How To Choose Garden Seeds

As a new gardener, picking out seeds can be downright overwhelming. Imagine yourself staring at racks upon racks of seed packets. Which ones should you pick? Of course the answer to that question is different for every gardener. Why don’t we go through the different choices that you might have when your choosing seeds? Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be on your way to a smashing and productive garden this coming season!

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How Long Is Your Gardening Season?

Unless you are employing season extension in your garden, most Maine growers in zone 5 have between sometime in May and September for growing. The frost dates dictate how long the actual growing season will be. If you pick up a packet of corn for example, days to harvest could range from 72-96 days. By doing the math you quickly realize that you will need over 3 full months with the correct growing conditions to be able to harvest that corn. With a relatively short season, choosing the corn seeds that take fewer days to maturity would probably be your best choice.

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A variety of salad greens!

Many types of lettuce are ready for baby leaf picking in 45 days. This means that by planting every few weeks you can expect a continuous harvest throughout the growing season. Some radishes are mature in as few as 24-30 days. Radishes do best in cooler weather so plan on sowing in early spring and then put in another round in early fall. Tomato varieties such as cherry or grape types can be harvested over the whole summer, whereas larger heirloom tomatoes can take the entire growing season to mature. Take this into consideration when choosing seeds.

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Seeds!

Types and Varieties

Looking at seed catalogs can be mesmerizing. With their colorful pictures, endless varieties and appetizing descriptions. But ask yourself, what do I really need? It may be less than you think. Try drawing up a garden plan according to the space that you have. Map out exactly what you have room for and make a list.

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Figure out what you want to plant!

If you have a small garden, dwarf or bush varieties may give a large yield while taking up less space. A larger garden could accommodate more sprawling plants such as winter squash or indeterminate tomatoes. Take note of key words such as ‘climbing’, ‘spreading habit’ or ‘compact’. These are all words that describe the crops that you will end up with. In the case of choosing your cucumber seeds, some grow well in large hills, while others do better on a trellis. A pole bean may produce more than a bush bean and perhaps they will produce over a longer period of time.

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‘Romano’ pole beans climbing.

When To Plant

One other factor to pay attention to is planting dates. Some veggies benefit from being started indoors. In this case, follow package directions as to how many weeks before the last frost the seeds should be planted indoors. You can find out local frost dates by looking up your specific gardening zone. It also helps to pay attention to the local weather.

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Tomato seedling started indoors.

My favorite seeds to plant are ones that go right into the ground. These include beets, carrots, parsnip and chard. It is so simple to go out to a well prepared garden bed and just plant seeds according to the depth and the spacing on the seed packet. Then you need to make sure that the kids, the dog, squirrels and the neighborhood cat stay out of your freshly planted seeds. That’s going to be a topic for another day!

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Swiss chard is easy to grow from seed!

Seed selection need not be stressful but with some careful planning you can get just the right seeds for your garden. Get yourself into reading the packet descriptions. It’s great fun to pick out what you want to grow! Resist the urge to go grab the first seeds that you see. Really make sure that you get what you want to grow when you choose garden seeds. Browsing seed catalogs makes for an exceptional winter pastime. Ask some local gardeners where they get seeds. Circle what you like and narrow it down to what you need.

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Garden design on a whole new level.

A few years back Everlongardener dissected the seed packet in a thorough post on seed selection. I do hope that you check it out. Remember, picking out seeds early provides the best selection. In addition to garden planning we have been trying to get outdoors as much as possible over the last few weeks. Temperatures have been on the mild side so it’s been perfect for snowshoeing, ice fishing and cutting wood. It seems nice to spend time in the woods without so many ticks. Until next week…

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Lichen from the woods! So much to see.

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