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September 24, 2011

Veg Seeds- Why Cheapest isn’t Always Best

veg-seedsThese days we’re all looking for the best deals, so how do you get value for money when buying vegetables seeds?

Growing vegetables from the seed is a great way to save money, and reducing your shopping bills while enjoying the improved favors of gardening. And no super market offer you the choice that you find in the seed catalogs. So it’s no surprise that veg seed sales are rocketing.

But are you getting the best deal?

Vegetables seeds are not generally expense, but prices vary hugely between suppliers so if you’re buying in quantity, you’ll notice the difference. And if germination is poor, then your money is wasted however cheap the packets.

Choosing the best variety

Buying the cheapest seeds may save you money in the short term, but can be a false economy if, after spending time and effort growing the plants, they succumb to pests and disease before you can harvest them. So it’s worth taking time to choose the best vegetable varieties, as they will reward you with a better yield later on.

Look for F1 hybrid veg seeds, which are produced by crossing plants with desirable characteristics. Their offspring are often more vigorous than either parent, with a more uniform habit, so a good choice for beginners. This comes at a cost, as it takes the laboratory time to produce F1 seeds, so they cost more, and there are likely to be fewer in the packet. That said, you can’t harvest seeds from your old F1 plants, as they don’t come true- you need to buy new seeds each year, making them no good for home seed savers. Most commercial growers only grow F1 vegetables; because of their reliability and for certain crops such as cabbage, carriage and sweet corn, almost all available varieties are F1.

Pests and diseases are the bane of many vegetable growers’ lives – you grow your carrots and tomatoes all year, only for them to succumb to carrot root fly or blight before the harvest. Choose resistant varieties for the best chance of the decent crop, without resorting to pesticides. In most case this resistance is not absolute- resulting plants can still be affected by their particular pests or disease, but any damage to the crop would be much reduced when compared to non-resistant varieties.

Pests and diseases are not the only problem that can be countered by careful seed selection. Bolting, where leafy vegetables rapidly flower set seed causing leaves to taste bitter, it is a common problem in lettuce and spinach. Bolting is also common in beetroot and fennel, which don’t then form a decent root system. Choose resistant varieties for growing success with these vegetables.

Thrifty seed sewing tips

If your bargain seeds don’t germinate, then they’re no bargain, so follow these tips for sewing success.

Use high quality seed compost when sowing in trays or pots. Outside, prepare the soil thoroughly before sewing, taking out any large stones and rake it to a fine tilt.

So seeds sparsely or you’ll have to thin the seedlings later, which is both wasteful and may damage the roots of your vegetables. If you find difficult to sow small seeds, then mix them with fine horticultural sand. The more sand you add the further apart the seeds will be deposited. Sand also helps you to see where you sowed them as dark seeds are hard to see this in soil.

Sow large seeds and those of expensive F1 varieties by placing a single seed at set intervals- a method known as station sewing. For small seeded lettuce or spring onions, sow a pinch of seed  at each station. Try seed trays all and seed mats- biodegradable products that are impregnated with seeds, space correctly. Lay in seed drill or on a pot of compost, cover over and water.

When buying veg seeds both the number of seeds per pack and the price can vary between suppliers, so it’s worth checking before you buy. To see which offers best value for money, of course, many of us don’t have the room to grow large amounts of veg. Few gardeners grow tomatoes in any quantity, so what  is the point buying hundreds of seeds in a pack – variety is what matters. Lettuce on the other hand, is a crop you will probably sow every few weeks and harvest all year around, so it’s worth choosing the pack with most seeds. Once opened, seeds invariably decline so share with your friends or by smaller packs but you may pay more per seed.

This is a guest post by Neil from My Garden Hammock. A site dedicated to making the most of your outdoor space and taking the time to enjoy it to the fullest. The site also provides a wealth of information on garden hammocks as well as indoor hammocks.

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