Posted on

where can i buy plant seeds

7 Best Places to Buy Vegetable Seeds Online

Because there’s never been a better time to start a vegetable garden.

It’s official: the homegrown vegetable garden is making a major comeback this spring. With many of us spending more time at home and grocery shopping requiring extra precautions, many Americans are starting their own vegetable gardens, some for the very first time. According to Jack Whettam, sales and marketing manager at Hudson Valley Seed Co, orders have increased “by orders of magnitude” this year, and other seed companies report similar spikes in sales.

While many seed companies experienced shipping delays or had to take a short break to catch up on shipments earlier this April, most are currently back to accepting new orders. Translation: now is a great time to order and start planting all of those tomato, zucchini, and eggplant seeds. Buy vegetable seeds online at the sources below, then consult our month-by-month guide to learn what to plant when.

There's never been a better time to start a vegetable garden. Here's where to buy vegetable seeds online so you can grow your own at-home garden.

Shopping for plants and seeds? Get the best deals without forking out too much

As the warmer weather turns our thoughts toward horticultural matters, the Guardian’s gardening editor looks at the best ways to shop around

A growing interest: Jane Perrone in her garden. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

A growing interest: Jane Perrone in her garden. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Last modified on Tue 28 Nov 2017 22.35 GMT

W hether it’s an impulse-bought tray of pansies at the supermarket or a carefully chosen collection of shrubs ordered from a specialist nursery, buying plants for the garden can be hit and miss. The average British household spends £47 a year on garden plants, according to research from the Horticultural Trades Association, so even if you’re not a keen gardener it is worth genning up on where to look for the best deals and the best-quality plants and seeds.

Mail order

You can have everything from mature trees to bedding plants delivered to your door, and there are many pluses to buying plants by post: you can obtain treasures you would never find in your local garden centre, you don’t have to spend time trudging around plant displays, and you can bulk-order more plants and trees than you could possibly fit in your car.

However, mail order is not a great choice if you are out at work all day and unable to take delivery in person, or can’t unpack and plant your items straightaway. Plants that sit around in their boxes don’t survive for long.

The key to good mail order is to do your research: that flowering shrub may seem like a good deal, but grown in a 9cm pot it may be years before it’s glorifying your garden. Charles Williams, managing director of mail order firm Burncoose Nurseries, says: “The reason that mail order gets something of a bad image is that people don’t understand the difference between ordering five plug liners for £3.99 and ordering a £12 shrub in a two or three litre pot. We are selling finished plants, which is why we are more expensive than those who don’t.” For this reason, the Burncoose website shows plants at different stages of growth, and displays an image of the plant in the advertised pot size.

Immature plants are usually sent as plug plants or in 9cm pots. It’s an inexpensive option but requires you to pot plants on and nurture them until they are mature enough to plant out. Mature plants, usually sent out in two or three litre pots, do cost more but can usually be planted straight into the garden and will establish more quickly.

And even though packaging design has improved greatly in recent years, fragile young plants are difficult to get through the delivery system without damage. I was recently sent six tomato seedlings through the post, and even though the packaging was state of the art, only half survived the journey.

Among the most successful items to buy mail order are bare-root trees, roses and perennials, which as the name suggests arrive without a pot and the roots bare of soil. They are easy to package and generally transport extremely well. The downside is that these are limited to the bare-root planting season (generally October to April).

Williams points out that the great move forward in the mail order market in recent years has been the competition in the courier market. “The number of errors that couriers make today is infinitely less than they made 10 years ago because it’s not worth their while to get a bad reputation, and they know it costs them money if they don’t fulfil the contract.”

If you like the idea of buying from specialist nurseries but don’t want to use mail order, there are many specialist plant fairs around the country. Visit Rare Plant Fair or Plant Hunters’ Fairs to find one near you.

Seeds

Seed packets are the ideal mail order purchase: low postage and packing costs, a low risk of being damaged in transit, and access to a much greater array of varieties than you’d find in the average garden centre.

Prices for seeds can vary wildly. I shopped around for the compact courgette variety Patio Star online, and of the six UK seed suppliers I found that offered this variety, the cheapest per seed was Kent-based Nicky’s Nursery at £1.65 for 10 seeds, and the most expensive was Suttons Seeds at £2.99 for six. Check the seed packet size when buying: some contain far more seed than you’d be able to sow in a year on the average garden or allotment, and not all seed remains viable beyond a year or two.

Online seed company MoreVeg offer smaller seed packet sizes suited to gardeners who don’t want to sow row after row of one crop, and promise that more than half of their 1,100 varieties cost 50p a packet.

There are also places to buy more unusual seeds, too. Join Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library (there are membership fees) and you can choose six packets of unusual heritage vegetables from their catalogue each spring, as well as help to support the work of this charity. You can also track down open-pollinated varieties of vegetables that allow you to save your own seed from the plants you grow, saving you money in future years – try the Real Seed Catalogue, and Brown Envelope Seeds, based in west Cork, Ireland.

If ornamentals are more your thing, check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s seed scheme for members, where you can order up to 12 packets of seed grown in RHS gardens.

As the warmer weather turns our thoughts toward horticultural matters, the Guardian’s gardening editor looks at the best ways to shop around