Welcome back to Misfit Gardening and Owning Burton Farm’s Series on Frugal Gardening! We’re going to discuss where to get your seeds for super cheap (or even free!) in this post. FOR FREE. Ok, so you’ve got all your seed starting containers piling up and now you need seeds to go in them. But don’t just go out and order a bunch of seeds. I’m going to let you in on some great secrets for finding seeds for your garden for little to no money at all.
Do you already have seeds?
Any half-used or old packs lying around? Don’t toss them out without testing them to see if they’ll still germinate. I’m growing peppers this year from a 2012 batch of seeds—they’re five years old!
Save Your Own!
Look in your refrigerator and on your counter. That cucumber, tomato, melon–anything with seeds has potential. Lay the seeds out on a paper towel, removing as much pulp as possible. Let them dry on a paper towel and plant them in your seed starting pots.
*CAVEAT: Many of the varieties of produce you will find in your grocery stores are hybrids, meaning they’ve been bred to resist pests and diseases, but generally are sterile and may not germinate if you save the seeds. But what do you have to lose from trying?
They’re selling produce and you’re already buying it. How about instead of composting the seeds, you save them to try and grow your own? Or, if you’ve been looking for heirloom and organic seeds, but don’t want to pay for the ones in the packages, you could visit the farmer’s market, where they could have any number of varieties. If they have a variety you’re interested in, buy one piece of the produce, harvest ALL of the seeds (which is likely more than you’d have gotten in a single packet), and eat the vegetable. Bonus: what you buy locally is proven to grow successfully in your zone.
Phone a Friend
Do you know someone who grows the most amazing tomatoes ever? They probably have a pile of tomatoes and would be glad to share with you.
A friend of mine gave us a Minnesota Midget Melon a few years ago from her garden. It was her first foray into heirloom gardening, and she grew so many there was no way she and her husband could have eaten them all. It was so delicious, we made sure to save the seeds to plant the next year. And the next. I don’t know if she planted a garden this year, but I’m thinking about packaging some up and sending them to her as her original melon’s great grandkids! Ha!
Know someone giving up gardening?
(PERISH THE THOUGHT!) They probably have seeds they’d be glad to give you rather than tossing them away. Plant them!
Botanical Gardens have events throughout the year that may involve a seed opportunity. Check your local community botanical garden’s calendar – most have one available online – and see what’s happening in your area.
Big Box Stores
- Nursery Freebies – PLEASE take this with a grain of salt. Your mileage may vary, but if you don’t ask, you never know.Sometimes you’ll run across plants in the flats that need a couple of deadheads taken off. If you happen to pinch a couple of dead plants, you help them make their wares look better. Please run it by the clerk and ask for permission to take the spent flowers. If you have permission, it’s not theft, it’s free seeds. Marigolds are super-easy to deadhead. You can also pinch peppers that are shriveling on the plant.
- Workshops – Many big box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot have regular hands-on classes, usually on weekends, for you to learn basic household skills. While these are often free, some of them may have a nominal fee to cover the cost of supplies. Sometimes they teach you about planting, and provide seeds or plants that you get to take home. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn something new and make new friends with the same interests as you.
Many of them have meetups and exchange seeds, produce, tips, etc. There are actually groups of seed savers and sharers who will exchange seeds with you or let you try some of theirs. You might find a Local Seed Exchange with some digging, but in 1.3 seconds, I found this link to a Facebook seed exchange on the Google: FREE SEED EXCHANGE. LINK.
If you’ve tried a seed exchange, I want to know about it! Tell me in the comments or send me an email at Erica@owningburtonfarm.com.
Do you have friends who are also interested in gardening? Do you have “prepper” friends who want to grow their supply of seeds? Host a gathering and swap seeds to increase your variety and future seed-saving power.
ASK for them!
Is it your birthday? Have you been very good this year? Never forget the power of the ASK! You’ll have seeds aplenty! And…bonus! No more ugly Christmas sweaters!
Dollarseed.com sources Non-GMO, Heirloom, and Organic varieties, so you know it’s good stuff, for a DOLLAR. This was my first year to try Dollar Seed and I have been satisfied with my purchases! We were able to buy some of the same varieties we wanted from Baker Creek, but for about a third of the price. They also have a tomato lover’s variety packet for $2.00, which has at least ten seeds each of ten different heirloom tomato seeds! They also sell bulk quantity seeds for those who are interested.
Buy seeds with a friend and split the inventory.
This could work a couple of ways:
- You buy a pack and your friend buys a different pack. Share, and you both get two types of seeds for the price of one pack of seeds.
- You and your friend buy one pack and split them, for half price seeds.
Yes, your first harvest could be smaller, because you didn’t have the whole pack of seeds, but many of us don’t use all the seeds to begin with. This ensures that you both have fresh seeds. Then you collect and save your own seeds from that year’s harvest. I promise, you’ll have plenty of seeds when you get to that point.
Dollar Stores and Chain Stores
Believe it or not, even the dollar store sells seeds. It may not be a super huge variety, and it may or may not be organic & heirloom, but they’re real seeds that produce real foods that you can eat just the same. And you control whether or not chemicals and pesticides get sprayed on them.
Your local Farmers Co-Operative
Just browsing the County Co-Op makes me want to BUY ALL THE SEEDS! They tend to have larger quantities for very little money (I’m pretty sure we bought over two cups of turnip seeds for $4.99). and ours displays theirs in clear plastic zip bags with tiny labels, so you get to see all the pretty varieties of seeds. However, many CO-OPS do not specify whether or not they are heirloom, organic, or Non-GMO seeds, so if it’s important to you, be sure to ask before you buy them.
We’ve ordered from Baker Creek for Burton Farms for four or five years now, and have always been satisfied with the quality and quantity our purchase provides. Many of the seeds are in packages costing between $2.25 and $3.00. This year, we splurged and bought a packet ofGlass Gem corn for $5.00 and some of that Painted Serpent Melon , but since we also found Dollarseed.com for organic, heirloom and non-GMO seeds, we saved enough money on some of the same varieties, that we still spent less and got more seeds than ever this year.
Other ways to get free plants:
County Extension Events
Every year in February, my county extension office has a free tree day. They seriously just give away free fruit trees. It’s madness and they don’t last long, but they’re free. When’s yours?
Arbor Day Foundation
They send out a variety of ten free trees for a small membership fee.
Sign up for Gardening Catalogs
There are seed companies that will “gift” you $25.00 in merchandise on your first order. Free plants? Sign me up!
Speaking of catalogs, many plant and bulb catalogs have “one penny sales” to entice you to buy plants. Frequently, the deal is, buy one at full price, get another one for a penny. Ok, ok, that makes me feel like I got tricked. But when I reframe it to “half price plants!” then I get happy again. Don’t forget, if you don’t want two plants, you can phone a friend. Buy both, split the cost and both of you gets a half-price plant.
Don’t forget about plants you can re-grow for free:
Celery, Pineapple, Cabbage, Avocado…Would you be interested in a post on these? Let us know!
You can find free and cheap seeds just about anywhere. You know I’m a big fan of Amazon (they have over 112,000 items listed under a search for “seeds”!!) But as you can see here, there are plenty of other places to get your hands on seeds for your garden.
Did we miss any? Let me know where you found your seeds in the comments below.