Buying Seeds From Garden Catalogs–Or Even If You Do Everything Right, Things Can Still Die And It Won’t Be Your Fault

So I’ve already talked about some of my favorite garden catalogs like Baker Creek and linked to Margaret Roach’s blog with the list of all the organic seed companies. What I want to talk about now is why you might want to buy seeds from a catalog instead of from the local rack in your grocer/hardware store/big box stores.

Seeds are everywhere and they have been for quite some time. For those of us that have been avid seed starters, there’s nothing better than poring over huge selections of seeds, both in person at the garden center and in all the lovely catalogs that come to the house.

As a general rule, however, unless it’s a real impulse purchase, I only buy seeds through the mail.  Why?  For the most part, I think that the conditions where they have been stored, and the conditions where they are kept are more tightly controlled.  And that gives me a better chance of success with those seeds.

Because let’s face it, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with seeds.  They need to be kept evenly most but not overly wet–a difficult thing to achieve. And even if you do achieve that, there is always that nasty fungal disease, damping off, to contend with. It’s not your fault–it just happens.  Certain seeds are more prone to it than others and there are certain things you can do to try to avoid it but after I lost 9 out of 10 trays of seedlings one season to it I dramatically cut back my seed starting, re-educated myself about seeds (never mid about heartbreak!) and learned that some things just aren’t your fault.

Maybe that’s the biggest lesson a mature gardener can learn–even if you do everything right, stuff still happens.

It doesn’t just happen with seeds, although at the most elemental level, it starts there.  It can happen with plants, it can happen with trees and shrubs–basically it happens all through the gardening process.  And inexperienced gardeners always blame themselves.  This is so very wrong.

Just because a plant dies–or a seed fails to grow–it’s not always your fault.  Sometimes it is. Sometimes you didn’t water enough, or you watered too much.  But barring those two basic things (and failing to notice some disease or pest destroying the plant) very little else is your fault.

So if a seed fails to sprout, what did you do wrong? How is that your fault?  Most likely it isn’t. Most likely the seed wasn’t stored at the right temperature or harvested properly or perhaps you buried it too deeply but it can often overcome that.

No, if a seed doesn’t come up, more likely that not, that fault is the seed company’s.  So choose your seeds wisely.  They’re not that expensive.

And if you do buy them in a store, try to avoid a rack that’s in front of a drafty door or a sunny window or any extremes in temperature that might cause the seeds to bake or freeze when they’re not supposed to.  Seeds aren’t fool-proof.

But the good news is that for a couple of dollars, when seeds grow, you can harvest enough to feed you, your family, and your whole neighborhood. You will probably even have enough to give away to a food bank.

So by all means, grow seeds! It’s definitely worth it!




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