A reader wondered why vegetable and flower seeds cost so much after seeing some of them listed at $6.99 for 15 seeds.
It’s true that some seeds seem to be exorbitantly priced. It takes a bit of daring to add a $7 packet of seeds to an already crowded seed order. What if they don’t germinate? What if the plant fails to produce?
Nevertheless, the expensive seeds may be worth it, depending on your goal. Often these seeds are new hybrid introductions and the quantity is limited. Or they could be such a fantastic new product and the seed growers figure that they can boost the price because there will be a strong demand. Some gardeners are early adopters who want the newest products in their garden and are willing to pay any price and other gardeners like to test out new varieties.
Still, some of the older seeds may be pricey too. This year I am paying $5.40 for a packet of Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers when I can also buy them for $1.45. Over the years, I have grown an assortment of the cheaper wax pepper seeds from various companies and have mostly been disappointed. Because this variety is an heirloom and open-pollinated, it would seem that it can be easily grown. However, in order to get a true-to-variety seed at harvest, the open-pollinated plants must be segregated from the other peppers in the field by a considerable distance.
I don’t believe all seed companies conform to these requirements because in many seasons, the “wax” peppers seeds I got produced anything but wax peppers. Therefore, I am happy to pay more for a tried and true seed that I know will be true to its nature especially as wax peppers are hard to find even in large farmer’s markets.
Likewise, I will pay $6.30 for a packet of Fourth of July tomatoes. Developed and licensed by Burpee, they are the only company to sell this seed. We have found them to be reliable and heavy producers of delicious early tomatoes, often by July 4 and always by mid-July. To us, that is worth it. Perhaps one day the patent or license to sell this variety will be extended and the price will decrease.
For something like snap peas, I buy a less expensive product and just accept that a small percentage of plants are not the variety as listed. We plant a lot of peas so the “loss” is minimal.
Some seed companies seem to be pricier on all of their products. A seed pack that regularly sells for $1.95 or $2.45 can be listed for $4 and up. In some cases, the seed company may have more expenses in growing the seed. They may have more employees and spend considerable time in seed development and pass those costs on to every seed they sell. The company may pay their employees better or have a larger infrastructure to support. Or they could just have an excellent reputation and can, therefore, charge more and so they do.
Fortunately, there are ways to cut costs. Check different catalogs and you can get some incredibly inexpensive seeds. Local stores often offer a discount on seeds of 10 to 15 percent and if you buy locally, you will save on shipping too. One excellent way to save money is to order with a friend. Many seed packets have 50 or more seeds in them and so you could share with several friends. Or better yet, start extra seedlings and sell them to eager gardeners. No matter what you pay, those seeds will give you hours of enjoyment or bushels of food.
Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivating firstname.lastname@example.org.