Tuesday, January 18

Vegetable seeds substantially cheaper for 2021/22

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In what is becoming an annual tradition, I have again identified the cheapest vegetable seed prices across the UK’s main seed companies.  I examine a ‘notional’ basket of vegetable seeds across a range of ten crop types and compare them from vendor to vendor and, where that is not possible, I compare a closely matched alternative variety. As always I calculate a ‘price per seed’ and ‘price per 1000 seeds’ rather than the ‘price per packet’-  since packet prices vary along with the volume of seeds contained inside them.

Prices are down – value for money is up across many seed companies

For the first time in five years my ‘Seed Price Index (SPI)’ shows that on average 2021/22’s seed prices are lower for most retailers, only Sarah Raven and ‘The Organic Catalogue’ have increased the cost of 1000 seeds in my SPI basket ( Sarah Raven still has the cheapest ‘Tender and True’ parsnips though). Perhaps the biggest change has come from Thompson & Morgan which is now 50.79% cheaper to buy from than it was for the past four years, Chiltern Seeds and Mr Fothergills have also made substantial reductions on a cost per seed basis. Of course Thompson Morgan still remain in the top five more expensive vegetable seed suppliers alongside sister suppliers Suttons, Dobies and the Organic Catalogue (ALL of which are owned by Thompson & Morgan anyway) but it’s a huge change for them to improve value for money by more than half.

Premier Seeds Direct, as the cheapest supplier of vegetable seeds, are new to my seed price comparison review – I had left them off for a number of years but now purchase from them myself. Their small metalic packets don’t look as pretty as those available on the seed stands at your local garden centre but buyers likely pay less as a result of reduced costs. A tiny £1.69 for 1000 seeds from my notional basket if purchased at Premier Seeds Direct vs. £16.36 at Dobies or £19.81 at the Organic Catalogue.

Cheapest price per 1000 vegetable seeds

Seed Company 2022/2021
£ Change
2022/2021
%  Change
2022
Prices
2021
Prices
2019
Prices
2018
Prices
Premier Seeds Direct N/A N/A £1.69 N/A N/A N/A
Seed Parade -£2.29 -35.23% £4.21 £6.50 £6.80 £7.00
Kings Seeds -£2.02 -28.90% £4.97 £6.99 £8.20 £8.80
Chiltern Seeds -£5.19 -50.29% £5.13 £10.32 N/A N/A
Marshalls -£3.86 -39.43% £5.93 £9.79 £8.50 £8.10
Mr Fothergills -£2.95 -29.38% £7.09 £10.04 £11.30 £10.60
Simply Seed -£0.19 -2.26% £8.21 £8.40 N/A N/A
DT Brown -£4.21 -33.55% £8.34 £12.55 £14.00 £9.40
Thompson & Morgan -£11.23 -50.79% £10.88 £22.11 £22.60 £24.90
Suttons -£0.78 -5.67% £12.98 £13.76 £15.60 £18.80
Sarah Raven £2.59 24.48% £13.17 £10.58 N/A N/A
Dobies -£1.84 -10.11% £16.36 £18.20 £17.60 £16.10
Organic Catalogue £2.46 14.18% £19.81 £17.35 £14.03 £11.50

Further Reductions – Membership Schemes and Discounts

Thompson and Morgan and its sister company Suttons do offer a further 10% discount on their seeds to members of their annual membership scheme. For £10 a year, scheme members can purchase seeds for 10% less than the standard fees (plus some other benefits). This would put them mid-table on the Seed Price Index.

Dobies have an allotment / group scheme which reduces seed costs by 50% using a unique code and it is very easy to administer. However, as one of the more expensive seed vendors to begin with, 50% off only puts them mid table and still some way off a regular purchase from Premier Seeds Direct,  Seed Parade or Kings Seeds (who also have an allotment association scheme to further reduce their prices by up to 50%.)

Which vegetable varieties are in my notional vegetable seed basket?

There are ten crops used in my Seed Price Index (SPI), they are shown below, along with the cheapest and second cheapest vendor(s) on a cost per seed basis. Click vendor names to order the cheapest available products.

 Vegetable Type & Variety Cheapest Vendor Second Cheapest Vendor(s)
Beetroot
– Boltardy
Premier Seeds Direct Simply Seed / DT Brown
Carrots
– Autumn King
Premier Seeds Direct Seed Parade
Parsnip
– Gladiator / True & Tender
Sarah Raven Premier Seeds Direct
Swede
– Marian / Tweed
Seed Parade Mr Fothergills
Runner Bean
– Enorma / White Lady
Premier Seeds Direct Simply Seed
Cucumber
– Burpless / Marketmore
Premier Seeds Direct Chiltern Seeds
Sweetcorn
– Swift / Bantam / Moonshine
Premier Seeds Direct Simply Seed
Squash
– Uchiki Kuri / Potimarron
Premier Seeds Direct Thompson & Morgan
Tomato
– Shirley / Gardeners Delight
Dobies Sarah Raven
Sweet Pepper
– Long Red / Marconi
Premier Seeds Direct Kings Seeds / Seed Parade

 

Postage and Shipping

Postage fees also vary a little but not enough to make a big difference to the overall order of the Seed Price Index. Here is the Seed Price Index with delivery costs included:

 Seed Company 1000 Seeds £ 1st Class Postage £ Total £
Premier Seeds Direct £1.69 £1.45 £3.14
Seed Parade £4.21 £1.99 £6.20
Kings Seeds £4.97 £1.75 £6.72
Chiltern Seeds £5.13 £2.25 £7.38
Marshalls £5.93 £1.99 £7.92
Mr Fothergills £7.09 £1.99 £9.08
DT Brown £8.34 £0.95 £9.29
Simply Seed £8.21 £1.59 £9.80
Thompson & Morgan £10.88 £2.99 £13.87
Sarah Raven £13.17 £2.50 £15.67
Suttons £12.98 £2.99 £15.97
Dobies £16.36 £2.99 £19.35
Organic Catalogue £19.81 £2.99 £22.80

 

But is it all about price?

Usual disclaimer here – it’s entirely possible that the cheaper seed companies give more seeds with lower viability, could the seeds even be lower quality? Maybe, maybe not, all I know is I buy from most of the above as and when the deals arise and I have yet to be left disappointed by any of them which for me suggests a fairly even playing field on quality.

My favourite seed vendors remain the more unique sellers of heritage varieties realseeds.co.uk, pennardplants.com and Franchi’s seedsofitaly.com. These seed companies are certainly not the cheapest, but they are also usually not the most expensive either and they offer some unique options in a world where six of the well known seeds brands are owned by two companies.

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About Author

Matt Peskett is GrowLikeGrandad (if you want to know why read 'About the Editor). He has a few 'heavy clay' allotments and is Chairman of the Dorking Allotment Holders Association (DAHA). Matt also has a medium sized 'sandy soil' hillside garden (Italian terrace designed) and enjoys photography - especially nature. Matt takes inspiration from gardens like Hidcote and Great Dixter and enjoys watching anything on TV presented by Monty Don or Louis Theroux.

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