Shortage of seeds - is this a normal thing?

Demeter(z6 NJ)March 8, 2009

I was thinking of trying some heirloom varieties this year, but I noticed notes on most of the websites for heirloom seed providers that due to high demand, they were out of seeds for spring plantings. I was wondering whether this is something that happens every year around this time (and I should make a note to try earlier next year), or whether the demand this year is exceptional (possibly due to the economic situation)?

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It is not uncommon. However, I believe that this year, due to the economy, there are A LOT MORE people wanting to grow a garden! This is good!

We raise dairy goats, among other things, and have been amazed at the demand for goats this year. If we had four times the number of kids, I'm sure we could have sold them all. This is probably for the same reason. People are thinking of taking steps to be a bit more self sufficient.

Basic seed saving can now, very easily be justified on an economic basis.

May your garden go well Demeter.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 11:50AM
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I posed the same question on the Baker Creek website a few weeks back. The moderator, who is also a B.C. employee, said that it was actually sort of a double whammy, because not only is demand very high this year, but weather problems last year contributed to low production in the Midwest (Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin), which is apparently a center of heirloom seed production (probably due to the influence of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA, imo).

The good news is that there is virtually NO type of seed out there that you can't find somewhere. Individual varieties that are only to be had from one or two sources might be sold out, but if you have a desire to grow, say, multi-colored beefstake tomatos or heirloom radishes, some company is going to have something you'll like, it just might require a little extra time on Google to find sources.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:14PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I would venture to say - adding to Denninmi's comments - that the seed situation is due to a triple whammy. Besides the economy, and some seed shortages due to last year's weather, there is the widely-publicized breakdown of our food system.

Seems like its every other month we have a new scare... contaminated lettuce, peanuts, etc. Add to that the infiltration of GMO's into our diet, and the recent approval of ionizing radiation to treat produce. It should come as no surprise that many are considering taking control of at least part of their diet.

The Seed Savers Exchange added about 1000 new members last year. Granted, that's not a tsunami... but it is a 14% increase in membership. I believe this represents the increased interest not only in gardening, but seed saving.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 3:47AM
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Yea, I'm new so I can't say from experience but I just saw a fascinating article about this recently. I linked to it below. But the gist is there is a huge increase in vegetable gardening this year. Even the big companies like Burpee are selling out of basic veggies like tomatoes. The CEO says he has never seen anything like it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dollars from dirt: Economy spurs home garden boom

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 10:19PM
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Ah, but, alas, this won't last, IMO. Like most things, Americans will forget about it as soon as the economy perks up and the next fad comes along.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 7:56PM
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Wow! I was on Baker's Creek website over the weekend and sooooo many things are sold out! Not only are there shortages, but a lot of seed companies weren't expecting all the orders, so it is taking longer to fill the orders and to send them out.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 1:44PM
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I'm one these people that took interest in Heirloom vegatables this year. Not that I have never gardened before. I'm realy taking interest in Rare Heirloom seeds and want to perserve them, and grow my own healthy food, save the seed and replant it next year.
These are the seeds I've bought. ;-)
1. Black Prince Tomato
2. Purple Maize Corn
3. Blue popcorn / ornamental
4. Coffee Rosemary (grow indoors)
5. White Carrot
6. White Habanero Pepper
7. Chocolate Tomato
8. Dragon Carrot
9. Puya Chile

  1. Stevia
  2. Orange Habanero
  3. Ground Cherry
  4. Sunflower
    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 10:44AM
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How is it bad for people? What aspect of ionization radiation can you explain to be bad? I am just a dumb consumer wondering why I should be concerned.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 10:20PM
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Try Walmart or Lowes. You will be suprised how many heirloom seeds they are carrying.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 9:22AM
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I bought a great selection of seeds at my local Agway, and this was only last Friday. Some are heirlooms and/or open pollinated and/or organic. Some are...not. :)

Bean - Trionfo Violetto
Beet - Burpee's Golden
Beet - Chioggia
Broccoli raab - heirloom
Cabbage - Red Acre
Cabbage, Chinese - Wong Bok; heirloom
Carrot - Purple Haze
Carrot - Tondo di Parigi
Corn salad
Kohlrabi - Early Purple Vienna
Leek - Primor
Lettuce - Oak Leaf
Lettuce - Merveilles des Quatres Saisons
Lettuce - Red Sails
Lettuce - Speckles
Lettuce - Tom Thumb
Okra - Red Burgundy
Pak choi
Radish - Watermelon Mantang Hong
Turnip - Purple Top White Globe
Turnip - Seven Top Winter for greens

Because I am getting such a late start, I also bought plants at the Agway as well: spinach, romaine, celery, cabbage, yellow cauliflower. I don't think any are heirlooms, but I did see Early Jersey Wakefield cabbages available. It's quite possible there were other heirloom varieties as well. Not to mention, I'll go back there, or go elsewhere, for squashes and whatever else I decide I have to grow. I know the Agway had seeds for many, many varieties of heirloom summer and winter squashes and melons...and cucumbers... and so much else I didn't pick up this time.

From another store, a couple of weeks ago; both are heirloom varieties:
Carrot - Nantes Scarlet Half Long
Pea, sugar snap - Dwarf Grey Sugar

And, if you read the post on buying heirloom plants, you'll see that I just got back the other day from Cross Country Nurseries with tomato, eggplant, pepper, and basil plants. I'll estimate that ~80% of what we got are heirlooms. And yes, the owner told us that her business was way up this year, with many new customers wanting to grow their own.

There's a nursery up the way from me that's now selling a large variety of heirloom lettuces.

So I think all you have to do is take a little more time than you'd ordinarily have to to find what you want.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 3:23PM
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