Searching for cheap garden seeds during lockdown?
Recently, seeds have been flying off the shelves. Many of us, stuck at home and facing food shortages, are keen to grow some of our own fruit and veg.
Yet many of the shops and garden centres which normally sell seeds are shut. Online suppliers are facing increased demand – just as many staff are absent due to childcare or shielding, and remaining staff need extra space and equipment to cope with social distancing (see this heartfelt plea from DT Brown). So allow for longer than normal delivery times if you can find seeds in stock.
Growing your own fruit and veg can be a great way to cut your food costs.
Of course, it all depends on how much you spend on gardening. Investing in a greenhouse to grow tomatoes will make them rather expensive!
Even packets of seeds that only cost £2 to £3 a pop can soon add up if you’re buying several varieties. The good news is that there are loads of ways to buy seeds for less or even get them for free.
When we moved from London to Suffolk, I had great intentions about growing some of our own food. I made the odd attempt in London, keen to show my children where food came from. Despite our postage stamp of a garden, I had a tomato plant on top of the fridge, some strawberries in a hanging basket and a few beans growing up the garden fence.
Getting hold of seeds is the first step to growing your own food, so I’ve been investigating ways to buy them for less.
Cheap packets may contain fewer seeds than fancy packs from big brands. However, if you don’t want to plant huge quantities of the same thing, and get stuck with a glut of courgettes / lettuces / radishes, then why waste money buying more than you need?
Here’s my round up of 8 places to get cheap or free garden seeds.
1. Dive into discount stores for cheap garden seeds
Simple enough really – if you want inexpensive seeds, try inexpensive shops.
Wilko is a great source of cheap seeds. Stores are still open, as Wilko sells essentials such as over the counter medication, cleaning products and pet food. The budget options with beetroot, parsnip and lettuce packs from as little as 25p, and other varieties at 50p and 75p are only available in store.
Sadly, most of the stuff available to buy online is out of stock, but you might get lucky and find a few options for delivery.
When I checked the Wilko website this morning, of 220 listings for fruit and veg seeds, only 15 were available: £1 mange tout, £1.50 cucumber, £1.50 cabbage, six different seed potato packs for £2.50 each, a couple of runner bean varieties, climbing beans and cucumber for £3 each, and hanging basket kits for strawberries and cherry tomatoes at £6 a pop.
Poundland won’t deliver, but some branches are still open, and its website lists seed potatoes for £1.
If you can make it to an Aldi, they are selling a multipack of veg seeds available in store only. £1.35 gets you a whopping 10 varieties, including lettuce, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and peas.
Most B&M branches are still open, and it promises a ‘3 for the price of 2’ offer on Mr Fothergills seeds. Apart from a lone £1.45 packet of lettuce seeds mentioned on the website, other veg options start from £2.15 a packet.
2. Get gardening magazines with free seeds
Lots of the gardening magazines include free seeds on the cover, but often the magazines themselves aren’t cheap.
The best bargain I’ve seen is the chance to subscribe to Kitchen Garden magazine for a £6.
You not only get 3 issues of the magazine, normally £4.99 each, but 20 packets of veg seeds on top. You’ll even get extra seeds with each copy of the magazine.
The only catch is that you’ll need to cancel your subscription before your discount issues stop, or you’ll end up paying £20 every six months.
Alternatively, subscriptions to Grow Your Own magazine cost £24.80 every six issues with up to 10 packets of seeds with every issue – plus a free plug plant and seed bundle worth over £30 when you first sign up.
Other gardening magazines such as BBC Gardeners’ World often shove free seeds on the front, but you’re likely to find a fair amount of flower seeds, as opposed to veg.
3. Sign up for magazine mailing lists
On simliar lines, I somehow ended up on the mailing list for Gardeners’ World magazine. Every so often, I get emails with assorted offers, such as the chance to claim a free potato growing kit. Worth keeping an eye out, but beware that the “free” offers normally inolve paying chunky postage. Check out current offers here, including 10% off at Dobies and Marshalls, and consider signing up for email newsletters from other gardening companies and magazines too.
4. Order from online seed specialists
I’ve ended up with more cheap and free seeds than I know what to do with from the sources above.
However, I have seen recommendations for the website MoreVeg. Right now, it’s shut. But it’s due to reopen for new orders on Saturday 25 April from 10am.
Normally MoreVeg sells small packets of seeds, rather than saddling you with more seeds than you could sow or your family could eat. It promises more than 500 varieties at just 50p per packet, but also does special offers bundling packets even cheaper. Postage is free for seed orders over £10, but is still only £1.35 if you’re spending less than a tenner.
5. Seek special offers from the big seed companies
Times can’t be great if garden centres are shut, so it’s worth seeing what the big seed companies have on special offer.
Thompson & Morgan are running a seed clearance offer at £1 a pack, with 23 veg options currently showing in stock. Postage and packing is £2.95 on seed orders.
DT Brown are listing more than 50 varieties of veg seeds at 99p a pack, but warn of higher than normal demand, which means delivery may take longer than normal. Postage on seed only orders only costs 95p.
Marshalls is showing nearly 50 veg options in stock at £1.49 or less per packet, including Unwins ‘Little Growers’ suitable for young gardeners. Small items shipping is £1.99 but Marshalls also warns that deliveries are taking longer than normal.
Meanwhile Suttons lists 24 veg varieties available at £1.55 or less a packet. Postage costs £1.99 an order on seeds.
6. Join a gardening club
Usually, gardening clubs can be a good way to meet other like-minded souls and find people willing to swap seeds or even more organised seed swaps.
COVID-19 may have put the kibosh on physical meetings, but it could still be worth emailing your local club, to see if anyone is up for sharing unwanted seeds. One friend also called a local florist, who has promised to pass on leftover seedlings.
7. Grow from cuttings or existing plants
While these aren’t strictly seeds, I’ve had minor success in getting cuttings to root in a glass of water (by accident, admittedly). I also bought a few growing herb pots from supermarkets. These may not be in the best condition, but they stand more chance of surviving if you can repot into a larger container, or plant them out in the garden.
8. Stalk garden centre sales
Who knows how the dust will settle after the pandemic. I suspect some garden centres will be forced to close permanently. But for those that reopen later in the year, look out for end of season sales. If you go shopping for seeds in September or October, you may be able to grab seeds for pennies rather than pounds ready for next year.
So now over to you – any other great sources of where to get garden seeds for free? Where to pay less for seed packets? I’d love to hear, so do share your tips in the comments.