You heard it HERE first. Seed prices are about to double and triple. Seed catalogers and suppliers I've been talking to are experiencing sticker shock. Those who have already printed their 2009 catalogs and seed packs are going to feel the pinch the most. If they survive to 2010, expect to see a big increase in their prices. Those that who have yet to print their prices, will be able to adjust according to their costs for 2009, however they will be also be greatly hurt as consumers will naturally question why some seed packs are more than double the others when comparing the artificially low prices on pre-printed seed packs. Catch-22 for all.
Why the coming seed price increases? The same inflationary impacts as are effecting our food crops are trickling down now to the seed markets. Fuel, pressure to grow energy crops, land-use restrictions, increasing taxes, etc. are squeezing the seed suppliers and they are going to have to pass that along to the seed catalogs, retailers, and consumers.
What is a home gardener to do? Start collecting seeds. Go out now and get as many free ones as Mother Nature will provide. And be nice, collect only from your OWN garden, unless you have gotten the special permission of the owners to collect from them. (Note: public parks, gardens, zoos, etc. are not up for grabs either. Many of them will be collecting their seed bounty for their own propagation next season as well.)
Next, mark your calendars for January 31, 2009 -- the date of Washington Gardener Magazine's annual Seed Exchange and National Seed Sway Day. We'll be hosting it once again at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, and for a very low entrance fee (even lower for magazine subscribers), you'll get a goody bag full of seed packs and be able to swap seeds with other DC-area gardeners.
What else can you do? Go through your current seed pack collection and ensure it is well stored. That means out of heat, light, and most of all, away from any moisture. Storing them in tightly sealed jars is best. Take care of seeds and don't let them get damp and they can last for decades. Just because a packet is stamped "best by 2007" does not mean seeds they will not be perfectly viable. Think of the grains found in Egyptian tombs that can still grow today or of weed seeds that lay under the surface for years waiting to be stirred to the surface and sprout. Seeds are tough; they may soon be scarce and expensive as well. Spread the word to your gardening friends.