Carol at May Dreams Garden has asked some seedy questions - about starting plants from seed - and several bloggers have taken her up and blogged about their seed habits. Since last year was my first year starting anything from seed (although I've scattered seeds in the garden before), I figure I'll do my best to answer her questions and maybe learn a little about myself.
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?
Last year, I purposely ordered from as many seed catalogs as possible so that I could compare quality, shipping time and planting instructions. I was surprised to receive treated seeds from one company - surprised because there was nothing in the catalog that warned buyers that they were selling treated seed. I haven't browsed the internet for seeds, mostly because I spend my dark Minnesota winter evenings drooling over the seed catalogs themselves. I like being able to spread out the catalogs and get a good idea of what each company has.
Do you buy seeds from 'bricks and mortar' stores and get whatever appeals to you as you are browsing?
Before last year, the only seeds I purchased were those that didn't need to be started early (beans, cucumbers, lettuce, etc.), and they all came from a garden center. I'm lucky to have a few good garden centers that have a lot of choices. When purchasing vegetable seeds, I'm pretty focused - I don't do much impulse buying. However, last year, in my rush to experiment with anything I could start under lights, I bought more than I ever could have planted.
Do you buy vegetable seeds in bulk where they scoop them out of seed bins, weigh them and put them in hand-marked envelopes?
Nope, I've only done this with grass seed. My garden just isn't big enough. However, this year I will be buying some prairie seed in bulk - probably from Prairie Restorations.
Do you buy seeds for just vegetables, or just annual flowers? Do you buy seeds for perennial flowers?
Most of my seed purchases in the bast have been for vegetables, herbs and a few annual flowers. This year I have two large areas to plant with native flowers, and I'm thinking that I'll try rudbeckia, coneflower and monarda from seed. That way I'll have a chance for flowers the first year (rather than direct sowing everything) and will save a ton of money.
Do you know what stratification and scarification are? Have you done either or both with seeds?
I know what they are (stratification = cold treatment, scarification = rough up the seeds to help germination), but have only used scarification on a few seed types, mainly morning glories.
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?
I buy from whoever has the seeds I want. Last year I bought seed from eight different companies so that I could test them out (and receive their catalogs again this year!). I will drop a few that I used last year - probably The Cook's Garden (here's why) and Harris (they of the unannounced treated seed) - but will be adding at least one new one - Fedco.
Do you buy more seeds than you could ever sow in one season?
Oh yes - the full grocery bag of opened and unopened seed packs in my pantry is proof of this.
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?
As mentioned earlier, I started sowing flats of seedlings this year. I had a pretty untraditional set-up at work (pictured at the top of this post). Because I own my own business, I decided to use some extra shelf space in our "dead computer" area to set up my light contraptions. It worked well and I'll do it again this year.
Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers?
No, that will probably be the next step. I definitely plan to save some bean seeds for 2008, as these seem to be the easiest to save. The only problem is that I grow many different varieties in a relatively small space, and I don't know which things cross with others. I'll just need to get another book (or three!) so I can learn more about it.
Do you even buy seeds?
Do you have a fear of seeds? Some gardeners don't try seeds, why not?
I had a fear of starting seeds in flats before I did it. I think I didn't want to go through all the extra work with the heartbreaking possibility that I might kill them. I don't "do" houseplants - I tend to forget about them - so I figured I wouldn't do well with seeds.
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'm only beginning to learn about seeds. For example, this year I started cucumbers early in seed flats. I'm pretty sure that they grow almost as fast if you direct sow in the first week of June. There may be a week lag, but that's probably it.
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 plan to this year! Last year I kept a notebook, but didn't do so well in recording germination times. Since my seeds are at work, I would forget to record information in my notebook, which was at home.
Do you keep all the old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes, and baskets?
They're mostly all in a grocery bag in the basement. I would really like some nice tin boxes to keep them in - a project I'll get to someday.
Do you determine germination percentage for old seed?
I tried to last year. I was good with the tomatoes, not so good with other things. This year I resolve to do better!