The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives, including the way we interact with nature. The shortage of toilet paper in the beginning of 2020 was just the start of what would turn out to be a tough year for many people, especially those who rely on their gardens for sustenance. As a result of the pandemic, there was a shortage of seeds, which many seasoned gardeners had predicted.
In 2019, experienced gardeners had already seen the pandemic coming to the U.S. and had remembered the recession of 2008-2009 when many people started gardens to feed their families. To prepare for the upcoming food scarcity, they stocked up on seeds, stored them responsibly, and ordered again the following fall. However, the new gardeners who emerged in 2020 grabbed up the seeds quickly, leading to a shortage. Seed companies were forced to close their websites temporarily or sell only to “farmers only” to ensure they had enough seeds for long-standing clients.
Saving seeds is one solution that many gardeners have adopted in response to the seed shortage. They understand the obstacles that seed companies face, such as labor costs, supply chain issues, drought, disease, pest infestation, and natural disasters. Additionally, seed producers must anticipate demand over a year ahead of time and hope that their crops produce enough seeds. All of these factors can make it difficult for seed companies to keep up with demand.
Preserving heirloom seeds is another option that gardeners can consider. While F1 hybrids are dependable, vigorous, and produce tasty fruit, they do not guarantee the same quality of produce in the following year. In contrast, open-pollinated varieties that have been feeding communities for generations provide reliable and consistent produce. Saving seeds also means taking individual steps to avoid shortages within our own gardens.
For new gardeners or those who have only grown F1 hybrids, there are still options available. Aden Tate's article on the seed shortage provides several solutions, such as joining local seed swaps and seed libraries, networking with friends, learning how to graft annuals, and swapping out ingredients in recipes. Keeping a good inventory of the seeds you have on hand can also help you determine what works and what you already have.
The pandemic years have impacted our gardens in many ways, including a shortage of seeds. However, gardeners can adapt by saving seeds, preserving heirloom varieties, and exploring alternative sources for seeds. By taking individual steps to ensure a sustainable and abundant garden, we can continue to enjoy the fruits of nature during these uncertain times.