Carol at May Dreams Gardens wrote a series of thought-provoking questions on the gardener’s relationship to seeds. I decided to answer in my own blog, and I hope you do, too. More intriguing and less silly than all those memes going around.
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 every seed catalog that came in the house. And I would figure out the cost-per-seed for each variety I was interested in. (And this before electronic spreadsheets became common!) Eventually I realized the shipping cost could offset any savings realized. At this point I’ve developed some catalog favorites, which I always read, and some non-favorites, which I scan for freebie offers but otherwise discard. Anything I’ve never seen before gets a thorough examination.
Do you buy seeds from ‘bricks and mortar’ stores and get whatever appeals to you as you are browsing?
I rarely do, unless they are temptingly marked down, say four packets for a dollar. They generally offer an unimaginative selection with no consideration for the local climate.
Do you buy vegetable seeds in bulk where they scoop them out of seed bins, weigh them and put them in hand-marked envelopes?
I didn’t even know such places still existed.
Do you buy seeds for just vegetables, or just annual flowers? Do you buy seeds for perennial flowers?
I have done all three. At this point I don’t buy many seeds, because I don’t take good care of the seedlings. I try to limit myself to seeds that can be surface sown (broadcast) without much fuss. And usually my intent is that they self-sow in for future garden seasons.
Do you know what stratification and scarification are? Have you done either or both with seeds?
Stratification=cold treatment. Scarification=rough up the seed coat. I have used both techniques. Cold treatment is more likely needed with perennial seeds. Sometimes just giving seeds a good long soak works as well as scarification.
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?
There are sometimes those desperate cases where only one place has that must-have variety, and I have sometimes paid dearly and sometimes done without. But generally we try to order from no more that two or three places.
Do you buy more seeds than you could ever sow in one season?
Who doesn’t? It is the rare gardener who can manage to grow out all the seeds in a packet in one season, unless they are rare and expensive seeds.
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?
I now only direct sow. In this climate you have to start certain vegetables indoors or buy plants if you ever hope to grow a crop. I don’t know if it’s possible to get decent light from a northern sky in late winter, so we grow our indoor seedlings under lights.
Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers?
I did when the North American Cottage Garden Society was still in existence. That was a fun group. And I do a bit of swapping with my nearest garden buddy a mile and a half down the street.
Do you even buy seeds?
Not much anymore, because, as I’ve said, I don’t have enough time to properly care for the seedlings. I still buy plants, though.
Do you have a fear of seeds? Some gardeners don’t try seeds, why not?
No fear of seeds. What I do to seedlings is not pretty, so I’m trying to be kind by not getting started.
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.
I understand the rudiments of growing by seed. But I haven’t had to resort to Norman Deno’s book or gibberellic acid. Rock gardeners are the seed-starting fanatics of the world. I’m not in that class.
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? I was late to spreadsheets. I just discovered two or three years ago how handy they can be, and by then I was limiting my seed buying quite severely. But I use a spreadsheet to plan my plant purchases, and it’s quite the reality check. Now that Google offers an online spreadsheet program, it’s within the reach of every gardener with access to the internet, even if it’s only public access at the library.
Do you keep all the old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes, and baskets?
Sigh. Yes. Some I keep in the name of record-keeping, and some I keep just because they’re pretty. (I use them as bookmarks.) I especially like the packets designed by Mary Azarian for the Cook’s Garden.
Do you determine germination percentage for old seed?
I don’t think I ever have, but my daughter has.
Gosh, I feel like tagging someone. I’d like to see these questions answered by Don the Iowa Gardener, Chan the Bookish Gardener, and my sister Ro. And the Ranters Three. And Doug Green. And . . . I better quit. Hey, Carol, don’t you think you could turn this into a quiz, like Hanna has the flower quiz on This Garden is Illegal?
P. S. Don’t forget to check out all the posts in the Seed Starting and Saving category.