Thursday, February 2, 2012
Groundhog Day and seed buying
It's Groundhog Day and though Phil saw his shadow and went back into his burrow for another six weeks, I think it is time to prepare for our vegetable garden in earnest.
Were do you buy seed? Last year and the year before I found some great seed prices at discount stores. I do think this seed sale, pictured above, at WalMart was "unbeatable." It is hard to know if they are leftover seeds from the year before or not. Really, for twenty cents a pack what does it matter? There aren't very many seeds in these packages but since a normal pack of seeds runs anywhere from $1.99 to $2.49 each, you can buy ten to fifteen packs of seeds for one regular-priced seed pack and if they don't all come up, you don't have a large investment. If economics is your only concern, this is the best way to buy seeds, though you may find a limited variety of seeds on sale.
If you are a brand-conscious person, buying seeds by brand only is a good thing, especially if money is no object. In the long run you may be paying for guaranteed success, and that can't be bad.
Then there are heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds can be saved from your harvest, so you don't have to buy seeds the next year (or as long as you continue to save them, year-after-year, from each year's harvest). This is a good idea for many types of seeds, but there are varieties of vegetables that cross-pollinate too easily and that makes saving seeds almost impossible.
One of those types of vegetables is squash. If you save squash seeds that were grown next to a different variety of seeds, you may come out with something very different than your original squash. That is because bees and other insects don't only pollinate one variety of squash when they are out collecting pollen, but all of them. They flit around from plant to plant, without a care for your cross-pollination woes! I have seen my father save seed from year to year with great success, especially his green beans and tomatoes. I have also seen big problems with his squash seeds. They were awful.
I have heard that heirloom tomatoes are very good from saved seeds because even if there is a little cross-pollination, your outcome is usually better than something like squash. You should track, or keep a record of your heirlooms to see if the fruit is as good as the year before. You can then judge for yourself if saving seeds is worth it.
I prefer organic seeds but there usually isn't as much to choose locally, so I am OK with using some non-organic seeds. I just grow all seeds like they are organic from planting to harvesting so that I can at least say they are grown without chemicals. I do think growing them organically from seeds is better than buying non-organic plants from the store. That is why planting my own seeds is very important to me.
Also, the starter peat trays go on sale about this time each year. I like to use them because they are so easy.
If you can't find trays that have organic soil, you can reuse them from a previous season and buy organic soil, rather than peat pots to start seeds. First be sure to wash the tray with a mild bleach solution so that any leftover bacteria won't infect your new seeds. The bleach mixture should be one part bleach to 10 parts water. Then rinse well with water.
After that, they will need a good light source. It is too chilly outdoors to grow seeds right now so a good grow light would help to make sturdier plants to transplant in the garden. I will have more on that later, plus I am working on a seedling list for flowers and vegetables that I will publish soon.
Until then, I wish you success with your seed shopping, whether it is online at the local hardware, feed store, or at a discount store, seeds sales will be popping up everywhere. I hope we all find some great seed deals.