Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tips for a Beginning Gardener - Seeds

In the last post to beginning gardeners, I wrote about planning. One of the most important decisions in gardening is where to place your garden. Soil is of primary importance in the act of gardening. 

Seeds are probably second to soil in importance. We know that we get what we sow. If we choose weak seeds of dubious quality, we can not expect a bountiful harvest. Never skimp on seed quality. Planting inferior seeds is not a way to save money. 

This time of year, all the big chain stores are putting out seed racks. I have found the quality of these kind of seeds to be questionable. Typically you can find far better quality and selection by mail-order. I like to purchase seeds from a company that also sells to market growers. A grower who is planting vegetables for a living is not going to waste time on seeds of dubious quality. If their seeds don't grow well, they haven't just lost a hobby crop, but a livelihood. If a company continues to offer poor quality seeds, a grower will take his business elsewhere. I also like to look for a company that does their own seed trials so that they can offer the best seeds for their climate zone.

It is probably obvious then that you should choose a mail-order company from your climate zone. Don't buy from a company in the south if you are in the north. You want to find seeds that are bred to do well with your soil and climate. 

There are many good seed companies but if you want a few suggestions—try Territorial Seeds if you are in the northwest US, Park Seeds for southern US, and Stokes Seeds or Johnny's Select Seeds for the northeast US and Canada. Of course there are many other excellent seed companies but if you have never ordered seeds, this will give you a place to start.

Another option I have found to be good for seeds is some of the smaller garden centers that offer bulk seeds. The quality of these seeds is usually good, though the selection is not as good as mail order. 

If you plan to mail order, do it soon. This is the busy time for seed companies. The sooner you get your order in, the more likely you will get the varieties you want and faster service. My seed order arrived several weeks ago and I was sure that it brought a whiff of spring in the box! 

But it snowed the next day. Maybe spring is not here after all.

Where do you like to buy your seeds? Have you been pleased with the quality?

  

17 comments :

  1. In the past, we bought a lot of started plants since we don't have space to start them ourselves, yet. Just about the only seeds we've bought are the ones that are direct sown into the garden. We usually buy those as bulk seeds from TOPS True Value or the local garden center. This year is different. I ordered our seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - and we're going to be adding some veggies to our garden. We hope to be able to start saving them from year to year ourselves. I'm anxious to see how they do.

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    1. Just a note - if you want to save seed, do your research. Some types of seed can be easily saved, such as self-pollinated seed. But other seeds, such as insect pollinated can be a challenge. Also, to stay true to seed, some plants need to be planted in a large quantity - impractical for a home gardener.

      Sometimes writers make it sound like it is easy to save heirloom seed from year to year. But if you don't know what you are doing, you can corrupt your seed and end up with poor seed and minimal harvest. If you want to just have fun growing your own seed, that is fine. If you goal is actually to harvest food for your family, then quality seed is a must. There are well-researched books on the topic of seed saving that are worth reading if you want to save seed.
      Gina

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  2. I usually get my seeds from the local feed and seed. I have never bought them through the mail. Something to look into for next year. I do tend to buy cabbage, lettuce and such that is already started because I don't have a space to start seeds indoors.

    I grew up in a gardening family and have been doing it myself for several years. There is still so much for me to learn.

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  3. I encourage everyone to stock up on the heirloom seeds... they are not genetically engineered, but they have to say heirloom... Organic is still genetically unless other wise stated.. Each new spring planting season that is passing I have found it harder and harder to locate and purchase heirloom seeds, this is not by chance... Sure they maybe a bit more expensive at first but the reaping of rewards far outways the initial cost. I also figure planting and then reharvesting the seed will help keep the natural ness of the plant alive for generations to come.. and that cant be a bad thing.

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    1. I thought that organic was never allowed to be genetically engineered?

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    2. It was also my understanding that organic is not genetically engineered.
      Gina

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    3. I guess I should make mention, that the seed packet must have the USDA organic certification label on it for it to be deemed truly organic and not genetically engineered... There have been some "companies" that have mislead people.. I guess what I am trying to get at is to be even seed packet readers, make sure you read the label.. just like you would on something from the store.. Does that make sense? I apologized that my response here appeared that all organic was GE... When its like anything else... there is always faux ones.. Just like companies can say free range eggs, when all it takes for a company to claim it as so is if the chicken has a few feet to roam... To me thats not free range.. Research Research Research :)

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  4. We have gotten our seeds from Heirloomseeds.com for the past few years and are very pleased with them. They are a small, family-run business located in SW Pennsylvania.
    Maureen

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  5. I just wanted to throw some cushion out there about mixing heirloom seed with conventional seed. Many large companies are putting seed that will make heirloom seed inert if they pollenate together. Just a point is the “seedless” watermelon it is the inert crosspollination that caused it to be “seed less”. It is still very capable to get seed if pollinated correctly.
    Also keep in mind that if you save seed from conventional growers you are not guaranteed to get the same plant from the seed. There is a lot of crosspollination that happens and some seed can’t by the way the companies pollinate make the same plant.
    One last point, it is very hard to know if the corn you are buying is GMO free the only company that sells corn, as far as I know, that is tested to ensure it is GMO free is Baker Creek. Do keep in mind if there is GMO corn grown within a mile (corn pollen can spread for miles!) you are most likely to get pollen in your corn form the wind resulting in your corn becoming GMO contaminated.

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  6. I also buy heirloom seeds. Ferry Morse sells them (at least they did a couple years ago) and one of our local nurseries sells them. The only problem is that central Maryland can get very hot and humid during the summer and the plants will not set flowers and thus fruit under those conditions. I'm planning to get my plants in the ground in late April (a couple weeks before our last frost date) in hopes of beating the heat. If necessary, I can cover them if we do get a late frost.

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  7. We're relocating to Maine this shortly, so I'm not sure where I'll purchase from. I'm curious to see how gardening goes in a cooler climate. I do know I want to purchase some apple trees!

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  8. A lot of our seeds come from Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa. I love their full color catalog!! All the heirloom seeds, yum!... we have an arrangement with a friend with a greenhouse, that I plant our trays and she waters them along with hers, in exchange for using our pool in the summer!!

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  9. Oh Wendy that's a really neat idea! Wish more folks would do such things. :-)

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  10. I ordered from Gurneys! :) I am hoping all the seeds I get do well...they all had good reviews! :)

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  11. This would be new territory for me. I think I want to do this, though.

    One of the things that has stopped me is that we have a city yard and thus very small plots. We usually do not have space to plant every seed in the packet. What do we do with the rest of the seeds???

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  12. Hi there-
    I live on a very small plot of land with very poor soil conditions(rocky/sandy) I have struggled with my garden for years and have not been able to grow very much quality produce. Last year my friend put in a no till garden with excellent results. I saw this movie http://backtoedenfilm.com/ the other day and am hoping to try this this year. Just thought I would share
    Teresa

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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