What to know when choosing seeds

In the spring gardeners are busy planning their summer gardens, and one of the enjoyable tasks is choosing and purchasing of seeds both for the vegetable garden and for the flower border. There are a few points to keep in mind when doing this job so that the garden produces its maximum output. Rather than just grabbing packets from a seed display in a rush, it is wise to give some thought to which varieties you choose.

I look forward to the arrival of seed catalogues — most of them arrive during Christmas season or right after — as these handy publications contain a wealth of information. Each variety of flower and vegetable is described in detail and there’s usually coloured pictures to make the information even more complete.

Seeding dates, height, width, growth habit, bloom time, and cultural directions are also included, so you can decide which plants will best suit each particular spot in your garden. Vegetables are described as to the number of days between planting and harvest, colour, shape, and plant size.

After choosing the plants that you want to grow, the next step is to choose the varieties — and this is perhaps the most important step when it comes to seed selection. Whether you are getting the information out of catalogues or from the backs of seed packets, look carefully at the information provided.

Find out the recommended date for outdoor planting or whether the seeds should be started early indoors. If it is too late to seed indoors or you do not wish to grow seedlings indoors, then you will probably buy such plants as seedlings from a garden centre as outdoor seeding will not be very successful. Many flowers and some vegetables require such long growing seasons that outdoor seeding is not feasible.

For choosing vegetable varieties, one vital piece of information is the days to maturity from planting. You might want to choose an early pea, such as “Alaska,” to give you that first early crop of peas for fresh eating and then choose a later variety, such as “Homesteader” for main crop processing and fresh eating. You also want to be careful to choose the type of vegetable you want — do you want a squash for summer enjoyment or one suitable for winter storage? Although you might think, “A squash is a squash,” that is not necessarily true. Do you want a regular pea or an edible pod variety? They are quite different both in terms of the resultant produce and the growth habit. Perhaps you want to grow both?

Choosing the correct flower varieties will mean that you get the right plants for your needs. Is the variety short and useful for edging or for locating near the front of a border? Is it tall enough to be used in the middle of a mixed border? Does it bloom continuously all summer, like cosmos or marigolds, or will it have a flush of bloom and then provide little colour for the remainder of the season?

How exciting to be choosing what we will grow in our 2013 outdoor gardens! With a bit of careful thought and planning, we will choose the plants — and the varieties — that will give us the most chance of having the best garden possible during the upcoming growing season.

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