What Is Your Preferred Places To Buy Seeds? Seed Company, Garden Centre, Seed Swap, Seed Library Or Somewhere Else? Hear What Gardeners Say

Wanting To Know Your Preferred Places To Buy SeedsI Posted a Poll Online. The Results Might Surprise You.

Or maybe not!

This is how UK gardeners are voting when it comes to buying seeds.

Before Today!

Go back to my childhood and there were few garden centres, online wasn’t even a wild idea in someones head and people bought seeds when they bought many other household and garden requisites. The local ironmonger.

Seed Companies Are Often The Preferred Places To Buy Seeds?

I remember going to the ironmonger for my father to buy a pint of peas and some hoof and horn. Both were sold loose. But the history of garden seeds goes back much earlier. And before I delve into todays buying preferences I’m going back in history.

The History of Commercial Seed Growing

Discovering the facts of something as mundane as leek seeds is never going to be easy. The “common or garden” rarely gets recorded in much depth and can easily slip past the historian looking at kings, queens and noble families. But these people had to eat and as gardening took off, out of the necessity to eat, so there has always been a trade in seeds. Common or garden then became important.

Of course most people saved their own seeds. It’s how some of our older heritage varieties came into being. Their names reflect the places they were grown, for example Taunton Deane Kale (not seed raised of course but it’s the first geographic plant that came to mind, perhaps because I ate some an hour ago).

St Valery carrots is an old variety, though there is no certainty how old. Certainly it was mentioned by the Vilmorins of France in 1885 but it was already an old variety then. So where did it come from? Is it from Saint-Valery-en-Caux, Saint-Valery-sur-Somme or another St Valery? I’ve tried to find out but haven’t found firm evidence yet.

Closer to home is the leek variety, Musselburgh. Was it always grown in the Musselburgh area? Perhaps not as there are records of leek seed being taken from Huntingdon to Scotland by packhorse in 1296.

And in 1269, Brother John of Beaulieu Abbey had leek seed worth 20d and onion seed worth 22d for sale. That was a lot of money in the 13th century.

By the 16th century hundredweights of leek seed were being imported into the east coast ports from the Low Countries.

Leeks and onions were big business and grown on a large scale in the monasteries and large houses. They bought and sold it at places as far apart as Queens’ College Oxford, Sion Abbey and Rotherhithe Palace. There is a record of the gardener at La Neyte, the Abbot of Westminster’s manor, buying lettuce, savoury, borage, chervil and violets seeds in 1327.

But is wasn’t all big houses. In 1573 Thomas Tusser wrote that, “ good huswifes in sommer will save their own seeds, Against the next yeere , as occasion needes.”

By the 1600s London was growing and needed feeding. Gardeners were setting up business in places such as Fulham, Chelsea and Bermondsey. It’s reminiscent in some ways of Les Maraichers of Paris. But here was competition from Sandwich and Colchester. And it’s interesting that today there are several seed companies based around Colchester.

Sandwich became famous for the Sandwich carrot in around 1610. And by 1630 the area was home to Dutch and Flemish seedsmen who proceeded to produce beans, peas, radish and carrots. By 1749 Sandwich was where “the Seedsmen in London are furnished with the greatest Quantities of their Seeds”.

“Sandish pease” were bought in 1658 by the Duke of Bedford’s gardener. So clearly seed production in sandwich wasn’t a short-lived affair. It lasted many years and attracted producers from overseas to grow fine seed for use by both the gentry and lowly people.

Another area to be considered as a major growing area is the Vale of Evesham. Towns such as Pershore have given their names to fruit and veg varieties such as the Pershore Yellow Egg plum and the village of Offenham to cabbage varieties. The establishment, in 1954, of Pershore College of Horticulture as a national horticultural centre wasn’t a chance location. (Some years after I sold my market garden and changed careers, Pershore college became a client and I was involved in their merger with Warwickshire College).

Why were places like Colchester, Pershore, Offenham and Sandwich chosen. Some because of their proximity to the Low Countries, and all because that specific locality provided ideal conditions for seed production.

Interestingly, many seed productions farms were based around market gardening and the family labour unit. Many were around 30 acres but only used around 5 acres for seed production. It was that scale that a family could cope with.

Preferred Places To Buy Seeds in 2023

Our survey was answered by by a relatively small number of people compared with the number of gardeners in the UK. But with 167 votes I think it gives a good feel of preferences amongst the gardeners in our group.

The top result was Seed Companies with 63 votes

Another high result was “Open pollinated seed shops like Real Seeds and Vital Seeds” with 21 votes. This poll option isn’t one of mine, it was added after the poll started by a group member who felt the differentiation was needed. Though the two can be regarded as outlets as seed suppliers I can see the sense in both being added. The larger seed houses tend to go for the varieties that suit the masses, popular varieties that include F1 hybrids, whilst the smaller ones tend to focus more on heritage and unusual varieties. There is some overlap, but also some significant differences. So are they one or two categories? You decide for yourself. Whichever it is they include the poll answer with the highest number of votes and the one with the third highest. That tells a story however it is told.

In second place came Saving Own Seed. I’m pleased with this answer as I’ve written several articles on Saving Seed … from the basic principles and botany to saving seed from specific species.

In fourth place came Other shops with 18 votes.

Fifth place went to Garden Centres with 17 votes.

Sixth place to Heritage Seed Libraries with 12 votes .

And finally we have Seed swap.

One comment made was that free seed from magazines was an option. But no one added it to the poll so it has no votes as such. I’m sure a few people would have voted for it if it had been added. But the varieties tend to be very limited and it’s not a real contender alongside the options.

The answers didn’t surprise me too much. I think most gardeners would have predicted similar outcomes. But what I found more interesting were the reason why people voted as they did.

Preferred Places To Buy Seeds; Voters Comments

I’ve opted (like most it seems) for seed companies, via their catalogue. I prefer Kings, because of their partnership with NSALG, which gives quite a substantial discount to allotments that hold membership. However, online Premier Seeds are well priced too, have a very good selection and quick delivery.
Many seed varieties are well known to me and are simply reordered, normally around
November. However it’s nice to explore the catalogues (and look at photos) to discover new introductions. I buy a combination of flower and vegetable seeds; and on average my annual spend with Kings, will be around
One of the reasons I don’t like buying from garden centres is the way seeds are often stored. I was in a large national one the other day. The temperature inside was a around 27°C and direct sunlight was shining on the array of packets on display. I know many seeds are in foil nowadays – not all though, e.g. peas & beans – but I don’t think extremes of temperature, will do them much good.

Seed companies in the off season so I can read the bla bla and look at my notes.

Garden centres when I want them right now because reasons.

Other shops on a whim (10pa packet!)

Heritage seeds for difficult to get specific seeds. (5star cauliflower and perennials)

Save my own when we have a glut only not very successful cos l’m not good at it.

Open pollination because some needs to support these guys

And seed swap with my neighbours as we all have too many.

Seed companies, avoiding some though as they sell seed that doesn’t germinate well.

I prefer to buy from the smaller companies online as the range is bigger and so much cheaper and often free postage with

I was told not to buy from garden centres be because the seeds on their displays have too many temperature changes whereas if you buy direct from the seed company the seeds have been in a controlled environment. Don’t know how true it is.

I purchase through allotment association as we get 50% off kings seeds, no complaints

I buy most of my seeds online with small local sellers. Usually they grow and save seeds mostly as a hobby or they run organic farms. I try to buy only 1 time and then collect seeds myself. These days, I can trade seeds with other hobbyists, keeping in mind that sometimes we get very different results than the original plant &

The ‘normal’ seeds, I buy at the local garden center.

I use one organic seed catalogue first, then other reputable ones if first one hasn’t got it.

I will buy from other shops if I have forgotten something, spot something to try or if packets reduced in price of things I feel could be’random sowings’ so losses won’t be so painful!

Seed companies, accountability.

A combo of Wilko and real seeds…. specialist seeds for drought resistant/ seed saving options. And now the Heritage Seed library

I buy from various sources. I have brought from garden centre, online seed shops and recently got some cheapies in Wilko.

I prefer to buy from the smaller companies online as the range is bigger and so much cheaper and often free postage with free seeds thrown in

I buy from various sources. I have brought from garden centre, online seed shops and recently got some cheapies in Wilko.

Small seed companies like Vital Seeds and Real Seeds. I’ve got fed up with the large companies and disappointing results. I also save some (beans, salads, some toms).

I save seeds from flowers in my garden that friends like so they can sow some as well as me increasing stock. I buy from Vital because they have seeds for flowers and veg I like growing, not just what’s in the shops.

I usually buy from garden centres because I like being able to see the packets in person. I know that’s not really a sensible reason but

I buy what I can afford and online seed companies are always cheaper and have a far better range of seeds. I will save seeds when I get better at growing.

I buy what I can afford and online seed companies are always cheaper and have a far better range of seeds. I will save seeds when I get better at growing.

I prefer to buy from the smaller companies online as the range is bigger and so much cheaper and often free postage with free seeds thrown in

Research sources


Plus references referred to in the above paper.

Tag: Preferred Places To Buy Seeds?

Join the Facebook Groups Here

To join the How to Dig For Victory Facebook group follow the link.

And here is the link to UK Garden Flowers, Trees, Shrubs & More

#BiteSizedGardening #Gardening #Vegetables #veg #fruitandveg #allotment #biointensive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.