Smart Tips for Selecting Seeds for Your Spring Garden
Navigating the selection of garden seeds from catalogs and stores requires some strategic thinking.
The anticipation of a new gardening season is often symbolized by the potential wrapped up in a new packet of seeds. With a wide array of vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers available, browsing a seed catalog can evoke the excitement of a child in a toy store. Yet, it’s all too easy to get carried away and purchase more seeds than necessary, or varieties that aren’t suited to your garden’s conditions. To steer clear of these common mistakes, it’s important to consider which seeds will meet your gardening goals and the best timing for purchasing and planting them to ensure success in your garden.
1. Buy Seeds In the Winter
Many types of garden plants, including annual flowers, herbs, and vegetables, can be successfully started from seeds during the cold, snowy months. The key is to begin the sowing process indoors and transferring the seedlings to your garden when the spring soil warms.
Early indoor starts are particularly advantageous for cool-season flowers and vegetables, such as pansies, sweet peas, cabbage, and broccoli. This approach gives them a head start, enabling them to yield produce before the summer heat impedes their growth.
Similarly, warm-season varieties like marigolds, zinnias, tomatoes, and bell peppers can benefit from being sown under grow lights indoors. This allows them to be relocated to the garden after the last frost date, ensuring an earlier, extra long harvesting period. A grow light setup can be as basic as a fluorescent shop light positioned a few inches above the seed trays.
2. Know Your Growing Area
Figuring out which garden seeds to get can be influenced greatly just by assessing the available growing space. For instance, if your gardening area is limited or you plan to grow plants in containers on a deck, opting for compact plant varieties is the smart thing to do. There are space-saving versions of many vegetables and flowers available, such as selecting determinate rather than indeterminate tomato seeds, or opting for dwarf sunflowers over taller varieties. Selecting the right seed variety can help you make the most of every square inch of your gardening space.
3. Buy What You Like
When choosing vegetable seeds, consider the types of vegetables your family likes and will eat. If your household is fond of spicy dishes, incorporating both hot pepper and sweet bell pepper plants might be a good idea. Alternatively, if you’re looking to enjoy fresh salad greens over an extended period, opting for a mesclun seed mix could be more beneficial than selecting a specific type of head lettuce.
4. Cater to Your Climate
Garden plants have varying maturation times, making it essential to pick seed varieties that align well with your region’s climate. Begin by reading the “days to harvest” or “days to maturity” details provided on the seed packet, and assess whether the length of your local growing season accommodates the flowers or vegetables you wish to grow. For those in northern regions with more abbreviated growing seasons, it’s smart to lean towards seed varieties that mature quickly. Conversely, in southern climates, where hot weather persists longer, plants needing extended growth periods tend to thrive better.
5. Consider Adding Pollinators
Numerous annuals, including sunflowers, African marigold, and nasturtium, can be effortlessly grown by planting seeds directly into the garden once the threat of frost has passed. These flowers not only inject the garden with vibrant colors but also play a crucial role in attracting pollinators, which benefits the productivity of various crops, like squash. Additionally, some of these pollinating insects serve as natural predators to common garden pests, providing a dual benefit to your garden’s health and productivity.
6. Avoid Diseases
When selecting garden seeds, prioritize varieties that are resistant to diseases, particularly if your garden has faced such challenges before. For instance, in the case of tomatoes, seek out types marked with a VFN designation. This label indicates that the tomato variety is resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt — two diseases frequently affecting tomatoes — and also to nematodes, which can cause damage from within the soil.