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Learn how to get garden seeds from your grocery store!

beautiful produce and chiles

If you live in the backwoods or rural areas, no doubt you have either experimented with a garden or at least entertained the idea of having one.

I buy many of my seeds at the grocery store. When I want to plant pinto beans, for instance, I buy a two-pound bag for a ridiculously low price. I eat half the beans and plant the other half.

But aren’t food-quality beans treated so that they will not germinate? After all, no one wants to buy a package of beans where half of them have already sprouted.

Every package I have ever bought germinated without any trouble at all. In fact, they germinate at least as well as any I have ever bought at the seed store.

You can also buy limas, black-eyed peas, crowder peas, great Northern beans, kidney beans, and virtually any other type of bean on the market, as long as the beans are sold in a package on the shelf. Do not try to plant canned or frozen beans. They will not work.

How do you plant the beans? Treat them as you would if you had bought them at the garden store. You may want to try freezing the beans overnight before planting them, but, although this seems to help some seeds, this step is not necessary.

What else can you buy at the grocer’s that will produce well in the garden? Anything that is sold at room temperature and contains seeds.

This means that if you buy a watermelon or a slice of melon from the produce counter, the seeds in the melon will germinate readily. One caution: the melon may be a hybrid, and if it is, the seeds will not produce the exact melon as the one you are eating.

In order to achieve a hybrid melon, two or more melons were hybridized to get the one you bought. As a result, the seeds will incorporate many of the qualities in the melon you are eating. Part of the idea in the process of hybridization is to take the best or most preferred qualities of one plant and combine it with the best qualities of another. These qualities, however, are not always centered around taste or appearance but may be concerned with the plant’s resistance to blight, cold, and pests.

You can also plant the seeds of cantaloupes, honeydew melons, and nearly any other type of melon on the produce shelves.

But what about apples and peaches? Here you may experience a slight problem. The apple seeds will germinate, but you may get an apple that is not what you expected or wanted it to be. The same is true of peaches.

In one of our most recent peach plantings, we planted several peach seeds and succeeded in growing half a dozen nice peach trees. The trees, though slow-growing, produced large, attractive, delicious fruit very early in their lives.

We've also had wonderful luck with potatoes. Have you ever bought a sack of potatoes and, as you used them, discovered some had started to sprout slightly.

If so, you are in business. If the potato will sprout at all, it will grow in the soil.

When we peel these potatoes, we save the peelings and let them dry for a few days. Then we plant potatoes is regular hills, rows, or towers. The sprouts grow and flourish.

What about sweet potatoes? When we buy yams, we generally shop at the roadside markets rather than at the supermarkets. Supermarket potatoes or yams may be grown in other countries under radically different conditions from ours. They may also have been treated to prevent sprouting.

The roadside market potatoes were undoubtedly grown by local farmers. And the difference in price can be shocking. We saw sweet potatoes in the supermarket for 59 cents per pound and at the roadside market we bought beautiful yams for 15 cents per pound.

Some of the sweet potatoes we grew weighed as much as four pounds each, and they were not pithy or tasteless. To create sweet potato sets, we slice one sweet potato through the center and then we place half of the sweet potato, cut side down, in a container with an inch or so of water in the bottom. Within a few days the sprouts start to appear and within a week the container is filled with sprouts and foliage. Snap off the sprout at the base and set it out, well after the danger of frost is past.

Incidentally, when you store potatoes, you will notice the large tubers will form tiny new potatoes, and you can snap these off and eat them, or you can plant them. Either way, you get a nice bonus.

You can plant a whole garden with the leftovers from your food shopping trip.

When you prepare peppers for dining, remove the seeds. Dry them, and plant them when the weather has warmed.

Do the same with cucumbers, squash, and nearly anything else with a seed.

You can’t get seeds from carrots, lettuce, turnips, and quite a few other foods, so you may still need to do some seed shopping at the garden center the first year. After that you can let some plants go to seed and store them for the next year. But when you buy the seed-bearing foods, like the melons and cucumbers or squash, you get the seeds totally free.

Here’s an added bonus. If you buy some foods, such as horseradish, with the tops (or at least part of the top still attached), you can cut off the top, plant it in the ground, and it will reproduce another horseradish root just like the one you bought. The next year it will divide, and soon from only one top you will have an entire patch of horseradish.

And that’s a bargain. When was the last time you bought something, ate it, and still had 200 of them left over?