You might remember a few months ago I wrote that you shouldn’t start saving seeds to save money. I still stand by that first post.
But once you have acquired seed growing experience and are having success saving seeds, then saving seeds can save you money. On farms where you use a lot of seed for some crops, the savings from growing your own seed can be quite significant.
Today, we will talk about what seeds to choose to save money!
Let’s look at the two elements that make up the total amount you spend on seed: the volume you use and the price per seed. Let’s then look at how to plan your seed saving to optimize reducing your expenses.
What Crops Use A Lot Of Seed
Often higher seed costs are simply indicative of the sheer volume of seed that you use on your farm.
In most cases, the crops that use the most seed will be crops that are direct seeded to the garden.
Salad growers can go through a ridiculous amount of seed.
Each 150ft bed planted to 12 rows of a Brassica green at 30 seeds per foot is about 1/4 pound of seeds (about 50 000 seeds). With succession plantings almost every week of the summer, this can add up to a lot of seed!
The most common salad crops are lettuce, arugula, Brassica rapa greens (mizuna, tatsoi, tokyo bekana, etc.), and Brassica juncea mustards (ruby streaks, green wave, etc).
For the more intrepid grower, this list might extend to chicories, escaroles, amaranths, orach, shungiku, and many more uncommon but striking and possibly bitter/sour tasting plants.
Just about each root we eat comes from a single seed. This is true for turnips, radishes, carrots and beets. Potatoes are a different story.
A 300 foot row of carrots might take 6000 to 7000 seeds. A quarter acre of carrots (21 rows x 300 ft carrots) would be over 125 000 seeds or about a 1/2 pound of carrot seed.
The numbers aren’t as high as for salad greens but they do stack up.
Beans and peas
Beans and peas are significantly bigger than other garden seeds.
So though you don’t use as much individual seeds, each seed weighs so much more that the total weight ends up being high.
A 300ft row takes about 2 pounds of beans. A 1/4 acre (14 rows x 300ft) would be 28 pounds of beans.
Some Seeds Cost More Than Others
Now there are seeds that cost over $0.50 per seed. And it would be very appealing to save those seeds.
But most of the most expensive seeds are hybrids and hybrids don’t breed true to type. This is not where to start if you want to save money on your seed order.
Even in open pollinated seeds there are differences in the cost of different seeds.
Consider Tatsoi and Yukina Savoy. They are both small dark green round leaves in the Brassica rapa species. Yukina Savoy is a hardier and more vigourous. Tastsoi is a bit more tender. But when it comes to seed production both of these are comparable in production difficulty and seed yield potential. Yet Yukina Savoy seed costs twice the price of Tatsoi seed.
If you use comparable amounts of both Yukina Savoy and Tatsoi, and you were going to save the seed from only one Brassica rapa. Choosing the more expensive seed would have more financial impact.
Grow Multiple Years Of Seed At Once
You can likely keep seed from one harvest for 3-4 years without a major drop in germination rates or vigour.
This is especially true for lettuce, Brassica rapa, Brassica Juncea and arugula seed.
If you need $200 of a Brassica juncea mustard seed per year, growing enough Brassica juncea seed for 4 years will save you $800.
This also means you could grow a different Brassica juncea every year for 4 years.
Please note, that not all seeds store as long. In the case of beans and peas, I would aim for a 2 year supply.
The last column in your seed order is the total amount you spend on each seed variety.
Sort this column to see the highest values. This is where you spend the most money on seeds. Add the 5 seeds with the highest values to your Seed Saving List. (Make sure they are open pollinated varieties.)
I would love to know what seeds you’ve added to you list. Please share in the comments!
Here’s the next post in the series: Choose the right seeds for your climate!