Seedy Times?

“In these uncertain times” is a phrase you may have heard more often lately; as we all know, uncertainties make it hard to plan for the future. During uncertain times, investors may move investments, households may stock up on toilet paper, and (we have learned the hard way) gardeners snag SEEDS. As far as food goes, if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to buy it, you might as well grow it, right? During the pandemic, people stuck at home started gardening.

When life is uncertain, people don’t want to worry about empty shelves at the grocery store. A constructive way for individuals to deal with fear and uncertainty is to exert some kind of control over the situation. Many have accomplished this by planting gardens, where in the past, they might not have done so; making the most of quarantine by growing and then preserving their own food. Anyone who cans will tell you how difficult it has been to find canning lids.

In planning the gardens here at Wellfield, we have discovered seeds are going FAST. It started with our flower growers. We planned earlier than we did last year, and we still had to make substitutions because the varieties we wanted disappeared quickly. People who have been stuck at home have wanted to beautify their surroundings, and they started shopping early! According to an article in Country Living, “Flowers can chase away anxieties, worries and the blues, making people feel less depressed, troubled or agitated.” A study conducted by Park & Mattson, cited in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers had lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety and fatigue. In short, flowers just make us feel better.

After completing our plans for the flower gardens at Wellfield, we turned our attention to the vegetable gardens. We encountered the same issue. Some seed varieties were already gone, and many more were getting snatched up FAST. Along with flowers soothing our souls, biting into a fresh, juicy tomato picked straight from the vine or the sweet nostalgia of sampling peas as they are being shelled can be a comfort. 

Somewhere around March of last year, at a time when sales usually start to plateau, seed sales kept going up. That trend has continued. “We broke every sales record we have ever had. Bigger than anything we’ve experienced, even during Y2K,” says Nikos Kavanya, branch coordinator of Fedco, one of the seed suppliers we use at Wellfield.

If your desire is to be truly self-sustaining and you want to harvest seed from what you grow, you should purchase open-pollinated or heirloom varieties. Seed Savers Exchange specializes in collecting open-pollinated varieties, because seeds harvested from hybrids may not stay true to type. According to Philip Kauth of the Seed Savers Exchange, “We’re here for people to get seeds, grow them, save them, share them—and put the control of their food into their own hands.”

Do not delay planning your gardens this year. Popular and unusual varieties are becoming scarce. Demand is so great that some seed companies, like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, are only taking home gardener orders on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Additional processing time, depending on the company, can also take anywhere from several days to as much as 6-8 weeks, so plan early and be patient. Soon we will start our seedlings, waiting for snow and ice to melt.

Amy Myers, Lead Horticulturist

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