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Save Money in 2009: Grow Vegetables from Seed

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: save money, seeds, gardens, planting, farm, vegetables,

 The numbers are in for 2008 and they look good for the seed industry. They look even better for folks who want to grow vegetables from seed and save money in 2009.

1933 Oscar Will Seed Catalog front Cover

By some estimates, garden seed, especially vegetable seed sales, were up by anywhere from 40 percent to well over 100 percent compared with recent years. In fact, some industry watchdog organizations suggest that seed companies in North America and much of Europe experienced their best year ever in 2008. We’re talking record seed sales … AND they project another record for 2009.

So, what is the fuss all about?

Easy, people are looking for a safer food supply, while adapting to a tighter economic outlook. If you have never grown a vegetable garden, or started your own garden plants, there’s still plenty of time to save money in 2009 by growing your vegetables from seed. If you are like me, you will be amazed, and thrilled, by all the different varieties of vegetable species from which to choose. If you are looking for that little early-maturing tomato called Bison from your youth, you can find seed and save money by growing your own in 2009.

 Victory Garden offering from the Oscar Will Catalog in 1944.

Even the American government recognized the value that a garden-growing public could offer to a war-embroiled and slow economy. They no doubt also recognized the community building value in making it easy for folks to grow with one another in the garden patch. At those times, it was much more important to feed the folks at home and share the excess with others than to worry about E. coli-infested spinach … oh, that’s right, we hadn’t pushed our agricultural production models so far, back then, that E. coli and other fairly benign microbes had yet to figure out how to be pathogenic.

Our government called those programs War Gardens during World War I and Victory Gardens during World War II. I don’t know what to call the new wave of gardening frenzy, but I do know that it is exciting, and will, no doubt, play a role in healing our culture.

When you consider that a package of tomato seed might set you back a couple of bucks, and that you might get 50 viable seeds in that pack, it doesn’t take much math to figure out that you can grow hundreds of pounds of tomato fruit from that $2 pack of seeds. Even if you factor in the value of a little labor (it can be hand labor, mind you), a small piece of ground, a source of supplemental water and a few miscellaneous supplies, those tomatoes will be cheaper than cheap. But more importantly, the growing, nurturing, eating and processing will pay that elusive dividend of extreme satisfaction; no amount of store-bought or farm-stand-bought tomatoes CAN EVER bring that. Farm-stand tomatoes, when grown locally, do have added value in the dividend department, because at least you are supporting the local economy at its root level.

 GRIT Editor Hank Will, his sister Maika and cousins graced the back cover of the 1958 Oscar Will Seed catalog.

Add the pleasure you will receive from spending time AT HOME and WITH FRIENDS and LOVED ONES working in, marveling at, and generally enjoying your garden, and those tomatoes pay even more. And if you happen to have an extra-giant bounty, think of the joy those tomatoes will bring as you share them with others in need … or sell to pay for that tank of propane when winter arrives.

The way I see it, if the pleasure from that $2 pack of tomato seed replaced the pleasure of just one latte at the local coffee shop and the fuel needed to drive there and back, you are at least $10 ahead. That’s right, folks, vegetable gardens can pay big time if you only let them.

If you are skeptical of my analysis, check out Paul Gardener’s personal blog and follow his annual fresh food tally. He and his family produce a significant dollar-value of crops in minimal growing space. And they don’t factor the weight of family fun, joy, etc., into the formula to inflate those numbers.

Look for all kinds of gardening resources on this website and at Mother Earth News for everything you need to know about how to prepare for and plant a vegetable garden from seed that will save you money in 2009.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .