I can always tell when it’s time to ring in the New Year by declarations of overly ambitious resolutions and the sound of seed catalogs smacking on the floor under my mail slot.  Watching a gardener thumb through a seed catalog is a lot like a watching a kid in the candy store.  There are so many options to choose from and gardeners love to have lots of choices when it comes to purchasing garden plants!  The good news is starting seeds indoors or directly seeding them in the garden is totally doable, even for beginning gardeners!  Here are a five tips to consider when purchasing seeds for your spring garden and stay tuned for upcoming posts and vlogs on how and when to start seeds inside and out.

  1. Shop early for the best selection because some popular varieties of garden seeds sell out quickly.
  2. Pay attention to the ‘days to maturity’ requirement.  Days to maturity refers to the amount of time it takes for a germinated seed or transplant to produce the portion of the plant you consume.  Make sure the variety you choose has enough time to mature in your area.  If it will not mature in time for your area, you may need to select another variety with a shorter days to maturity requirement.
  3. Shop for fresh seed.  The percent of the seeds that germinate typically decrease as seed ages.  Don’t be afraid to sow that packet of carrot seeds left over from last year, but realize that seed harvested more recently will likely have a higher germination rate unless your leftover seed was stored under proper conditions (dry and below 40 degrees Fahrenheit).
  4. Measure out your garden area and calculate how many plants you will be able to grow in the space you have available.  Refer to the seed catalog or seed packet for the amount of seed you need to purchase.  For example, if you have one eight foot row to grow fava beans and one ounce of seed sows six to 17 feet, you probably only need to purchase one ounce of seed.  When starting seeds indoors, you may want to sow two to three seeds per container to make sure at least one seed germinates per pod.
  5. USDA certified organic growers must purchase USDA certified organic seed or plant starts.  Backyard gardens are not regulated like commercial agriculture operations; however, if it is important for you to only use seed that was collected from plants that were grown according to National Organic Program (NOP) standards, look for the certified organic label when purchasing seed.  It is difficult to find USDA certified organic plant starts at garden centers so strict organic gardeners will likely want to start their own garden plants indoors.

Here is a sampling of online retailers that sell USDA certified organic seed:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company                  Burpee Seed Company

High Mowing Organic Seeds                                  Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Seeds of Change                                                    Seed Savers Exchange

Mountain Valley Seed                                             Park Seed Company

Peaceful Valley Farm Seed                                    Territorial Seed Company

Snow Seed Company                                             Sustainable Seed Company