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COVID-19 Seed Shortage

 
pollinator
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Many people have decided to start a garden in 2020, probably because of COVID-19. This is leading to a shortage in seeds. If my Permie friends still need seeds in 2020, better be quick. As well some districts (Vermont) have decided to ban non-essential sales in the stores. Seeds are deemed non-essential. This might catch on to other states. Whatever is the case. The amount of seeds are finite. Buy some while you still can.
Happy gardening
 
pollinator
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Thanks for the head's up, Hugo.  I've got enough seeds for a couple of years for most plants but there are a few things I'd like to grow this year that I don't have.  I'll make sure to pick those up this week if they're still there.
 
pollinator
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The place I would normally get my seeds from usually has 600 orders a week- they're currently getting 400 an hour! Including some for hundreds of pounds, as if stockpiling seeds were useful...

I also do some small-scale glass work as a hobby,and I use an oxygen concentrator- its a device that strips nitrogen out of the air and delivers an oxygen-rich mix to my blow torch for a hotter flame. There's one company in the country that supplies these ex-medical devices- and they've had hundreds of orders for people wanting them as medical devices 'just in case'. Despite that they cannot be turned back into medical devices!
 
Hugo Morvan
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In France the government has announced people must make gardens. So it won't be much different here soon i guess. Already they were having trouble keeping up the orders, because people packing seeds were staying home from work on this side of the ocean.
Now the government is calling for it, many people will decide it's a "fun" thing to do while in lockdown. Thanks government. If you want growers to grow, get growers to grow more food. Don't organize a run on their seeds by non growers.
Can't they even think for a minute?
 
pollinator
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Hugo Morvan wrote:
Can't they even think for a minute?


I don't totally agree. Of course the shortage of seeds is a lamentable thing. But don't you think it's a good thing that more people will start a garden - maybe for the first time in their lives? It would be more relaxed for everybody if they did not start right now on top of the pandemic. But if that's the trigger, well... I won't deny anyone buying and planting seeds. I wish them luck.
 
pollinator
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Wait a few weeks - your local Facebook community will be full of people with more seedlings than they have space to plant. Maybe even get ahead of the game and start a post for local plant swaps. It can be done easily while respecting social distancing. An honesty box at the front gate, for example.

I’m germinating a bunch of OLD seeds. No idea what germination rates will be. Half expecting to have 100 spare cabbage seedlings - or none at all!
 
Hugo Morvan
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Anita you’re right. Doesn’t mean i’m wrong. If i were dictator of the world it would be like this. All the people who know how to grow food should garden to the max. Start to learn growing trees. People who know about biodiversity should make nurserie gardens to maximize that and teach people about it and plant every empty place and park. People who plant food forests should plant food rain forests. Etc. And people who want to grow something for fun should really do that, but don’t be in the way of people who know how to grow food locally. Some people need to be busy.
I wouldn’t mind some willing local people helping me to plant the seeds i saved.
I hope this clarifies my position. Wanna be dictator. Haha
 
Anita Martin
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Thanks for clarifying, Hugo.

Still, I don't see the world in binary - either somebody knows how to grow or does not. We are all learning and are all at different stages.
Isn't this what many of us wanted, a Nation of Farmers? I certainly do, but I see your point.

Michael's point is very good, hopefully this is the way to go!

 
gardener
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Definitely a seed shortage - I have now ordered/bought seeds this year from 4 sources. I usually buy from 4 - but less quantities, and only one online order, and pick up things from 3-4 seed racks. It's definitely a year when people are planning on producing more heavily than usual. I am. I'm also focusing much more heavily on "calorie crops" than I usually do - planning flour corn, potatos, quinoa, dry beans, and many storage root crops.

Personally - if someone wants to start a first time garden this year, I will heartily support them. But probably suggest sticking to the basics - tomatos, carrots, peas, beans, zucchini - and a max 20 x 20' garden.

One of the places I bought seeds from this year (Canadian tire's rack of seeds imported from Italy) is probably now inaccessible, as they move to online only orders. Another place (OSC seeds) is now closed to new orders. Two others (Stokes and Annapolis Seeds) are still accepting orders, and seem to have inventory.

Share seeds if you have them - I just gave my elderly neighbour who's a bit behind on this, and is planning on getting seeds at the garden centre when they open in a month "because surely they won't be closed" , a few of my saved zucchini/pea seeds, and some of my beet, carrot, and lettuce seeds. She said "oh, I'll just order from OSC or Vesey's if the garden centre is closed". Well, OSC and Vesey's are both already closed to new orders. A month from now, I expect the rest of the major seed sellers to be sold out too!  She's planning on buying tomato starts from the garden centre at the end of May, too... (I'm planning on sharing seedlings, because I have plenty). In return, I got her raked up leaves to mulch my garden. Score!

I keep seeing people posting on why there's no need to hoard seeds/start a garden, because "the farmers will keep on farming". Sure, they probably will. But will the distribution channels keep on operating? Will the temporary workers keep on picking? Will the distribution and packing centres keep on operating, will the border guards keep on working to bring produce up from the States? I don't know, but I do know everything I pull out of my garden is something I don't need to track down in a store.


A relative, who used to keep a big garden, is also not getting it, but woke up overnight and has also requested I give her tomato seedlings. Sure, OK. Happy to do so (I have 50 + started). I'll probably give some to my uncle, who has a big balcony at his apartment, too.

Now if only the damn peppers would germinate!!!
 
gardener
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Personally, I've been encouraging people to take advantage of the prime planting time and grow something, as well as offering advice or answering questions. Additionally, I've been working on starting a seed library for the CenTex region & have been giving away some of my extra seeds & transplants to friends, and asking them to try to save the seeds from the best produce of the best plants.
Maybe it'll work, maybe not; but I have already put back a couple of years worth of seeds for my own use to feed myself & my family, so I don't mind sharing the extra things that need to eventually be replaced by locally grown stuff.

From my understanding, Texas has not yet began limiting purchases to "essential" items only (although classifying seeds as "non essential is ridiculous IMO), so there are still some seeds/transplants on the store shelves. Right now, I have to go to town for my "essential items" every couple of weeks, so have been picking up a few packs of beans, corn, greens, and other things I eat often just to add to my collection to plant or share.
 
pollinator
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I ordered and started my seeds a little early last year so I waited this year.  I did order some flowers and perennials I wanted to baby but I waited on most of the veg.

Last week I ordered from 3 different places still couldn't find everything I wanted.  Some of the seeds are back-ordered.  The earliest seeds will arrive, April 22 but some of the stuff won't show up until May or even June.

I have enough perennials in the forest to keep me going, walking onions and garlic chives are popping.
 
Catie George
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I was thinking a little further on this, about why I wouldn't suggest only those who know how to garden get seeds this year. Keep in mind I'm the child of a man who was born in WWII, grew up starving, stealing and scrounging for food and coal in Eastern Europe, and chose to retire to 100 acres of scrappy Canadian shield forest in the middle of nowhere with a river and a woodstove, because he fears widespread global economic collapse. It colours my perspective, a bit lot.

The best time to learn to garden is in the past. The next best time is now. I am trying new things this year - flour corn, quinoa, a few brassicas, hullless oats. I anticipate I won't get a good yield this year ( I almost always do better with saved seeds than fresh bought seeds), and they are going in a new garden bed, which are never as productive as established beds.  But the seeds won't be wasted - next year, I will know what I am doing, will plant larger blocks of whatever was most successful, and the yield will improve.

I can see this crisis extending into next year, businesses failing, supply chain interruptions, job losses, etc. I don't know how fast the economy will bounce back - if we hit the virus globally hard, with total shutdowns for 1-2 months? Businesses and the economy would probably bounce back. But this slow, slow, slow drawn-out approach the US and Canada are doing? I expect it will be an equally slow, slow, slow, drawn-out recovery. With the amount of liquidity thrown into the economy, and the absurdly low interest rates? I'm anticipating massive inflation too.

I can't guarantee that next year won't be worse than this year - and harder to buy seeds. So I'm teaching myself to grow more things this year, and saving seeds, so next year, I can be more self sufficient.

I think if most people, or more people, learned to be a bit more self sufficient this year - next year, if the crisis continues, they will be better off.
 
Kc Simmons
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Catie, I completely agree! Even if we're able to get the virus under control and the quarantine is lifted, I can see it taking a while for the economy to level out.
Last week, I think, it became manditory in my county (maybe whole state) for non essential businesses to close to the public. This includes businesses like hair salons, electronic sales/repairs, antique stores, and various others where people depend on sales/services for income instead of a salary. I've seen on my Facebook page where some local beauticians & other business owners that work from theirs homes or a rented/leased shop space are worried about how they're going to pay their bills without the income, and many are worried about losing their shop space since they're required to be closed, but the rent/mortgage payment is still expected to be paid. I'm thinking, if this quarantine continues & those people are unable to recoup their source of income, it will hurt the whole community, especially since I live in a small, rural town.
Fortunately, I already work from home, in the education system, from a company in the Dallas metroplex, so my income hasn't been threatened (yet), but who knows what the future holds. For that reason, I'm doing the same as you are. I'm planting way more than I originally planned, and also trying several new things in new beds in hopes of getting experience with them, building soil and, hopefully, a small yield. I'm getting ready to make the semi monthly trip to town, today, and will grab some quinoa, and more dried beans/field peas if there are any in stock. When I go to the feed store for my rabbit feed, I will also probably get a bag of oats and wild birdseed to keep on hand. Do you have any other suggestions for things I should look for in the grocery section?
 
pollinator
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Charli Wilson wrote: as if stockpiling seeds were useful...



I think stockpiling seeds is extremely useful.  Far more useful than stockpiling many, if not most things.  I do it every year.  I save far more seeds than I can plant in a season or three, and I plan to keep right on doing that.
 
Catie George
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Kc Simmons wrote:Catie, I completely agree! Even if we're able to get the virus under control and the quarantine is lifted, I can see it taking a while for the economy to level out.
Last week, I think, it became manditory in my county (maybe whole state) for non essential businesses to close to the public. This includes businesses like hair salons, electronic sales/repairs, antique stores, and various others where people depend on sales/services for income instead of a salary. I've seen on my Facebook page where some local beauticians & other business owners that work from theirs homes or a rented/leased shop space are worried about how they're going to pay their bills without the income, and many are worried about losing their shop space since they're required to be closed, but the rent/mortgage payment is still expected to be paid. I'm thinking, if this quarantine continues & those people are unable to recoup their source of income, it will hurt the whole community, especially since I live in a small, rural town.
Fortunately, I already work from home, in the education system, from a company in the Dallas metroplex, so my income hasn't been threatened (yet), but who knows what the future holds. For that reason, I'm doing the same as you are. I'm planting way more than I originally planned, and also trying several new things in new beds in hopes of getting experience with them, building soil and, hopefully, a small yield. I'm getting ready to make the semi monthly trip to town, today, and will grab some quinoa, and more dried beans/field peas if there are any in stock. When I go to the feed store for my rabbit feed, I will also probably get a bag of oats and wild birdseed to keep on hand. Do you have any other suggestions for things I should look for in the grocery section?




KC- I am shocked your state hasn't closed those things yet!!! I am complaining Ontarios essential service list is too broad, and it's been tightened once already. I wasnt particularly worried, as I am currently working from home, mostly working on infrastructure and mining projects, which are still essential services, but even some of those clients are starting to slow down, and as of yesterday my company is saying they may need to lay some of us off fully or partially in a week or two.

I am far from an expert, but we are planning on sunflowers and quinoa as visual barriers/less obvious food crops to hide our main vegetable garden from the road and provide some food. If I was in a warmer climate, I would plant chia and sorghum (celiac, which changes my food choices).
 
gardener
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Catie George wrote:I am trying new things this year - flour corn, quinoa, a few brassicas, hullless oats. I anticipate I won't get a good yield this year ( I almost always do better with saved seeds than fresh bought seeds), and they are going in a new garden bed, which are never as productive as established beds.  But the seeds won't be wasted - next year, I will know what I am doing, will plant larger blocks of whatever was most successful, and the yield will improve.



Planting things I otherwise wouldn't grow this year, to get some fresh seed because what I'm planting is five+ years old: very much a thing I am doing now.

I haven't wanted to comment on the seed shortage because I don't want to sound all "I've got mine, Mack, what's the problem?"  But honestly, I rarely buy seeds in planting season.  I have too many seeds.  My name is Dan Boone and I am a seed hoarder...

I buy collections of expired seed packets at garage sales.  I save my own seeds whenever it's easy.  I save seeds from fruits and veg that I liked after I bought it at the store.  I sometimes buy unusual fruit/veg just to get the seeds, especially when I travel. I buy 90%-off dollar store LOLseeds when they clearance at the end of summer.  I buy specific things I want when I see them on dusty hardware store seed racks in January.  I have that one friend who saves seeds and gives me her 2007 or 2011 packets that she never used, even when I don't ask for them.   I order stuff off the internet (including probably-bogus stuff from Chinese eBay and one-off orders from random seed companies when I get a notion that I might want to grow a thing) year round.  Many years I tear open a packet, plant it, fold it semi-shut, and throw it back into the loose collection of containers where my seeds are stuffed.  Those containers are an unholy mess.

In January, I decided to get my seeds in greater order.  I ordered a box of 500 #1 manila coin envelopes and smaller numbers of larger envelopes, and started working through my collection.  I found packets with dates back to 1984.  I am sorting unopened seed packets and repackaging/relabeling all the torn open packets, likewise the packets that are falling open due to old glue (Baker Creek packaging is terrible about doing this), random drug-deal-sized clear ziploc baggies from eBay purchases, and random tiny containers that my saved seeds are usually in.  Truly unwanted, deeply ancient and uninteresting, and spilled-in-the-bottom-of-the-box seeds are going in my cover crop seed bin.  (Nothing but loose/spilled/unlabeled seed has gone in there since the start of the pandemic.)  Everything else gets a new envelope and a handwritten lable with name, varietal info, date (my best estimate in many cases), any unusual planting info, and perhaps a word or two about why I was/am interested in this particular item.  

It transpires that maybe I should have bought a bigger box of coin envelopes.

In truth this is a huge collection of varieties, but none of the individual seed assortments contains very many seeds.  So I'm not really in a position to share seeds (this season) on a large geographical scale, although I could and will supply a few seeds from whatever I have to anybody in my communities that needs them.  But throughout the sorting project, I've been pulling out items that (1) I really want to preserve, and for which (2) I really only have a very few seeds, or the seeds I have are very old.  I'm making it a point to grow out more of these than usual this year.  Many will fail, because I'm not a good gardener, but some will not.  And I can remember only one case when I planted the last seeds I have (five tiny Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry seeds from 2013).  So there's always next year.

In consequence, I have planted vastly more seeds than I have room to grow.  Due to the age of the seeds and my poor storage conditions, I know a lot won't germinate.  But many already have, and more will.  In this of all years, I expect I'll be able to find homes for the surplus.  (I really like Michael's low-social-contact notion of an honesty box out by the road.)  

Due to illness and labor shortages and a hostile business climate for small business, I won't be shocked if seeds are hard to source at this time next year, too -- even if the pandemic is a distant memory.   One of my many goals, which may or may not happen, is to save more seeds than usual this year so as to be in a better sharing position next year.  
 
gardener
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Because of this we started a thread on seed saving!  Joseph Lofthouse has been kind enough to answer questions. I also highly recommend checking out Carol Deppe's book on breeding your own vegetables seeds


https://permies.com/t/137741/Thoughts-Seed-Saving-Joseph-Lofthouse
 
pollinator
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I wonder if it might be a good idea to start a seed swap/sale/giveaway thread too, especially if this shortage goes on and deepens.  As a veteran seed saver I'm going to be letting some plants of many kinds make seed this year!
 
Dan Boone
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Alder Burns wrote:I wonder if it might be a good idea to start a seed swap/sale/giveaway thread too, especially if this shortage goes on and deepens.  As a veteran seed saver I'm going to be letting some plants of many kinds make seed this year!



Permies had a Seed Swap By Letter thread that was active for many years and that people could still use, but it seems to have been moribund lately.

I am definitely open to a new thread though, especially one that encouraged folks to share seeds during the current shortage, even if getting something swapped for them is not a high priority.
 
pollinator
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People may also also consider collecting seeds for next year as well.   There is no guarantee this crap will end any time soon, if you think it is hard to find seed now, it could potentially be far worse next year.

I have been collecting my radish seed for years so I have vast amounts of radish seed.  Last year for the first time ever I managed to do crazy well on squash, zucchini and pumpkin and I managed to collect five pounds of seed from my own fruits.

Right now I am growing store bought leeks, cutoff carrot tops, onions, daikon radishes and celery plants to get seed for next year.  With all of my crops grown this year I will allow a percentage of everything to go to seed and try to collect enough seed to replant my garden next year, have enough to expand if I wish and hopefully some extra to be able trade or donate to others.  Just yesterday I planted 40 carrot plants in my garden from the tops of carrots that I cut off making juice.  I just saved all of the ones that had a decent amount of top growth and some amount of root growth started on the sides, cut the top 2 inches for planting.  I also have a few dozen growing in the house as a source of greens.  I have several turnips that I have been using for greens in the house that have already flowered, I should be able to collect the seed before to long.  

As it is right now farmers are plowing crops back into the ground because they have no market for them, they could donate the crops but the expense of having them harvested is too much to consider such an action.  I could see the potential of a very real food shortage coming here in the land of the plenty.

There is a lot of seed that one can pick up at the grocery store as well, I have about 30 pounds of bulk beans in my seeds that I plant from each year.  I also have about 5 pounds of wheat kernels I bought bulk at Winco that I am growing at the moment in the house.  Other things that could be useful are animal feeds, I buy 25# bags of black oil sunflower seed to grow large patches of sunflowers, I have feed corn that I bought for the chickens, now that they can free graze I am saving the rest to plant and grow some more corn for my chickens.

There are loads of potential seed supplies out there right now, just have to think outside the box....
 
pollinator
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I have noticed seed shortages in my area, as well. I save a lot of seed each year so don't tend to need much, but wanted to add some diversity to my pole beans by adding fortex variety. I ordered in January from Johnnies, and I got an email today that said I won't get them this year, because they are back ordered. That kind of peeved me off. I ordered them forever and a day ago, but oh, well.

So what I did when I needed some extra peas and lettuce mixes this year was drive farther out into the country and visit the farm store. People out in the country save lot's of seed and grow a lot of their own stuff every year, so the demand is a little lower and the racks were fuller than the stores closer in to the suburb areas (our farm is kind of on the outskirts of a more suburban type area). There didn't seem to be much of a run on things. However, this was weeks ago so I have no idea how it looks now.

I actually just went through our saved seed this year and realized I went a little buck wild last year, so we are good, with plenty left over to share starts with folks.

This seed shortage has taught me to be FAR less cavalier with sowing. I actually spaced my rows this year and planted according to instructions and I saved SO much seed. Absurd how wasteful I was being in years past. With the insurance layer of always being able to hit up the Winco for extra seed if I screwed up removed, I am far more conscientious. A little light spot to all the dark going on right now.

This pandemic, already teaching me a ton about myself and others, has had the silly unintended consequence of making me more organized in my garden. Take that, you crappy self help books.

 
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