Monday, January 7, 2013

Choosing Seeds

If you're mailbox is anything like ours, it is likely bursting full of seed catalogs.  Each year we save  the seed catalogs until January, sort out our favorites, and set aside a night to select the best for the coming growing season.  Despite the excitement of looking through the mouthwatering photos of next years potential crops, choosing the perfect seeds can be a bit overwhelming.


So, besides choosing seeds based on the prettiest picture, what things are important to consider when selecting seeds?

Choose Seeds that Will Grow in Your Area

When selecting seeds that will grow in your area, consider your agricultural zone as well as the length of your growing season.  You can determine the length of your growing season, by finding the number of days between the average last frost and average first frost.  Use this information to determine whether the seeds you are selecting will grow in your zone, keeping in mind that many yards have small micro climates that will allow you some flexibility in what you can grow.  If you have 100 days in your growing season, don't buy melons that take 130 days to ripen.

Choose Seeds that You Will Eat or Like how They Look

This seems obvious, but so often we manage to buy some seed that we don't actually like to eat.  If you are willing to invest money, time, and space into growing a crop from seeds start by choosing your favorite foods and make sure to steer clear of those that are so-so. 

Choose Things that Taste better Fresh

If you can only grow a limited number of seeds, select crops that taste better fresh.  Tomatoes are the perfect example of a mediocre grocery store purchase compared to the mouth watering varieties from the garden. 

Consider Heirloom, Organic, and Non-Genetically Engineered Seeds

Look for seed companies that have signed the safe-seed pledge and are selling seeds that have not been genetically engineered.  By choosing to grow heirloom, organic, or just non-genetically modified crops, you are supporting green practices and the small companies that are selling open-pollinated vegetables, fruit and flower seeds.  If you are looking for a list of seed companies, check out the organic seed finder site from AOSCA.

Create a Seed Sharing Group

So often we are interested in growing just a few of each variety in our garden, yet even the smallest seed packets can have hundreds of seeds.  Get together with others in your area, and share your seeds to increase the number of varieties for your own backyard.

Keep a Record of What you Like

This year I am making the pledge to record everything I plant, how it grows and where I put it.  Knowing what worked well last year is incredibly important when you sit down to plan your next years garden (as I'm being reminded of right now).  Keep in mind that some year crops just fail, so give your seeds at least a few years before you give up, and choose another variety.

What else do you consider when selecting seeds for the coming year?




17 comments:

  1. You are so right, we have so many catalogs coming right know. My wife keeps telling me, "You can look at all this stuff online", but as you all know it isn't the same as holding it in your hand, lol! Plus they have so much good tips in them! I have to give my buddies business a shout out as well: http://www.botanicalinterests.com/
    Stop in and get another catalog LOL!

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    1. I go back and forth between real live catalogs and ordering online. I'm going to check out that link!

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  2. Thank you so much for this. My mailbox has been bursting with seed catalogs and I am feeling overwhelmed! I will keep in mind your suggestions when we get down to the nitty gritty and pick out our seeds soon.

    I hope I can keep a detailed record this year! I started last year but didn't keep up with it.

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  3. Something else to consider when selecting seeds, if you are planning on save seeds from your plants for the following year be sure to choose organic non-hybrid. Any seed noted as F1 is a hybrid and won't grow true to it's parent, or may not even produce at all. Be sure it is organic, heirloom or open pollinated and not labeled as F1 or hybrid.

    I created a database to track all my seed, frost dates, planting layouts, yields, etc. It gives me a printout of when I should start seeds and when they should start producing. It may be a little much, but I am planning for when I grow on a larger scale.

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    1. I forgot to mention saving seeds (which is a goal for this year). I need to be that organized with my seeds this year. Dave is a spreadsheet guy, so I think I need to get him going with this.

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  4. Plant only what you can care for. I over planted last year and spent all summer, fall and well into winter working myself to a frazzle trying to keep up with everything and not waste any food. While we have a fantastic amount of food stored I got so run down I got sick and cant seem to get well. Yes we did give a lot away. But still it was a lot of work and we didnt do anything else all year. Actually this weekend we will be canning pumpkin Sunday so I dont lose it!

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    1. Great point - I've had issues with this as well.

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  5. I love, "grow only what you will eat." I've grown stuff that my family won't eat and then feel obligated to take care of it. I've grown white patty pan squash which is really fun and I have a good recipe for it. But my family only likes it once or twice a summer. Last summer we harvested 65 pounds of it. I was giving it away to whoever who take it. This year I think one or two plants will do.

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    1. It's so hard to plant the right amount of each thing, especially since each year makes a different harvest.

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  6. I am now seriously in spring fever mode!! AHH! It's only January and for here that means 5 more months before anything can even pretend to be planted outside! I think I will fill my sunroom with containers and plant in March! :)

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  7. Meredith/GreenCircleGroveJanuary 9, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    These are great, practical ideas. I, too, have had problems with"grow only what your family will eat' . It seems that every year, I'm lured into growing more than one zucchini plant, for example! I keep an on-going garden journal to jot down varieties that work, too. I rotate my raised beds every year, and a journal is a good way to remember what was planted in each bed. Thank you for this sensible post--looking forward to spring!

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  8. Seed catalogs started arriving here in DECEMBER! The library started a garden club and seed swap group and it has been WONDERFUL! We are also creating a community garden for low income familes who need to grow more food. So PLEASE Grow all the food you can possibly grow and PLEASE please please donate all your extras to your local food shelf, food pantry, church, homeless shelter, etc etc. Phone them and see what they need the most of. My neighbor donates 10 dozen eggs a week from her generous hens! We also have a "share the harvest" table at the local library. I bring my extras there and people take what they need. Its fabulous! So dirt divas, LETS GROW! Here is the blog post about the Community garden our library group is trying to create.
    http://tailgait.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-community-garden-project.html

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  9. Hi Gretchen! Still have to order the rest of my seeds :) I'm way behind this year!

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  10. Great post, Gretchen! You're right--choosing seeds is overwhelming! All those lovely photos.... :)

    Thanks for sharing at the Farmgirl Friday Blog Fest today!

    P.S. Funny, I just began following you yesterday and received your Modern Homestead e-book. I'm hoping to sit down and sink my teeth into it this weekend! Thanks!

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  11. Good ideas. I am thinking of growing extra this year because I will use it to feed my goat and chickens if the family won't eat it.

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