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Garden Seeds and Seed Catalog

Whether, its flower, vegetable, herb, or organic seeds, a great gardening season begins with high quality garden seeds. The seed packet in your hand, holds the promise of a great gardening season. So, let's get growing!

Garden seeds

Seed Selection:

Any experienced grower will tell you that good seed, the right seed, is an important ingredient for a successful crop. Simple enough, right. What the statement really means is:

  1. The seeds you acquire are viable and a good germination rate is likely to occur. A viable seed is one that has fully formed and developed, and is capable of sprouting after planting. Immature seed does have the capability to produce new plants, as they have not fully developed. You can often tell, as they are flatter, are not of the right color, smaller, or feel hollow. Also, seeds of any kind will age and decay over time, even in the most ideal situations. Normally, seeds should be used from the prior season's crop for the best germination rates. Some types of seeds have a longer shelf life than others. If properly stored, some types of seed will remain viable for several years, but the germination rate will decline the longer you store them.

  2. Genetics, genetics, genetics. If you want a large pumpkin, obtain seeds from a large parent. If you are seeking red tulips, acquiring bulbs from a red tulip parent is a necessity. Looking for the tallest sunflower....find a tall parent. There are many varieties of a given plant to choose from. Read up on the plants and select ones that specifically meet your criteria.

  3. Other growers can be a great source, especially uncommon or "Heirloom" strains. These seeds often have some unique characteristic that a seed company doesn't offer.

  4. In your search for the perfect seed, make sure to consider your local area's climate conditions. If the plant is not native to your area, look for varieties that are best suited. Some varieties of a given plant will grow better in cool or hot weather than others. This may also influence your selection of varieties with shorter maturity dates.

  5. Don't forget about plant size. Many homeowners would not have an apple tree in the back yard if it were not for dwarf varieties. Gardeners will frequently seek bush varieties of vegetables, as space constraints limit what they can grow. If you love watermelon, sugar baby varieties may be the only way to grow them in your backyard patch.

Seed Sources:

Seed Catalogs- This is the starting place for a great garden, and it begins as early as January for many growers. A comfortable easy chair beside a warm fire, with a catalog in one hand and a cup of Hot Chocolate in the other is the perfect spot for garden dreams to occur.

Seeds Online - It's a great place to find uncommon and heirloom varieties. Surf and select seeds in the comfort of your living room. Buy at prices lower than in stores. 

Seed Stores- Garden stores, and a wide range of other stores, remains a popular way to get seeds. They have a supply of popular plant seeds during the growing season. They offer a much more limited selection, than online stores. They cater to the masses.

Other Growers- This is an outstanding source for seed. You can often receive or swap hard to find varieties, that will make your garden stand out from the rest. Many avid gardeners will cultivate this source of seed from friends, relatives, neighbors and fellow growers . They begin each year, long before they cultivate their gardens. It's for a great winter hobby.

Did you know? Many growers believe that plant disease can be spread from seeds. Keep this in mind when acquiring seed from fellow growers. Don't let this deter you. Ask about the health of their crops. If they have had recent problems, you may want to decline.

Tip: Looking for some different seed to grow? Try an online chat room. This can work especially well, if you have seed to swap.

Saving Seeds:

Here are the simple steps on how to save seed for next year:

  1. Select seed from large, healthy plants. From a genetic standpoint, the seed takes on the DNA of the parent plant, just like human and animal genetics. So select seeds from plants with the "biggest or brightest bloom" or largest and tastiest fruit".

  2. If one plant appears more disease resistant than others, lean towards seeds from this plant.

  3. Select two or three plants if possible. Multiple sources increases the likelihood of good seedling germination.

  4. Make sure the seed is mature before picking it. This is sometimes more difficult than it may seem. A green tomato for example will have immature seeds. That's any easy one. A flower seed may not be mature until weeks after the flower has died back.

  5. Extract the seeds from the flower or fruit.

  6. For seeds picked dry, proceed to step 12.

  7. Wash and rinse seeds thoroughly using mildly soapy, lukewarm water. Do not use hot water and do not soak them in the water.

  8. Drain seeds in a strainer.

  9. Spread seed out on sheet of paper. An old screen works well, allowing good air circulation.

  10. Stir the seeds at least once a day for the first few days. Turn them over as you stir.

  11. Allow to air dry in a cool, dry area for three weeks, or longer. Do not cut the drying time short, even if they appear "dry".

  12. Sort seeds, discarding any that appear immature or mis-formed, small, or damaged in any way.

  13. Store seeds in a bag, envelope or jar in a cool dry place. Use of an air tight jar is not recommended because if the seeds have not thoroughly dried, they will mold and rot.

  14. Mark the seeds with date and type.

  15. Some people place the seed in a freezer for a couple of weeks before sowing them to replicate nature if at all possible. This is optional for most seed.

If you grow potatoes, you will find it's easy to make seed potatoes. See How to Make Seed Potatoes.

Sowing Seeds:

There is no trick to the basic process of sowing and planting. Seed packets will normally tell you the proper depth and spacing. Follow those instructions.

The most frequent mistake growers make is to plant seeds too deeply. If the seed is too deep, they may germinate, but be unable to sprout to the surface. The general rule of thumb is "twice the diameter of the seed". But ,who do you know measures the diameter of their seed?

From a practical standpoint, make sure to read the instructions on the packet, for the proper depth to sow your seed. When in doubt, plant it shallower than the instructions. This is especially true if you have hard, clay soils as it is more difficult for the seedling to emerge. You can always add more soil or mulch around the base of the plant, after it germinates.

Indoors: Follow the seed packet instructions for depth. We recommend always planting a little shallower than the instructions. When planting indoors, there is less risk of the surface of the soil drying out, as it is not exposed to the effects of sun and wind. Leave adequate room in the planting container to add more soil around the stem of your seedlings.

Pre-Soaking Seeds

This is a common practice. Many seeds can be soaked in water before planting. This allows moisture to penetrate the seed coat (or shell) to give germination jump start. Soak them anywhere from a couple hours to 24 hours prior to planting. You can also place them between wet paper towels.

In general larger seeds work best. There is a risk of ruining some seed, so experiment with small amounts before you devote your entire year's crop to this method. With paper toweling, use a wet, not soaking wet toweling and leave the seed inside it. Add bottom heat to speed up the germination process further.

More on Soaking Seeds

Nicking Seeds

Some people nick the seed coat with a sharp knife. This creates an avenue for moisture to more readily penetrate to the nut inside, resulting in faster germination.

This practice is limited to larger ones that you can handle. It is also very tedious.   

More on Nicking Seeds

More Information:

Survival Seeds - definition and storage



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