keep all the old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes, and baskets?

Do you determine germination percentage for old seed?

I suspect the answers to the above would tell us a lot about what type of gardener someone was.
I've got seeds on my mind, now that the holidays are past. I'll be posting more on seeds in the coming weeks as I journey through seed catalogs, look for seeds to show up in the store, and decide which ones I will buy this year. And, I'll answer these questions and more about my own seedy... um make that seed... habits.


  1. I am much more of a perennial gardener myself, so I don't deal with seeds very often. That said, I am a stats geek, so I could see myself doing nearly everything you listed in your post. I have been tracking the first bloom periods and dormancy for my current shrubs and bulbs to try and get a handle on what blooms when each year.

    What little seed purchases I make are usually an impulse buy at the home store or nursery, usually for something to please my wife. She hasn't taken to the fact that our garden is mostly shade, so vegetables and herbs really aren't going to work well, but we try in the brighter areas.

    You line about buying seeds in bulk reminded me of our yearly foray into the hardware store to get garden seeds. Just as you describe, they were scooped out of bins, weighed, placed in a small brown paper bag, with the name, weight and price scrawled on the outside. Of course, my grandmother always kept seed potatoes for the next year, so those were usually found in peck baskets or a wheelbarrow in the garage during the winter.

    All this talk of seeds has started me thinking, though. Hmmmmm.....

  2. I'm a seed trader and I trade on gardenweb, but I'm also a buyer. I'll buy from any seed rack I can find. From the ones in Walmart to Martha Stewart. I can always find at least one thing I want to try.

    Except this year I won't be buying from that guy that that sells at Target. 3-4 dollars for seeds that didn't even come true.

    Won't make that mistake again.

  3. This is a fun post, Carol, and I look forward to hearing more about your seedy habits :-)

    I love to grow from seed. I have a light setup in the basement for indoor sowing, and this year will be my first foray into winter sowing---I don't have enough room under the lights or on my window sills for all the seeds I want to start. That said, I always start too many, and relatives end up with seedlings of annuals and vegetables, whether they want them or not. I get seeds wherever I can--seed exchanges, online, stores. Some purchases are well-planned, a good number are impulse buys. I love the potential, the rush of a new gardening season, the promise that this year my garden will be everything it is in my imagination.

    I loved this post. Hmmm. I may have to ruminate about seeds a little more over at ITGO :-)

  4. You gardeners get so inthused I'm a little jealous. However I feel the same about buying quilt fabric. If I see one I like I"ll buy it just incase I might need it one day for a quilt I haven't even thought about making.

  5. Carol - What a great post! I'm surreptitiously reading at work, so I don't have time for a good comment, but I think I'll have to address this over at my own blog. This could start lots of threads!

  6. Well, I guess I almost addicted to any kind of seeds. Since our garden is quite new (“founded” in spring 2005) sowing seeds was and still is the easiest and cheapest way to get it green and colourful. And it makes so much fun!

    What kind of a seed buyer I am? Okay, let me try to answer your questions:

    Well, I guess I have almost all seed catalogs from ALL German seeds companies, and even from French ones as well as the UK catalogue from T&M. I carefully read them, yes, but for me, there are more a kind of inspiration. Our brick and mortar or gardening stores offer quite a wide range of seeds over here so for 2007, one of my gardening resolutions is NOT to order any (very expensive) seeds from catalogues. Well, I hope I’ll accomplish that goal… ;-)))

    I have all kind of seeds: veggies, annuals and even perennials – even though the latter are more difficult to grow.

    Stratification and scarification? I do not really have a clue what you mean, to be honest.

    Do you buy more seeds than you could ever sow in one season? I am afraid, the answer is yes…

    In 2006, I started sowing the first seeds indoors in March, I guess, followed by sowing into the garden in May…

    Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers? Oh yes, I LOVE this! I started my first seed exchanges in autumn last year, it makes so much fun!

    Oh, in 2006, I listed all my seeds in one folder and wrote down the date of sowing for each seed … Wait a second… let me check…. Ups, I just counted the lines: 97 entries! (I sowed some seeds twice or even tree times during the season). Furthermore, this folder includes a sheet for each different seed (and it's empty package) I tried last year, in alphabetical order…

    Do you keep all the old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes, and baskets?

    Oh, I even printed my own seed packages (I used them for the swap). All I (still) need to do now is get myself organised with the swap seeds I received from fellow gardeners and the ones I collected from my own garden.

    No, I do not determine germination percentage for old seeds.

    Oh my good, I guess this was the longest comment I have ever written…. ;-))

    I really enjoyed your questions – so what do you think of me? What type of gardener am I? BTW, I intend to write at least one post about seeds on my blog very soon! And I’ll pass by your blog again as well, to learn more about your "seedy habits" (nice word).

  7. These are very good questions. I think I will answer them on my own blog, but probably not today. Today I hope to upgrade WordPress.

  8. Carol, like the others I think that I'll just make a post to answer all of your questions--heaven knows I'm not a concise enough writer to keep my answers comment-sized rather than post-sized!

    I did drool over what I thought was your imagining of such a place where they scoop seeds out of bins and into handwritten packets, though... and then reading Douglas's comment, I found out there really are such places. Utopia! :)

  9. All,
    I love that I am not alone in my love of seeds and seed sowing. I'm excited to read that some of you will be answering the questions on your own blogs. Please let me know when you have posted! I don't want to miss your answers.

    I'll also be posting again about seeds in a day or two, answering these questions and revealing my "seedy side".


  10. Carol, this is such a great post! I grow mainly from seed so I identify with a lot of your questions. I'm going to also do a post on this topic.

  11. I am a confessed seed-a-holic. I love this post. I grow as much as I possibly can, both here and at other places and teach seed starting in garden workshops. I think gardening with seeds has been the most satisfying aspect of gardening for me.
    Slowly I've learned to stop just trading for seeds willy-nilly and to sit down and organize everything, and create spread sheets. These are both helpful for seed sowing (I also use these as logs for seed starting with dates and germination rates) and seed buying.
    The whole seed buying "thing" is a balance. I write out lists of what I want from whom and cross reference for cost and postage costs trying to buy from as few seed houses as I can. I generally try to trade before I purchase.

    I save my own seeds and both trade them and sell them for a very low price in our Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin which is just the coolest place to find seeds.

    Since I winter sow (so yes, I sure do know what stratification is!!), the most frustrating part of "seeding" is having to wait until January to get so many seeds. I could sure use them in November sometimes!!

    I love your blog. Happy Seeding!


  12. Hi Carol,

    I must admit, I am not a regular reader of your blog, but I noticed other people answering these questions. What a great idea! I've just posted my answers.

  13. Carol:

    I posted about my own seedy side here:

    What a great conversation you've started!

  14. You've started something, whether you wanted to or not! Kathy asked me yesterday to answer your quiz. So I did, and posted it today. Have a great Friday, Carol.

  15. Carol, what a super post. In the blah days of non-winter here in Maine, I'm really enjoying reading your blog and all the comments from fellow addi --err gardeners. I'll be posting about my seed habits on my blog, Henbogle, too!

  16. Since you and Kathy from Cold Climate said you might be interested, I wrote a post on seeds on my garden blog, too - perfect subject for this first week of the New Year!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose
    [click on the highlighted Annie in Austin to get there]

  17. I've posted my answers at Zanthan Gardens. On this same topic, I enjoyed James Fenton's book, A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed.

  18. Great garden meme. I posted my answers at

  19. Hi Carol-
    These were great questions, and I found them by way of Kathy at Cold Climate and linked backed to you.
    I answered them over at the riverrim blogspot!


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