Don’t just HOPE you are choosing the right seed variety for your garden. There is a ton of great information on a seed packages and in the plant description for vegetable seeds online. Seed companies make it really easy to understand the benefits of each seed which makes choosing the best seed variety for your growing zone so much easier, but what does it all mean?
Watch the video to find out which information I find to be MOST important. (it’s all important, but certain things will give you your quick yes or no right away when deciding).
You can also keep reading for a breakdown of each very handy piece of information you will find on a seed packet to help you choose the best seeds.
How to choose the best seeds based on the description on the seed packet:
- Do you have a large garden plot?
- Do you have a smaller urban garden?
- Perhaps you like to grow on your patio or balcony in pots?
If you have a smaller growing space or a container garden you will want to look for things like “dwarf”, “bush”, “container” or anything that indicates it is a smaller variety in the seed variety description or name. You could be very surprised otherwise. Example: The difference between an indeterminate tomato and a determinate one is massive! We are talking 6-7ft vs 2ft.
The description will note the size of the plant when mature. Be careful not to mistake the “spacing” measurements for the measurements of the actual plants size.
Spacing measurements often add in things like “space between rows”. If you aren’t planting a garden where you need to move in between the rows then this is irrelevant to you, like square foot gardening, small raised beds or container gardening.
Your garden space is valuable so choose the right seed variety wisely.
Most of us are limited in the space that we can grow in. This may be limited square footage that we can plant in. It might also just be that you limited a limited amount of time.
Either way the space you dedicate to the plants you are growing is quite valuable. This means that you want each plant to produce well for you since you have given it valuable space.
Sometimes you will see it noted in the description about the overall production ie. the amount of harvest you will get from it. Things like “quick to produce”, “early harvests”, “will keep producing right until frost” are all good things to watch for.
Short season growers should look for earlier producing varieties especially to get a jump on the season.
If you are trying to decide between two varieties and one notes this above the other go with that one. It’s an easy decision and move on to the next plant you need.
A quick note: If a plant isn’t growing in its happy place ie. the right conditions it is not going to produce well for you regardless of whether it says it is a good producer. This comes down to understanding your own growing space, making a plan and choosing varieties that fit it. You can find your clear step-by-step blueprint on how to make this happen in my online course The Complete Gardening Season Course Bundle.
*Days To Maturity*
Is your growing season long enough for that particular seed variety?
This is one thing I really wish I knew to ask in my first years of gardening.
You have been waiting so patiently and FINALLY your peppers plants have their first peppers on them! Then 2 short weeks later your weather network is telling you have frost warnings. You are at the end of your season and your plant just got going… sound familiar?
In my zone 3 garden this is a very real thing if I haven’t chosen my plants correctly and planned according to my season.
Days to maturity is that number on the front of the seed package that you have likely been ignoring… like I did. Turns out it is SUPER important.
Days to maturity means:
The time it takes from sowing the seed until the plant will start to fruit or flower for you. Important note that this is the START of fruiting so you want as much time after this with the right growing conditions for the plant to produce abundantly.
Us cold season gardeners aka short season gardeners need to choose the SHORTEST possible days to maturity wherever possible.
Certain Seed Varieties Need To Be Started Indoors
Do you want to start your own starter plants?
It is a serious question you are going to have to ask yourself eventually in your gardening journey. It will start when you start looking at more and more seed varieties and you see the “start 6-8 weeks before your last frost” germination requirements.
Starting your garden indoors is something I worked up to little by little. You need space to house the plants, a sunny window sill and potentially grow lights, dirt in your house, seed starting pots…. Etc etc.
If the honest answer to this question is you don’t want to have to deal with any of that then awesome! You don’t have to. That’s what greenhouses are for. Skip the seed shopping and go straight to buying your starter plants ready to go.
So when you are looking at those seed packages and you see it requires you to start it indoors you have to make the decision as to whether you want to or not.
This is a key step to choosing the right seeds for you because it will help you eliminate certain categories of plants right away and move on the next.
Plant diseases are plentiful…
… especially in certain plants.
Let’s take tomatoes for example. They can be pretty high maintenance, what with all the kinds of blight they are prone to, fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, septoria leaf spot, tomato mosaic virus… it’s a long list and this doesn’t even touch all the fungal issues that can go wrong with them.
You will find that certain varieties are less prone to disease and it will note it right in the description when you’re shopping. Look for things like “resistant to ….” in the seed variety description.
Unfortunately the heirloom seeds tend to be the ones that are slightly more prone to disease. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them out but pay extra close attention to the care you provide them and try to keep them in their ideal growing, watering & nutrient conditions.
So especially when you are shopping for your next tomatoes for the garden. Keep an eye out for the disease resistant ones to boost your chances of a happy plant.
Happy plants = productive plants = happy gardener
*Special Germination Requirements*
Can’t get your seeds to germinate?
Maybe it’s not you, it’s them? *shrug*
It’s a thing! Some seeds are notoriously hard to get to germinate. Let’s take my new favorite strawberry variety called an alpine strawberry. These guys are a huge pain to start from seed BUT they are worth it.
Some seeds are just harder to start than others. If you like a challenge, go for it. If you would rather avoid the headache of certain seed varieties then get a starter plant instead. If you read in the vegetable seed companies description that it says something like “slow to get started” or “requires bottom heat to germinate” or note a long germination time or a cold period, like these strawberries, then it will be more challenging to germinate.
I know you want to get a jump on the season. Every gardener does.
The fun thing is that there are lots of plants that prefer cooler temperatures and even tolerate a bit of frost.
You can use this to get started early in the season with cold tolerant plants or to make sure that heat loving plants don’t get put in the ground too soon.
You will usually see things like “hardy”, “semi-hardy”, “transplant after the last frost”, “plant as soon as the ground can be worked” or “direct sow after the last frost”. Some plants like cold and some really do not. These will tell you it’s preference and how you can use it in your own garden to boost overall success and production.
Some plants are more sensitive to pressure from weeds. If you see something like noted in the description be sure that plant always gets your attention first when you go to weed. A stressed plant is not going to be a super productive one.
Did you know by transplanting some plants you can actually set them back in their development even though you got them going early indoors?
Some plants do not care for their roots being disturbed which means you either need to be very careful when transplanting or directly sowing it in the ground if you can.
This can be tricky when you live in a cold growing zone and have a short season where your garden benefits from getting most things started early.
So what to do?
There are a couple of steps you can take to reduce the stress of transplanting:
- Knowing which plants are prone to this is first.
- Using peat pots for these plants to lessen the root disturbance at time of transplanting. You can find the peat pots that I like to use by clicking this link.
- Be very careful to not start these plants too early indoors. The longer their roots develop in pots the more stress they will feel at time of transplant.
*Storage Of Harvest*
You might see things like “good for long term storage” or “will keep for several weeks after harvest”. This will only make your life as a gardener easier because it means you have more time to either eat it or preserve it before it will go bad on you.
Now you can successfully read and understand how to use the valuable information for each unique seed variety to decide if it is a good choice for your garden.
As you can see there are a ton of choices you can make which can be both exciting and a little stressful. If something doesn’t sound like it will work for you just move on to the next one. There are so many options to gardeners now.
Start with making sure it’s days to maturity fit easily into your growing zone and season. Then decide whether you want to start it from seed (often inside your house) or if you would prefer to make it simple and just buy a starter plant. It’s ok to not want to haul dirt into your dining room in the winter!
This won’t be the only big question you have throughout your season!
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Now that you have chosen the perfect seeds you will want to make sure you have good success with germination. You can learn everything you need to know to boos success in my blog post –> 8 Reasons Why Your Seeds Didn’t Sprout – Tips To Prevent Poor Germination