The cost of buying seed can add up quickly. All those $2 or $4 packets can rapidly turn into hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on the size of your operation. So it’s a good idea to be smart about how you buy your seed this winter and take steps to save yourself a little money in the process.
Of course, good seed is Important. If you’re trying to make a living growing food, you need the highest quality seed available. So in this article, I explore how to get the best seed possible from the best sources at the lowest cost.
1. Devise A Good Plan
The first step to saving money on seed is to buy only what you know you’ll need. This might take several years to get good at, but by mapping out your garden space and determining how much of each item you will need, you can easily begin to know how much seed you will require. Every year, take notes on what you bought, what worked and what didn’t, and adjust your seed order accordingly.
2. Check Your Inventory
Keeping good track of your inventory can serve two objectives. First, it can help with planning, showing what you perhaps purchased too much or too little of over the course of a year. It can also reveal what you don’t need to buy the next year. Certain seeds (particularly the allium family) don’t hold well and should not be kept. However other seeds, especially if kept in relatively cool, dry conditions throughout the year, can be reused. As a rule, I suggest allowing for a 10 percent to 15 percent decrease in germination rates. It might be less or more, but that way you don’t risk a crop failing. Generally speaking, this has helped me save money on pepper and tomato seeds, as well as lettuce, sweet corn and herbs such as basil or dill. Preferably, you should buy new seed every year, but saving a little leftover seed, so long as it’s in good condition, has rarely let us down.
3. Save Your Own Seed
Although it’s a wonderful thing to do and can definitely save you money, we save very little of our own seed from our gardens. The reasons for this are myriad. For one, growing a crop all the way to senesce is something that, on a small biointensive farm such as ours, we rarely have space for. Once a crop is done, we harvest it and flip the bed to some other crop. Also, to save the kind of seed you want—fast growing, disease resistant, cold tolerant, high yielding or whatever the case might be—you really have to take good notes and pay close attention to the growth of every plant throughout its life. If you simply take the one that bolts first, for instance, you might be selecting for early bolting. You also need to know what crops might have crossed so you can get an idea of what the seeds will be the next year, However, if you’re willing to put in the work, I absolutely believe that seed saving is a great endeavor and can certainly save you money on your seed order, especially for the more expensive seeds such as tomatoes, peppers and garlic—all of which we do save some seed on.
4. Purchase In Bulk
Some companies such as Fedco Seeds offer discounts by volume but also allow growers to group together on orders. So where on your own you might be able to achieve only a 5 percent or 10 percent discount, by ordering together a group might be able to earn a 15 percent discount. Of course, this takes some coordination on your part with your neighbors and friends, but it can be an excellent way for everyone to save a little money on their seeds this year.
5. Support Farmer Groups & Get Discounts
Some farmer advocacy groups offer discounts to major seed and tool companies for becoming a member. The one that stands out is The National Young Farmer’s Coalition, which offers a discounts for becoming a member to seed comparing such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds and High Mowing but also to numerous other small farming resources such as Chelsea Green Books and Earth Tools Walk Behind Tractors. Invest in the future of agriculture and get a discount in seeds—not a bad deal!