This time last year I compared vegetable seed prices across the major UK seed retailers. I did this by creating a notional basket of twelve different vegetables and gathering pricing information for each. By totalling up the price of this ‘seed basket’ for each seed supplier, and incorporating packet sizes, I calculated which seed supplier provided the cheapest 1000 seeds (on average). In 2018 the folks at seedparade.co.uk provided the cheapest seeds at £7 for 1000, whereas thompson-morgan.com charged £24.90 for 1000 seeds – a variance of 255%.
With the new year upon us and seed catalogues popping through letter boxes once again, it seemed sensible to reprocess the comparison task for 2019. I am of course using the same basket of seeds to see how inflation might be affecting vegetable seeds, much like the government’s RPI (Retail Price Index) I call this the SPI (Seed Price Index). Where an identical match is unavailable I select the next nearest on price and variety. It’s certainly not foolproof but does help give an indication of what you can expect to pay with each seed company.
2019 Seed Price Index (SPI)
To quickly summarise, the most expensive seeds in 2019 still come from thompson-morgan.com (£22.60 for 1000) with seedparade.co.uk remaining the cheapest (£6.80 for 1000) but what is interesting is that at both ends of the scale seeds have become cheaper. The gap between most costly and least costly has been reduced to 232%.
|Seed Supplier||1000 seeds 2019||1000 seed 2018||Variance||Change %|
You may note from the above that the largest price rise came from dtbrownseeds.co.uk – up a whopping 48.94% (but still mid-priced on the table). Dobies.co.uk also increased prices by 9.32% taking them up into second place, whilst suttons.co.uk reduced prices by 17.02% at the same time – interesting because both are owned by the same company, perhaps dobies.co.uk is more of a premium brand now? The folks at organiccatalogue.com have also increased vegetable seed prices, the notional seed basket is up by 22% in 2019. Chase Organics and their organiccatalogue.com website were acquired by Dobies (Suttons) in 2018 – one assumes that there is a similar pricing strategy at play there now…
Who has the cheapest vegetable seeds by variety?
|Cheapest Vegetable Seeds||Seller||Price Per Seed|
|Carrot – Fly Resistant||marshalls-seeds.co.uk||£0.003|
|Parsnip Seeds – F1 Gladiator||kingsseeds.com||£0.004|
|Swede Marian, Ruby, Tweed||seedparade.co.uk||£0.001|
|Pea Sugar Snap / Ann||seedparade.co.uk||£0.007|
|Runner Bean ‘Lady Di’ or Enorma||seedparade.co.uk||£0.039|
|Sweetcorn ‘Lark’ F1 Hybrid or Swift||seedparade.co.uk||£0.030|
|Sweetcorn Mini Pop or Snobaby||kingsseeds.com||£0.036|
|Pumpkin Dill’s Atlantic Giant||seedparade.co.uk||£0.230|
|Cucumber (Burpless / Marketmore)||dtbrownseeds.co.uk||£0.047|
|Courgette ‘Soleil’ F1 Hybrid / Goldmine||seedparade.co.uk||£0.119|
Who sells the most expensive vegetable seeds by variety?
|Most Expensive Vegetable Seeds||Seller||Price Per Seed|
|Carrot – Fly Resistant||unwins.co.uk||£0.008|
|Parsnip Seeds – F1 Gladiator||thompson-morgan.com||£0.012|
|Swede Marian, Ruby, Tweed||dobies.co.uk||£0.027|
|Pea Sugar Snap / Ann||dtbrownseeds.co.uk||£0.013|
|Runner Bean ‘Lady Di’ or Enorma||thompson-morgan.com||£0.092|
|Sweetcorn ‘Lark’ F1 Hybrid or Swift||thompson-morgan.com||£0.119|
|Sweetcorn Mini Pop or Snobaby||thompson-morgan.com||£0.119|
|Pumpkin Dill’s Atlantic Giant||dobies.co.uk||£0.490|
|Cucumber (Burpless / Marketmore)||thompson-morgan.com||£0.299|
|Courgette ‘Soleil’ F1 Hybrid / Goldmine||suttons.co.uk||£0.500|
Is price a lone a fair judgement?
I wrote last year that price alone is NOT the only factor to consider when purchasing seeds – germination percentage and the quality of the produce are important too. However, nobody knows what those are prior to purchase, and we all purchase on the assumption that we will have high germination and yield regardless of supplier. Only if we experience poor germination or crop yield from a particular supplier AFTER purchase might we make a decision not to repurchase the following year. So I put it to you that price will always be the dominant factor for most buyers of vegetable seeds. I’ve grown seeds from ALL of the above suppliers and never had a problem with any of them. Typically during my research I noted that you often get many more seeds per pack from the cheaper suppliers, so even if there were lower germination levels you’d still be better off.
Heritage seeds are an exception
Suppliers like pennardplants.com and realseeds.co.uk provide a service to us all, they offer unique varieties that are in theory more natural and closer to older ‘original’ crops. Not always likely to be retained by the big seed companies I like the fact that these other varieties are maintained by smaller outfits giving us future protection against food controllers. In addition it is much easier to harvest and retain seed for the following season without complication (vs F1 seed types) which saves you money in the long run. I have written a previous article about this here. I prefer to buy these heritage seeds at full price and that price is irrelevant to me (within reason). I add them into the Seed Price Index (SPI) purely for interest and it is clear that you are not paying more for these more traditional varieties – maybe you should! Everything else I am growing in 2019 was reduced to 50p a packet in the Wyevale Garden centre end of season clearance – despite their supposed expiry dates the seeds are usually good for two to three years afterwards anyway.
Beware the rogue seed companies
There are a whole host of dodgy new ‘seed companies’ out there pretending to sell rainbow coloured tomatoes, strawberries and roses. All are completely fake, many of them Chinese. Google accepts advertising revenue for these fraudulent items (I have complained twice to no avail). Again a full article on that is available here, order only if you like growing weeds thinking they are magical seeds… as a colleague of mine discovered. I know this article is all about price comparing but ALL of the companies in my SPI table are reputable vegetable seed sellers, I have tried them all, I wouldn’t gamble on anything else if it looks too good to be true, regardless of price or multi-coloured fantasy appeal.