Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bargain Hunting aka If You Don't Ask, the Answer is Always “No”

I had to stop by the local hardware store the other day, and I noticed that they had left-over garden seeds on sale for 10 cents a pack. You've seen those cardboard displays full of seed packets" This one was still about half full of vegetable seeds, and there was another one with flower seeds that had a bit less.

As I was checking out, I asked the cashier if they'd take an offer on the whole batch -- all of their left-over vegetable seeds for one price. She took down my phone number and name so she could pass it on to the owner. Two days later I got a call: they'd accept my offer so long as I took the flower seeds, too.

Here's what I picked up, with a dollar bill for scale . The larger bag is vegetable seeds and the smaller one is flower seeds. I'll have to sort out any herbs that may have gotten mixed in, and there are a few flowers that are useful for more than just ornamentation.

Some of you may be wondering why I'm buying garden seeds after the growing season is over (our first frost warning was announced tonight). Besides the huge drop in price, the “interesting” mix of vegetables, and the quantity edging towards trade goods, the best reason is that there's nothing wrong with the seeds. Planting seeds a year after their “crop year” date will drop the germination rate (percentage of seeds that will actually produce a plant) from 80-100% down to 60-70% at worst. This just means I'll just have to over-plant the seeds to make up for the losses, which is easier to do when the prices are low. Waiting two or three years drops the rate even lower (it varies by seed type), but there's a chance some of them will grow.

With slightly lower germination rates, these seeds would also be a good candidate for “guerilla gardening”, which is the act of planting a random selection of food plants on property that isn't yours. Think river banks along a bug-out route, or maybe a southern exposure on state/federal land. You may not get to harvest it, but it's there if you need it, and if nothing else, it'll provide food for the critters and may even make them easier to hunt.

I've opened the sack of vegetable seeds and here's a rough inventory:
  • Lettuce, leaf and head: 26
  • Cabbage: 5
  • Broccoli: 10
  • Cauliflower: 3
  • Spinach: 14
  • Beans: 16
  • Peas: 7
  • Bell peppers: 37
  • Jalapeno peppers: 5
  • Tomatoes: 37
  • Cucumbers: 20
  • Eggplant: 7
  • Squash (3 kinds): 27
  • Watermelon: 3
  • Pumpkin: 7
  • Carrots: 17
  • Radishes: 15
  • Onions: 13
  • Turnips: 14
  • Beets: 5
  • Sweet Basil: 21
That's a total of 309 packets, pre-priced at $0.99 each. That's $305.91 (plus tax) at retail price. Since the seed count varies by plant type, I'm not even going to guess at how many seeds are there; “a whole bunch” is about as close as I care right now. 

If you look at the variety, you'll notice that most of the seeds are for vegetables that are easy to store. Lots of root crops (onions, turnips, etc.), squash, and plenty of easily dried or canned options. The lettuce and a few of the others are for immediate use, but I got a good mix of pre-food. There are some things in there that I don't care to eat, but if times get tough I'm sure I'll be able to choke them down.

The owner of this local store wanted to free up some floor space and get ready for the winter displays, so he was happy to get rid of the two big cardboard racks of seeds. I haven't opened the flower seeds bag yet, but I think I got a fair deal for my $30.00 -- that's less than 10 cents per packet for just the vegetable seeds. He took less than his “clearance” price (probably close to half) just to get rid of them all at once.

If you don't ask, the answer is always “No”, so don't be afraid to talk to the folks behind the counter. They may not be authorized to accept your offer, but they should be able to pass you on to someone who is.

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