The Twenty Seven Cent Melon Seed


I think that I have tried to grow just about every variety of every garden vegetable commonly on the market. Yes, I try new ones now and then, but I have been doing that for fifty years and by now I know what I want and want what I know. This is particularly true of muskmelons. I have tried the old heirloom varieties. I have tried the very latest varieties. I like them all but my very favorite is Burpee Hybrid and I aim to keep on eating this variety as long as I can afford to. And that’s the point.

Time was when mail order garden seeds were rather inexpensive. Not so anymore. One of my favorite tooth-grinders is the way economists tell us that we have inflation in check. Economists must not garden. Garden seeds have been going up steadily even during recessions. I suppose there is some sense to that since in a recession, there’s often more demand for garden seeds. Nevertheless seeds, and among the companies I order from, especially Burpee seeds, seem to go up all the time but in small increments so that hopefully, the customer hardly notices. Twenty cents a packet becomes two dollars in ten years while the number of seeds per packet keeps going down. $en$ational new varieties of course cost more.

I’m not really meaning to find fault with seed prices, as this story will show. What bothers me is the way seed companies charge for handling. I open my trusty Burpee catalog this year and decide the only thing I really want from it is Burpee Hybrid muskmelon. Price: $2.95 a packet, plus my 44 cent stamp to send in the order, or $3.39. For 30 seeds.

Then I get out the order form and find that the shipping and handling charge for orders under ten dollars is $4.95. To get those 30 seeds by mail, it is going to cost me $8.34, that is, a little over 27 cents per seed. Before I can blow a fuse, my wife says there is an alternative. Our “local” Wal-Mart carries Burpee seed, she says. Everything is cheaper at Wal-Mart, right?

So out to the store we go, and sure enough there’s a huge display of Burpee seeds there. I am gloating as I run my eye over the hundreds of packets priced about the same as in the catalog. I have found a way to beat the system. Hmmmm. I run my eye over the seed display again. And then again. I begin to get a pain deep in my gut. Sure enough. Hundreds of Burpee seeds but not one confounded packet of Burpee Hybrid muskmelon. I stage a scene. My wife says she will never go into any store with me again. Once more, the great Wal-Mart, which has everything, did not have what I wanted and at the top of my voice, I let everyone in the store know it.

I am now convinced of a theory that’s been in my mind for about a year. Modern technology has made it simplicity itself to buy stuff. Catalogs by the zillions. Online with a computer by the gadzillions. Noooooooooooo problem.

Well, there is a problem. Someone has to cart all that stuff to your door.

I predict that the big box stores and the little box stores are going to survive just fine in the years ahead. It will always be cheaper to drive a truck load of seeds or whatever to a neighborhood store rather than drive a truck to each and every customer in that neighborhood.

Burpee will probably still know that there are people as looney as I am who want Burpee Hybrid muskmelon enough to pay a dollar a seed if necessary to get it through the mail. At least until this richest country in the world can no longer afford a postal service.


I order my seeds from a small supplier in Minnesota on the first business day of the year. The prices are very reasonable for bulk seeds. They come in baggies, but they seem to have 125% germination.

They only sell open pollinated seeds. Not all heirloom, but they are the most popular varieties.

With the popularity of gardening seemingly growing, or a least people who think they might garden and order seeds, ordering early this year seems prudent to me.

Gene, if I were your son, I’d be sure to buy you some of those muskmelon seeds for Christmas this year, or for St.Patrick’s day. If you post send me your address and the type of seed, I’ll send you some in return for some pictures of the muskmelon.

dujac, as a matter of fact, I did plant some seed frp, a burpee hybrid this year. The result is not very promising so far, but the plants are still growing. We shall see. But you know as well as I do, that one person’s experience is not going to be the same as another’s. Gene

have you ever saved and planted seeds from the burpee hybrid muskmelon?

i understand what f1 hybrids are, but i’m planting some of the seeds anyway

Gene, I made it to the show last night at Xavier. Thank you very much for the time. Wendell, Wes and you were a real treat. The evening was not at all what I expected, but A friend and I drove down from Columbus, the trip back was full of conversation regarding future lifestyles and identifying what things in this world are truly important.

I may have figured out why you were invited by the Dept. of Philosophy and Theology. Once we strip out all of the unnecessary stuff of this world, food is one of the few things left and quality food is evidence of quality life. You three are on the forefront of getting back to a true meaning of life. I think that in a world of planned obsolescence; there is a realization that real joy and happiness live intertwined with planned resilience.

I could go on, but instead, I think I’ll get away from this screen and enjoy the life around me. Thanks again.

Thank you so much for the offer, Tim, but I found another way. I had to bitch about it in print because of the principle of the thing. Gene

Miller’s on 36 just outside Delaware, OH has them. Send me an address and I’ll mail them to you.

Gene, I’m an RN–based on my experience and what I know of your lifestyle, nobody as contrary as you are is gonna die young! By the way, is your grandson suceptible to bribes?

Teresa Sue Hoke-House April 8, 2010 at 8:42 am

Hahaha, don’t feel bad Gene, my family still laughs at me for throwing a fit at a Fred Myers store about 15 years ago-I had bought an iron and it didn’t work, so I took it back, I didn’t want my money back, just an iron that worked-they proceeded to tell me they couldn’t take it back because they didn’t sell that brand of iron…I’m fairly reserved, but for some reason that injustice set me off and I had my say…and I refuse to shop at FM stores to this day. So hang in there, lol. Glad my daughter didn’t have a phone camera then…..

2 things

1. Go ahead and buy the seeds
worst case – they are part of your estate
best case – you have to buy some more in 10 years

2. What is the best way to contact your grandson?

When, still furious, I retold my adventure at WalMart to my son, my ornery grandson was recording it secretly. Now he plays it at family gatherings while everyone howls. Beth, I have thought of buying a supply for future years, but at my age, you wonder about doing that. Gene

Although small items incur exorbitant s@h charges, the cost of acquisition, retail display space and security has shifted the advantage to web retailers for many items (including Burpee’s hybrid melons it seems). But I agree that the local merchant has a significant role for the forseeable future.
If nothing else, they provide a platform for public venting of frustration. Did anybody capture your rant on a camera phone and post it on youtube? I would enjoy watching it.

I look forward to your appearance with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson this Sunday at Xavier University. We will be there!

Being the frugal (my husband says cheap) sort that I am, I must confess to avoiding the chains in favor of saving old tin cans and mixing my own potting mix for the seeds I save. You’re a much more loyal person than I am, Gene, as nothing would induce me to pay that kind of money for a hybrid seed! Given that the seeds will last for several years if proprerly stored, I wonder if it would pay you to buy a larger amount for the same shipping fee. As the bankers say, you could amortize your costs…

Don’t forget to check your local Farmers’ Markets for herb and vegetable plants in the spring! They will be healthy and well-cared for plants that have adjusted to your climate.

Teresa Sue Hoke-House April 7, 2010 at 6:57 am

I know exactly what you’re talking about Gene. I had the same problem, only it was seed starting products and herb starts instead of seed. I was going to order them from one of my favorite seed companies, because I WANT to support them. But when I figured out I was paying more to ship each individual thing than what the product costs, I decided I couldn’t afford to buy it through the mail. So, off to Walmart (forty some miles away) to get seed starting products. I’m waiting for the local nursery to open to see what herb starts I can get. There are some companies, I suspect, that make more money on their shipping/handling than their products. P.S. Would have loved to seen your fit at Walmart, *grin*.

Please leave your comments...

Name and email address are required. Your email address will not be published.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>