Gardening Sowing Seeds

Seed Packs: Every Seed Counts

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With dozens of suppliers at a Seedy Saturday, how to choose?

Are you overwhelmed by the vast selection of seeds on the market? There has never been more variety available to home gardeners than there is today! So how are you to choose the best supplier when the same variety is offered by 4 or 5 different companies?

It’s already difficult in a garden center, where there are racks from 2 or 3 different companies on display, but when you go to a Seedy Saturday or Seedy Weekend, where there are a dozen or more vendors, how are you supposed to choose? And if you shop online, you’ve now got hundreds of sources to choose from! Consider your mind boggled!

The price is definitely at factor, of course, but also, why not also consider the number of seeds in the pack? What appears to be a bargain might actually cost you more if it contains only a few seeds.

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Some seed packs indicate the number of seeds.

Some seed companies show the number of seeds or the approximate number (actual counts of very fine seeds are hard to do) right on the seed packet. And if you go to a Seedy Saturday or Seedy Weekend, the seed supplier will be right there in front of you and you can ask them. You can also try to feel the number of seeds in the pack (this only works with fairly large seeds). Or give the pack a shake and you can sometimes estimate what’s going on inside.

One Pack, Three Years

Of course, most seed suppliers include quite a few seeds in each pack, more than the ordinary home gardener would need for the season, but a few are very stingy. I know of one who includes only 5 or 6 tomato seeds per pack. When I asked about this, I was told that it was because that was an ample amount for the average home gardener. Maybe so, but if you have a large garden – or are seriously interested in canning tomatoes! – that won’t be enough.

Besides, when there are more seeds than you need in the immediate, you can store the excess seeds for the following year, or even the year after that. (Almost all seeds will keep at least 3 years). In fact, I personally count on that: when I buy a seed packet, I’m assuming I have 3 years worth of seeds inside. If I don’t, I feel cheated. Suppliers that aren’t generous with their seeds don’t get my business very long.

Of course, there are a dozen things to consider when you buy seeds (the plant’s appearance or taste, disease resistance, adaptability to local conditions, organic source or not, etc.). Just remember that the number of seeds in the pack is one of them.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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