Glass Gem Corn from seeds bought at Seedy Saturday. (Mary Lowther photo)

Column Dig In: Seeds: you get what you pay for

After a day’s Christmas baking I look forward to leafing through the new West Coast Seeds catalog

By Mary Lowther

After a hard day’s Christmas baking I look forward to putting my feet up and leafing through the new West Coast Seeds catalog. Salt Spring Seeds has theirs online but I always order the hard copy they print because I like to make circles and arrows and dog-eared pages to help me decide on what seeds to buy.

Since shipping costs get added to my bill, I order the bulk of my seeds from these two local companies only, although I know I’ll pick up an irresistible packet or two at Seedy Saturday, like the Glass Gem Corn I bought two years ago. They weren’t prolific but did produce enough shiny, multi coloured cobs to delight my granddaughters.

Seedy Saturdays bring a festive air to buying seeds and I enjoy the atmosphere, but my seed-buying plan occurs more productively in the quiet of my kitchen where I can spread out my list of seeds and my new catalogs.

Seeds deteriorate rapidly when not kept in good storage — the drier and cooler, the better. Well, freezing might not be such a good idea. Seeds bought directly from Salt Spring or West Coast come out of their cold storage, get sealed up with desiccant and reach me within a few days through the mail.

Many of these packets have more seeds than I can use in a year, so I save them for succeeding years until the germination rate plummets to 50 per cent. At that point most of the seeds have lost vitality and aren’t usually worth growing out. The only seeds I’ve been unable to save effectively are spinach, so I was heartened to read recently that spinach has a reputation for not storing well. David loves spinach so every year I buy new packets. Go figure. The man hates squash and don’t even mention broccoli, but he’d fight Popeye for the last of the spinach.

West Coast and Salt Spring rarely offer sales but you get what you pay for. I would rather buy fewer packets of quality seeds that will produce decent crops than many of cheaper quality.

Some gardeners may wonder why their crops didn’t do well and think they must have done something wrong, when it was the cheap seeds to blame. Besides, with strong, vital seeds you can get several years’ plantings, thus lowering your cost, and if you grow the last batch out to seed you’ve got your own fresh supply.

I have several crops I’ve grown out to seed and expect never to have to buy again.

Now, excuse me while I go curl up with a lovely cup of tea and consult with the cat over seed catalogs. There’s a new strain of catnip she is trying to interest me in.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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