Now is the time to order your seeds for your garden.
I love looking thru catalogs and picking out new varieties to try each year.
But once you get the seeds home and you are ready to plant, do you know how to read your seed packet in order to give your seeds the best opportunity to grow?
Today, I want to help you understand the anatomy of a seed packet. There is so much information you can learn from seed packets to help your garden flourish.
What can you learn from a seed packet?
Photo of the plant
This is probably my favorite part of the seed packet. I think vegetables are beautiful and I love to see what my final product is supposed to look like.
Name of plant
There are so many varieties of popular types of vegetables. So try several varieties each year, and eventually you will have your favorites that do well in your area. So make sure and keep the packets or record the names of the seeds so you’ll know what you want to plant again next year.
Type of plant
When I say type, I mean hybrid vs heirloom vegetables.
You should use organic, heirloom seeds whenever possible. For more information on this, check out the end of this post —> Start A Seed Organization System for Your Organic Vegetable Garden.
What zones are best?
The seed packet should tell you what zone the plant will do the best, or atleast if it grows better in a warmer or colder zone.
Days of Gestation
How long will it take for the seed to grow to maturity? This is called gestation and it is important to know for your garden.
The days between the last frost date in the spring and first frost date in the fall is the number you need to know so you can determine which seeds to buy.
If you live in cooler/northern climates, you gestation days will be shorter than warmer/southern climates. So keep this in mind when picking out seeds.
An annual plant only produces vegetables for one year and then dies off. Most common vegetables are annual plants, so we plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. Then the next year we need to plant again.
A perennial plant can be planted once and produce fruit for several years to come. Some common perennial vegetables are asparagus and rhubarb.
If you choose to grow perennial vegetables, make sure you plant them somewhere you want to leave them for many years. This means you need to plan out your garden very carefully so that you don’t need to move the whole garden each year.
Each plant has a preferred planting depth for optimal growth. Try to follow these instructions as close as possible.
Plant spacing requirements are important and should be followed as close as possible.
Row spacing is a good guideline to use when you are getting started. As you continue gardening, you may want to use a more intensive method of gardening. This allows you to space plants closer together for more yield.
Indoor starting instructions
If you live in a cooler climate, you will probably need to start some types of vegetables indoors to give them the full gestation period to grow to full maturity. This is especially true with warm weather plants like tomatoes and peppers. Follow the directions for best results.
If you start plants indoors, you should follow the directions before planting them outside. Most plants need to be “hardened off” before being planted so they can get used to the outdoor elements they didn’t have inside.
Usually this means you move them out for an hour or two at first and gradually increase the time outside over a week or two so they can grow stronger. This helps protect them from the sun and wind they will face outdoors.
Some root vegetables are planted very close at the beginning and then “thinned out” after they have started to grow. This helps you choose the strongest plants to keep and gives those plants more room to grow by pulling up the others around it.
Number of seeds
Depending on how much you want to plant, knowing the number of seeds in a packet can help you choose how much you will need. In a normal home garden, you probably only need one packet of each kind of seed.
History of the plant
Heirloom variety seeds often have a great history, which can help you decide if it is something you want to grow. Many of them have been around for over 100 years and are suited for certain climates. This is good information to know when you are making decisions about variety types.
Information on what the plant is good for (eating, preserving, etc)
Some types of vegetables are good for eating, some for preserving and some do well at both. By knowing this information, you can choose the best seed for you particular purpose. If you have a small space, choosing vegetables that are good fresh and preserved are probably your best bet.
That is so much information for such a little packet! What a gold mine of facts that can help you have the best harvest ever.
I suggest you keep your seed packets the entire growing season so that you can access this information. Then at the end of the season, decide which ones worked in your garden and which ones didn’t.
This will help you plan for the next year and keep the winners to grow again.
This process over several years can allow you to have plants that thrive in your particular environment and can lead to an amazing garden harvest every year.
So don’t take those little seed packets for granted. Use them to their full potential and you won’t be sorry!
What is your favorite heirloom seed company? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!
If you are interested in starting your first garden, we have a FREE online course called “Starting Your First Garden” that can help you grow your own food in your backyard! Click on the image below to sign up.