You may walk away confused and indecisive the next time you visit a seed stand or look through a seed catalog. The amount of seed varieties available for vegetables and flowers can overwhelm even the seasoned gardener. You'll probably wonder how you can possibly pick from so many options. Well, don't stress, consider a few things when making your seed selections. These factors, if addressed, make seed picking easier the next time you are faced with this decision.
Purchase seeds early, prior to the start of gardening season. University of Iowa Extension advises purchasing seeds in December or January to ensure the varieties you want are available. Begin your planning process even earlier.
Rank the importance of growing from organic seed or raising heirloom or unique varieties in your garden plan. Basic, hybrid varieties of both fruits and vegetables are commonly found at gardening stores, heirloom varieties and organic seeds may take more effort to find and be more expensive to purchase. This will be a consideration when you choose who to buy from, as well as what seeds you buy.
Consider space, location and sunlight. Evaluate where you want to plant your seeds; in pots, raised beds or in the ground. Determine how much space you have in those areas. Flower seeds grow in even the smallest pot, while most vegetables need more space. Spacing requirements vary even among different cultivars of the same vegetable, for instance bush cucumbers will grow in a pot, while the vining variety should go in the ground. The amount of sun and shade in your garden will also guide your seed choices. While many plants prefer full sunlight, a few, primarily leafy vegetables and foliage plants, will grow in shade.
Contact your local extension office for assistance in determining what varieties are best suited for your area. Don't waste time and resources planting vegetables or flowers which have little chance of surviving or doing well.
Evaluate preferences of those who will enjoy the garden. Ask family members what flowers and vegetables they like. Grow only varieties that appeal to those who will be eating the food or enjoying the beauty of the flowers.
Research seed companies online. Some seed companies have special offers available that may sway your decision. Others may only ship at certain times of year or may not ship certain varieties to your state.
Verify freshness dates, usually printed on the back. This date specifies what year the seed was grown for, which should read the current year. If seeds are outdated, do not purchase. "Old seeds bought at bargain prices may turn out to be more trouble than they are worth," says North Carolina State University Extension specialist Larry Bass. He adds that few seeds will likely germinate and those that do produce weak, slow-growing seedlings.