Seed Sales Double in Response to Rising Costs


Oh, this is awesome.  Sales of seeds at Burpee have actually doubled, and Seed Savers Exchange has sold out of seed potatoes, shipped double the usual number of tomato and pepper starts, and surpassed last year’s seed sales in the first quarter.

So here’s what I wonder about:  Does anything look different at your garden center?  Because I’m not seeing much of a difference.  If vegetable gardening really is taking off, wouldn’t you think garden centers would rush to re-arrange their displays and put everything you need to plant a vegetable garden front and center?


  1. Ilive out in the country and there are no noticeable changes at my local garden center where vegetable starts are always right next to the front door, and seeds are very near the cashier counter. Nearby is Avery'[s General Store and they always sell vegetable starts in the spring, as well as seeds, tools, hoses and just about anything else you might need. You can also get really good meat there, boots, Starbucks coffee (in a bag not a cup) hats, toasters, anything you need to live actually. That is the glory of living in the country. NO need for a mall if you have Avery’s.

  2. The only difference I’ve seen is that there are very few herbs. I’m wondering if they just sold out of them. The worst thing that is happening is that my favorite garden center is closing. They say the cost of heating the greenhouses has gotten too high.

  3. Our set-up at work is similar to the one Commonweeder describes: the seeds are near the counter, and the starts are along the front wall of the store (though there are also some tomatoes and peppers in two other spots). I wasn’t working there last year, so I don’t have direct observation to compare to, but from what people tell me, there’s not a huge difference between this year and last year. The big complaint at the moment is that we have too many hot peppers and not enough bell peppers. (Which makes sense, because bell peppers are hella expensive: I’m sure people want to try growing their own for financial reasons, if nothing else.)

    Like Daphne, we’re having difficulty keeping some herbs in stock; this is more about the supply than the demand. I think we waited too long to start asking suppliers about them, or we were overly optimistic about how many we could seed for ourselves, or something like that.

  4. I haven’t seen any change at my closest garden center, nor did I notice a change at Home Depot. The larger garden center I visit from time to time did not have any vegetable plants when I was shopping, and they usually have tables full – they said because we had a cool spring things were coming in later. I usually buy from them, but I ended up buying at my neighborhood hardware store because when I was ready to plant, they didn’t have the things I needed. So – mostly no change. Big garden center got veggie plants late, so I don’t know what they had.

  5. We have all our vegetable starts grouped together under our big tent. Vegetable sales are very good! We are still selling them, although the main planting season is done. Seed sales have been really good. I noticed a number of people that we’re starting a vegetable garden for the first time or doing it again after a couple year hiatus.

    The great part for garden centers is these people will be back in again and again with questions. What’s eating my leaves? Why is my plant yellowing? What’s that big brown spot on the bottom of my tomato?

  6. Amy, I was thinking about posting about the same thing. I was very struck this year by the ghost town-like feeling at my two favorite nurseries for vegetable seedlings. And this was on Memorial Day Weekend–THE planting moment in my part of the world. So where are all these new gardeners? Are they all already so serious that they have greenhouses and are starting their own tomato plants?

    Also, I went to my local Wal-Mart last week–I know, for shame–for the only thing I ever buy there, which is bagged pine bark mulch. And they had hardly any plant stock at all! The parking lot was almost empty of bushes, and inside, the shelves for annuals and perennials were almost bare. What gives?

    Maybe, as Daphne suggests, the fuel costs of running greenhouses has dampened some purveyors’ enthusiasm for their business.

  7. It’s Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in action. Same thing happened after 9/11. When the going gets tough we grow food. Don’t even think about it.
    Seeds flew off the shelves after 9/11 and they are now with the economy tanking, fuel rising and grain shortages.
    Renee Shepherd’s sales are up 50 percent. Thompson & Morgan 60 percent. And Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar is selling out of corn, beans, tomato starts and fruit trees.
    Interesting, the second time I’ve seen this kind of grow your own in masses in Orange County.

  8. 2 weeks ago at one of the local nurseries, an employee there told me that at the time there were 0 available organic vegetable starts on the wholesale market. Every single supplier was sold out at the time.

  9. Humm….I wonder if the trend will continue next year? The suppliers of any commodity tend to react to historical demands, so I’m going out on a limb and saying that next year, there will probably be a LOT more veggie starts.

  10. My favorite local garden center Green Thumb, has more than doubled the area dedicated to vegetables and herbs. I garden from seed and transplants so it was exciting to see the new offerings!

  11. Memorial day is the time growers start running out of stuff beacuse the season is winding down at the wholesale end. If your local garden center did not have any veggies they were either honsedtly sold out or should be thrown out of business. I would caution you not to burn the argument at both ends. You started trouble when none was needed as you answered your own question in the openning statement when you commented on all major suppliers selling out. Why then should it be different for the retailer? Is it only on line retailers and catalog companies that count in your world?

    I have found on this blog a lot of do as I say not as I do from the authors.

  12. When I found something I had to have this spring I bought it and tucked it into my little plastic greenhouse. I was glad I did because by the time Memorial Day rolled around the interesting veggie starters were all gone — at Home Depot, Walmart, and the good local nurseries. And that goes double for herbs. I know that I’ve heard from more than a few people that with a bunch of fresh basil going for $2.99 at the grocery store, they’ve decided to try growing it at home in a pot.

  13. Who burns arguments? Amy did plain and simple. She claims it is awesome that Burpee sales were up 20% but then ran up one side and down the other that her garden center was out of plants!

    Can’t have it both ways sis. Her comments did not sound like she was angry at the catalog companies for being sold out. Only bothered her when she needed something. The problem with this blog is that the four writers think their opinion is the only one that counts and everyone else in the garden business is wrong.

    Being cynical works only for a little while unless you fall for it. Borders on being narcisistic after awhile if you ask me. I too do not like HGTV but I woud never question the intent of those involved in CSA or community garden programs the way these horn worms do.

    And remember this is post Memorial Day now. Growers have to start getting out of inventory. The season for wholesale growing ends real fast and it is always a danger to keep growing new bedding plants too far into June.
    It seems the writers of this blog think they are entitled to fresh six packs of bedding plant whenever they choose. If they or any gardener want fresh stock grow it yourself. Seed companies do not take back their unsold inventory until well into June or even July so get sowing already.

    FYI I have been in the garden business for thity years, lecture write, and photograph for same as well.

  14. I do not think you and I are reading the same post, Greg. Also, I think you have a chip on your shoulder against this blog that is causing you to sound a little bit like a crazy person.

    One could interpret Amy’s post to mean that it is a good thing to see people running out of stuff early, because it means more people are gardening. She then questioned whether this news was valid by asking readers to confirm whether or not this seemed to be the case where they live. I didn’t see anything that suggests that she was upset about anybody running out of anything. The fact that you, apparently, *do* makes me think that either 1) you’re responding to some other post, possibly one from the past that upset you, and not to the words that are actually here, or 2) you’re looking for things to hold against Amy and/or the blog in general.

    I got my own problems with Amy (that she claimed to hate houseplants a while back, and apparently has never recanted), but c’mon.

    Oh, and —

    You said “the problem with this blog is that the four writers think their opinion is the only one that counts and everyone else in the garden business is wrong.” Well, yeah. They’re bloggers. That’s what bloggers *do*. I mean, welcome to the internet and stuff.

  15. Well, when we went looking for seeds, any seeds, at a major big-box retailer this weekend, they had none. Really odd. Our local nurseries have tons, of course, but…it was strange. They must not be reading the papers (or the signs of the times)!

  16. I work at a local, independent nursery. Half a mile down the road was another nursery that went out business last season. We planted double the annuals and vegetables, anticipating an actual increase of thirty percent. We accidentally overseeded by double on our tomatoes and peppers and are as of this morning, sold out of veggies.

    With seven nurseries within ten miles, we are all experiencing the heaviest sales on vegetables in years. From our conversations, none of us were expecting this incredible surge and are excitedly planning out next year.

    Our vegetable section is, sadly, still in the back corner of the greenhouse. But, speaking from a consumer and as the flower-girl, they just aren’t as visually satisfying as those hanging baskets and four-inch-pots of annuals. Quickly picked over and mix-n-matched, it is quite an eyesore, that, honestly, is impossible to keep organized throughout the course of the day.

    It’s really, really exciting and I couldn’t be more thrilled that the majority of sales included some sort of vegetable start…even on Mother’s Day weekend!

  17. Our veggie sales are up, too, this yearm, despite the cool weather in May.

    People need milk and bread. Where does the grocery store put it? In the back of the store.

    Nothing wrong with making folks walk through the garden center to find their veggies instead of putting them up front and center. Heck, they might find a birdbath or fancy new rhododendron they just ‘have’ to own.

  18. We are having a hard time keeping up with veggie sales. I think most everyone in my rural county is planting at least a few veggies this year. I’ve been up at 5 am for over a month now working in our greenhouse, seeding and transplanting veggies. We don’t buy veggies for resale because the wholesale cost is the same as our retail price. Our customers are getting a good deal with 6 packs of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc at 99 cents. 4 inch tomatoes, peppers, squash, cukes, are the same price, too. I’m making a good profit on the fast growing veggies but not so much on peppers and eggplant. I usually stop seeding by now but this year I’m going to keep it going with a few crops that can be successively planted. My break is up! Gotta get back out in the greenhouse and sow some more.

  19. I’m a huge vegetable gardener myself and a big proponent of the urban veggie garden. As the GM of an independent garden center, I’m nothing but thrilled that we’re seeing an upward trend here. We already sell a huge selection of herbs and seeds. In response, we’ve already increased our already healthy offering of veggie plants and lots of additional products for the vegetable garden. Not only that, but we’re adding many more free programs to our education schedule that cover vegetable gardening.

    But honestly, if I wasn’t such a big veggie gardener myself and the person who runs the business, I don’t know if the same response would have happened here at this garden center. I think local garden centers will respond to this trend if they have people on staff who know that categaory and are experienced with the varieties and techniques. So I imagine you’ll see a lot of inconsistency across the board between different garden centers.

  20. I’m guessing that this trend is much more visible in certain places than others. I’d be curious to know more about the geography and demographics behind it.

    I imagine there are some people who have always been gardening, others who never will, and a middle group who just need some coaxing. Of course, perhaps there are also long-time ornamental gardeners who are just now turning to edibles. So who, where, how old, and how well off are the people who are picking up the spade and gloves? Will the trend survive changes in the economy, the white house, and pop media or is it just part of a fad (or paranoia) of the moment?

    Maybe people will look a couple decades from now at old, disused post-victory gardens with the same kind of bemusement and slight embarrassment we feel towards Cold War era basement fallout shelters that are now just another space to hold our junk (or wine). Or maybe we will really be greener, more local, healthier.

    There’s gotta be somebody doing a dissertation on this somewhere!

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