Are you getting ready to purchase seeds for your garden? I’m always amazed at how fast those little packets add up. When I go to check out I can hardly believe how much I’ve spent! Here are some ideas on how to save money this year and in the future!
You probably already know this, but seed doesn’t usually go bad after one year. The germination rate may go down, but you can still use it. To maintain the best germination rate, store your seeds in a dark, dry, cool place. Put them in an air-tight container and then find a cool place in your home. A root cellar is ideal because it maintains a consistent temperature year-round.
If you aren’t sure if your seed is still good or not, put 10 seeds in damp paper towel and put in a plastic bag. Check them after a week or two and count how many have germinated. Multiply by 10 and this will be your germination rate. For example, if 7 seeds germinated, you have a germination rate of 70%. If your germination rate is low, plant more seeds.
Arrange a get-together with some friends and put in a seed order together. Many seeds come in packets that are way more than a home gardener can use in one year and larger quantities are a better value than small quantities. Be sure to make good notes about what everyone wants so you can split the seeds up fairly when they arrive. Even better is when everyone agrees to order the same things so sorting out who gets what is easy. I like to use small paper coin envelopes for small quantities of seeds. They are easy to write on and contain the seed well.
Many communities host seed exchanges, where you can bring your excess seeds and exchange them for something you can use. If your community doesn’t have one, you can organize one! It is a great time for gardeners to meet and exchange experiences, ideas, and build energy for the coming season! At our seed exchange, we provided drinks and encouraged people to bring snacks to share. We had one table for each category of seeds so people could put they seeds they brought on the appropriate table and then select whichever seeds interested them. We provided coin envelopes for people to take their seeds home in. We also arranged some free workshops to make the evening more robust.
Perennial crops only have to be planted once and you can reap the benefits for years to come. Fruit or nut trees, and berry bushes are a good place to start, but there are also many perennial vegetables. Rhubarb, sorrel, good king henry, asparagus, lovage, Jerusalem artichoke, and ostrich ferns all grow as far north as Alaska!
You can save both money and time with annuals that sow their own seed. By just letting a few plants go to seed, you can have a patch of veggies come up first thing in the spring without even lifting a finger. Then all you have to do is thin them out to the proper spacing. My favorite self-seeded plants are orach (a leafy green related to spinach), parsnip, arugula, cilantro, dill, borage, and chamomile.
Although seed saving may seem daunting at first, many things are quite easy to save. As you gain experience you can move onto the more complex and interesting plants. You often get gobs of seed from just one plant, which you can share or trade with others and use for years to come.