For anyone new to gardening the priority will be sourcing a piece of ground and finding out where to get seeds. That is literally all it takes to get started growing your own food. It’s like magic! Dirt, even in pots, can be easy and cheap, or even free. But where are the best places to get seeds?
Those who have the time and resources will be able to order seeds from one of the many excellent seed companies that exist. Mother Earth News recommends 15 companies on their website. Walkerland has a thorough listing of Canadian organic seed companies. But you aren’t here to order seeds, are you? You want to know how to find seeds when you can’t buy them.
Ask Friends and Fellow Gardeners
The best way to find seeds is to connect with any acquaintance who is a known gardener. Most experienced growers keep a portion of their own seeds, and they often have extras. Some gardeners might be willing to barter for some of their stash, or will be willing to point you in the right direction.
Don’t assume that your gardening friend will just give away seeds for free—it does take work to develop a collection. But they are a great place to start. You could also tap into a larger community, such as your place of work, church, or community club.
Ask Where to Find Seeds on Social
Maybe you don’t have any generous gardeners in your life. However, people from all walks of life enjoy gardening, and it’s almost certain there are some avid growers in your area.
Try searching for Facebook groups that are related to self-sufficient living in your area. Around my region I am part of groups related to gardening, small-scale farming, and foraging. If you can’t find any specific groups try putting an ISO on any local buy-sell-trade group.
If you can’t find anything locally, take a gander at larger groups that are specific to helping their members find seeds. Seeds can be sent through the mail. There are actually lots of groups built around seed saving with passionate hobbyists.
Find a Seed Bank or Seed Swap
As interest grows in sustainable lifestyles seed swaps are starting to pop up in a variety of communities. Search local events. Sometimes there is a mix of vendors with a combination of free seeds and seeds for sale or swap. These events are often organized by local seed banks, which is also a great place to look.
Google “seed library in *my community*” or “seed bank in *my region*.” These organizations are often non-profit and are sometimes run entirely by volunteers who are eager to see new gardeners engaged with seed saving and preserving rare and local varieties. Sometimes you are required or encouraged to return seeds/produce at the end of the year.
Ask Around for Expired Seeds
Most seeds last for several years, depending on storage conditions. As time passes the germination rate goes down, but most will still be relatively viable. Try checking with a local garden centre to see when they clear out their old stock. If you get them for free you can plant a little more prolifically then normal, and are still likely to reap a good crop.
This method can also be helpful if you’re asking online or to your personal acquaintances.
Save Your Own, or Save From Local Produce
This idea is one that takes some planning and possibly a little bit of knowledge. However, if you’re already growing your own vegetables then that offers a prime opportunity to collect your own seeds. Some vegetables are considerably easier to save seeds from than others. Here is an article on 10 things to know if you want to start saving seeds. It’s a good read, before you head down the internet rabbit hole.
A sneakier idea is to buy farmer’s market vegetables with the intent of saving seed. This can work for veg like squash, garlic, and tomatoes, but not for carrots, beets, etc. Because you will, hopefully, be buying straight from the farmer you can find out about the variety and growing practice. Only buy heirloom or open-pollinated plants if you’re hoping to use seeds from them.
Check Dollar Stores and Supermarkets
Ok, yes. You’ll still have to buy seeds from these resources. However, if the traditional seed companies are sold out, or you don’t have time to wait for an order, then they are worth checking.
Very often the seeds from a dollar store, supermarket, or hardware store are hybrid and not top-quality. However, they are cheap and should still grow perfectly reasonable veg.
Help Others Know Where to Get Seeds
And there you are. I suggest starting early in rounding up your seeds, so that you are ready to go as soon as it is time to put in your seedlings. See my post on How to Calculate When to Plant Seeds. Once you’ve been bitten by the seed bug, there will always be other opportunities to add to your collection.
Once you’ve built up a seed collection, share the love. The more people who are growing heirloom vegetable the more secure our sources and food sheds will be.