A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Seed Mania

Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens did a wonderful post called Seed Buying - Method or Madness? composed of a series of questions about gardeners and their seed buying habits. I grow nearly everything from seed so I closely identify with all of her questions except one on buying veggie seeds in bulk. Here are my answers:

What kind of a seed buyer are you? I try to grow everything from seed. It's much cheaper than buying plants. Even if only a few seeds germinate and grow to maturity, my initial investment is smaller.

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? I used to read all of the catalogs I receive in the mail. I've learned through trial and error which ones have the best seeds so now I only read those, recycling the rest. I don't browse the internet for seeds. I'm "old-school" and prefer books/magazines to reading stuff online. I do compare pricing and quantity from each of my "trusted" suppliers to see which is offering the best deal on the seeds that I want.

Do you buy seeds from "bricks and mortar" stores and get whatever appeals to you as you are browsing? "Bricks and mortar" stores don't offer the variety that catalogs do. Plus I'm an heirloom gardener, so with the exception of the stores that carry Burpee seeds, I am not interested in the offerings I find in my local retailers.

Do you buy seeds for just vegetables or just annuals flowers? Do you buy seeds for perennial flowers? Yes to all three. I do occasionally (try to) grow veggies, so I buy seeds like I do for my annuals and perennials. I find successfully growing perennials from seed to be particularly satisfying.

Do you know what stratification and scarification are? Have you done either or both with seeds? I cold stratify by default. I order my seeds in January, so I keep them refrigerated until planting time. I've never scarified seed. I've found that soaking overnight works well. Helpful hint for pet owners: I soak my seeds in teacups with the saucers on top to prevent my cats from drinking the water!

Do you order seeds from more than one seed company to save on shipping or buy from whoever has the seeds that you want, even if it means paying nearly the same for shipping as you do for the actual seeds? I used to buy only one or two packets of seeds from a catalog if it was something I couldn't get anywhere else even if it meant paying an arm and a leg for shipping. But the results were usually disappointing, so I've stopped doing that. What I might do instead, if possible, is to order seeds from a catalog that I normally would buy from a "trusted" source in addition to that one or two rare seed varieties so that the shipping costs make sense.

Do you buy more seed than you could ever sow in one season? Doesn't everyone? I did the same thing with bulbs this fall. Believe it or not, I still have unplanted bulbs in boxes in my basement! One of those rare occasions when I'm glad I'm not married because any sensible husband would probably be throwing a fit right about now about "wasting money" on bulbs.

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? Funny you should ask that! Longtime readers of my blog know that I stopped starting seeds indoors when my first cat crossed the Rainbow Bridge and I bought a new cat that gets into everything. And now that I have taken Master Gardener classes, all of a sudden I find myself able to successfully grow houseplants, so there are NO windows available in my house. I have two cats now and they seem to keep each other busy enough that I'm considering either buying or constructing one of those stands with lights to start seeds.

Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers? You've seen my kitchen, haven't you? Seeds drying all over the place. I now save enough seed that I am able to share it with other gardeners. I'm also donating some to the Middlesex County Master Gardeners to either sell or auction off or to grow plants for sale to make money for the program.

Do you even buy seeds? According to my records, I purchased seeds for 68 different kinds of flowers and herbs last year, quite a few of those in multiples. That may not be a record. It's just the first year that I have kept track. I'll let you know what this year's totals look like after I place the orders!

Do you have a fear of seeds? Some gardeners don't try seeds, why not? There are only a few things in life that I am afraid of, heights, crazy people, not being on time but definitely no fear of seeds. The gardeners I have asked about not using seeds including people in my Master Gardener class, have all said the same thing: it's too hard to grow plants from seeds. I never know how to respond to that. Why is sticking a seed in the ground or just surface sowing and watering more difficult than digging a hole, sticking a plant in it, backfilling the hole then watering?

Do you understand seeds? Each year, a little better. I've been experimenting the past couple of years with planting times and depths with varying success.

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? Yes! Yes! Yes! I just started doing that last spring. I have to admit that at the time I thought I was being a little crazy. I ended up with a 19 page workbook sorted by catalog and then by flowerbed (those tabs were color coded to make them easier to identify quickly) with a Cover Page Master List of all 68 varieties, where they were ordered from and where they were to be planted. I am finding that workbook incredibly invaluable this year as I am making up my orders. I know exactly what I planted and where I bought it from so I can order more if needed, change my source if needed, or skip entirely because I didn't like it. I did a similar workbook for my bulbs in the fall that I'm sure I will also find valuable. I keep track of sowing times in my planner with all my other stuff. That works better for me because I look at it every day. No way I would be willing to pull up a spreadsheet every day!

Do you keep old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes and baskets? No! No! No! First of all, flower seeds don't stay viable as long as veggie seeds, so I rarely keep them more than a year. If I do, they are in small, labelled plastic containers in the drawer in my fridge that I devote to storing seed. I do keep seed packets for years. Each year, I wrap a rubber band around all the packets I have planted and put them in a cabinet with all the prior years' packets that are wrapped with rubber bands. Guess I'm a little OCD when it comes to my seeds and seed packets!

Do you determine germination percentage for old seed? No because I don't use old seed. But if I ever decided to seriously get into veggie growing, I probably will!

So there you have it. Everything you've always wanted to know about me and my shadow, er seeds.


At 8:35 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks.

At 5:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I'm starting to see some things in common among us seed sowers. Though, I'll have to admit your spreadsheet sounds much fancier than mine, but I have spreadsheets going back to 1998, for sure, maybe 1997. And I'm not quite as organized with my old seed packets... I'll be posting answers to my own questions soon.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Colleen said...

LOL oldroses---you are infinitely more organized in your seed collecting than I am :-) Your spreadsheet right now is sounding like a lifesaver as I am going through catalogs and my old seeds and journal entries, trying to figure out exactly what I need for this year.

I know where you're coming from with the cats getting into things. I started morning glories under lights a last year and went downstairs one morning to find most of them chewed down to stubs, and my black kittie "Bug" looking very satisfied. He eats houseplants, too, so nothing toxic for us :-)

Great post!

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anthony said...

"68 different kinds of flowers and herbs last year"

Awesome! 68 is a good number for me to keep in mind while I'm looking at seed catalogs.

And "wasting money" and "bulbs" do not belong in the same sentence. Although one year when I bought 500 daffodil bulbs my wife was outside watching over me to make sure every one got in the ground. So I see your point.

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow... I aspire to such levels of organization, OldRoses! :)

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At 5:22 PM, Blogger pedro velasquez said...

I can’t believe that it is September already. The entire summer has gone by and I haven’t written a thing. bet basketball At least not here. I haven’t done much gardening either but that’s another topic. I have, though, been practicing with my new camera. I tried to write gardening posts, but the screen remained stubbornly blank. The cursor blinked at me, mesmerizing me. Scrolling through my pictures did not result in any inspiration. Cataloguing each new blossom seemed tedious. sportsbook Blogging about my garden had become a chore; something I no longer enjoyed.
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