Real Men Sow

7 Ways to Get Cheap Seeds

8 Ways to Get Free Seeds, my most viewed post of all time Real Men Sow history, is 2 years old today.

This milestone, together with my £5 a month spending limit pledge, provides an opportune time to refresh the original post. In line with inflation, and the interests of providing a few more tips, I’m also going to name the new version ‘7 Ways to Get Cheap Seeds’.

These tips are all tried and tested by one of the Britain’s tightest men (that’s me, by the way) since 2010.

Here goes…

THE COST OF A POSTAGE STAMP! The Awesome, Amazing Internet
Since recommending the very friendly and useful GYO seed swapping forum, I’ve also joined Twitter, where all manner of wonderful gardeners congregate and discuss vegetables. It doesn’t take long to build up some connections, especially if you check out the #allotment hashtag.

Within minutes this week I’d swapped some of my spare seeds for courgettes and broad beans with the lovely lateralmac and impatient gardener respectively, all for the cost of a couple of stamps.

CHEAP! AND EDUCATIONAL! Magazine Giveaways
These seem to get better and better. When I wrote ‘8 Ways to Get Free Seeds’, the odd packet used to get stuck to a magazine edition here and there. Wasting time in my local WH Smith last week, I was astounded to see GYO magazine offering seeds of purple sprouting broccoli, turnips, chard, tomato, beetroot and carrot. That’s 6 packs for just under a fiver.

If that’s not enough, the same issue is also offering savings of 50 percent on a 20 pack seed bundle. The bundle is only £12.90, and includes popular veg like beetroot, leeks and tomato.

CHEAP! The Pound Shop
Every town has one, and if you’re passing they’re well worth a look for cheap seeds. The shop near where I work has a good variety of seeds for just 79p a packet.

CHEAP! The Allotment Shop
Some seed companies offer discounted rates to allotment and gardening societies, meaning seed prices in the allotment shops and committee sheds are cheaper than the nurseries and online retailers. In the past I’ve picked up DT Brown Spring Hero F1 for the princely sum of £1.05, compared to £1.89 on the DT Brown website, and a packet of sweetcorn seeds for 85p.

CHEAP! Set up a Seed Buying Group
DT Brown offer these discounted rates to seed buying groups, as well as allotment societies. If you’ve got enough people prepared to join your group, you can take advantage of these special prices by ordering just £100 worth of seeds.

FREE! Start Saving Seeds
Some seeds are much easier to save than others, and for the teeniest effort you can have free pea and bean seeds year after year. It is best to buy open pollinated seeds initially, such as those available from Real Seeds.

Once the pods have died off and gone brown and dry, simply remove the seeds from the pods, clean up and store. Most seeds are fine for three years if stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

Real Seeds have written some excellent instructions for saving seeds, which can be viewed here.

FREE! Sow out of date seeds
Don’t be afraid to try out of date seeds from your previous years’ stock. I’m not suggesting this always works, but I’ve sown seed that has been two years out of date and they’ve germinated with no problem. Before you shell out, check what you’ve still got laying around from summers before.

If this idea leaves you dubious, you could always try a quick germination test. Dee, from Greenside Up wrote a good post this week that includes instructions on testing germination. If you get a good result from her quick test, then stick with the seeds you’ve got and save yourself some cash.

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16 Comments

  1. 5ollyJanuary 27, 2013 at 9:50 amReply

    I just had a look to see what my most popular post is, and it’s a post about tomatoes getting AIDS :-(

  2. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!January 27, 2013 at 1:44 pmReply

    This might be the year that I finally go through all of my old seed packets, testing for germination and binning what doesn’t work. I tend to buy seeds every year whether I need them or not (one year I bought pea seeds on three different trips, forgetting that I had already done so).

    I kind of like the idea of just sprinkling all of the seeds around my yard and seeing what happens.

  3. wellywomanJanuary 29, 2013 at 12:03 pmReply

    Great ideas. It’s surprising how much money I spend on seeds every year. I’d also add that More Veg is brilliant. You can buy seeds in smaller packs. (Does anyone need 200 cabbage seeds?)They are cheaper as a result.

  4. PaulJanuary 29, 2013 at 1:15 pmReply

    I have found also Wilkinson, Aldi and Lidl can be even cheaper than the pound store and quite often a wider variety. I always make a test sowing of my old seed on some damp kitchen roll, if it start to sprout after a week OK, if not, sadly off to the compost heap.

  5. Jono

    JonoJanuary 29, 2013 at 6:46 pmReplyAuthor

    Alan, I think I wrote a blog post along those lines once, after some of the veg I’d struggled to get to germinate suddenly grew randomly on my plot. It was like the seeds were laughing in my face haha.

    Thanks WW, I’ll check that out. I like the idea of buying smaller packs. vegetableseeds.net seems really good value for money. Free P & P too. Have just ordered parsnip, asparagus and celeriac seeds for £2.50 delivered..

    Thanks Paul – I’m miles from those shops unfortunately. I do know Aldi get a lot of praise for their biking stuff. Will take a look in there next time I’m near one.

    • CaroJanuary 20, 2015 at 9:20 pmReply

      Just had a look at vegetableseeds.net – their seeds look good value but alas the P&P is now expensive at £3 for orders under £20 (free over).

      • CaroJanuary 20, 2015 at 9:45 pmReply

        Actually, possibly free over £30 – the website says both, in 2 different places…

  6. AdamJanuary 31, 2013 at 10:17 amReply

    Good post.

    I bought my mother a subscription to GYO magazine for her birthday last year and was astonished to how many free seed packets come with it! Only yesterday she got March issue in the post and attached are Squash, Radish, Rocket and Tomato seeds. Luckily for me – I will be benefiting from any she doesn’t need. I think I may buy it again for her this year ;-)

    Supermarkets! Our local is Morrisons and they have a, albeit small, very cheap selection of ‘own brand’ seeds. I picked up a pack of cayenne pepper seeds for 59p! As well as a selection of Mr Fotherfill’s selling for cheaper than the RRP. I don’t know how there ‘own brand’ can be different from ‘named brand’ versions which sell for a lot more? I am planning on doing a test – growing Morrisons v Mr. Fothergill’s, grown the same way to compare.

  7. Ann MarieJanuary 31, 2013 at 10:54 pmReply

    I love your idea of seed swapping via Twitter! One other way of swapping seeds is to join your local organic gardening association. For a nominal annual fee (mine is just a fiver, so could be budgeted into your five pounds a month limit!) you often have access to a great local source of unwanted seeds, and get rid of your own at the same time.

  8. Ann Marie HendryJanuary 31, 2013 at 11:00 pmReply

    I love the idea of seed swapping via Twitter! Another way to swap seeds is to join your local organic gardening organisation. For a small annual fee (mine is just a fiver, so would fall within your £5 a month limit!) you can, amongst other things, gain access to lots of other gardeners who usually have loads of excess seed to swap!

  9. Ann Marie HendryJanuary 31, 2013 at 11:01 pmReply

    Oops, sorry…thought that first comment got lost somewhere along the way…

  10. ClaireMarch 7, 2013 at 9:24 pmReply

    Thanks, you’ve just saved me from chucking out some chive seeds that have expired which I was about to plant yesterday. I’ll have another go at them now. I also love the idea of a seed swap via Twitter.

  11. Jono

    JonoMarch 7, 2013 at 9:38 pmReplyAuthor

    Hey Claire.

    Thanks for stopping by and glad you found the post helpful. :)

    I’ve made some ace swaps in Twitter this year. Favourites so far are some heritage broad beans from Real Seeds.

  12. JamaicaMarch 12, 2013 at 9:18 pmReply

    Hello from California!
    I ALWAYS try my old seed 1st…
    but different kinds have different life spans…
    I have HEARD parsnips & carrots need to be VERY fresh-
    planted a year old parsnip pack last season & was good…
    THIS season so far found a bunch of seeds packed
    FOR 2009—
    Tomatoes= all almost 100% germination (one was 2008!)
    Lettuce= prob about 85%
    Kale=abt 50%
    Spinach= 0%
    FOR 2010—
    Dill about 30% (surprised- heard short shelf life)
    FOR 2011–
    Chives=0%
    Onion= 30%
    Shallots=50%
    (heard also alliums did not have shelf life but see variation)
    I do nothing special to store- just in box on shelf-
    but coastal climate here never very warm… or cold
    BASED on my experience- never give up on tomatoes!!!
    I am sure you can google seed life expectancy!)
    great site by the way- congrats on your new “sprout”!!

  13. Thomas GellenderJanuary 20, 2014 at 3:07 pmReply

    It may not be free, but at the minute I’m going mad on ebay, buying seeds that are unusual and popular. Haven’t paid anymore than 99p and postage is rarely more than 48p. Of course if you buy more than one packet from the same supplier you only pay once for P&P. Am very impressed and would certainly recommend a look

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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