Gardening Seeds 101

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Spring is still some time away, but ordering seed in advance will save you the unnecessary stress and hassle of shopping for your garden at the last minute. So let’s spend some time now figuring out what you’d like to plant and how to find the best seeds based on your budget.

Order by Catalog

By now, many garden supply companies have released their spring seed catalogs. There are lots of companies to chose from, with most carrying the same varieties.  If you’re on a budget, many catalogs offer discount coupon codes which can save you money on your final order. Also try a quick Web search for the catalog’s name plus the term “coupon code” to see if anyone has posted discount offers.

Start Today

Winter is the perfect time to start ordering your copies of seed catalogs. Most allow you to sign up online to receive a free catalogs, and some even have their entire catalog available on their website. Sites like Seed Savers Exchange have a large free catalog and enable you to order online to receive additional choices and discounts.

Various Seed Types

When you order seeds, they will arrive labeled “organic,” “heirloom” and “hybrid.” It’s important to understand what you’re getting, so here’s a quick overview of each type:

Heirloom seeds will always grow true to the mother plant, so you can harvest them to replant next year. Such varieties have been around a long time, and were not engineered or altered in any way.

Organic means the mother plant that produced the seeds was grown using organic methods and was not chemically treated, or mutated. These usually breed true as well, so you can collect the seeds to plant again next year.

Hybrid seeds are from plants created using genetics and cross pollination, which produces a plant that is superior in terms of production and taste. These seeds are meant for single season use. Collecting them for use the next year is not suggested, as they will not produce true to the parent plant.

Spring Seed for Free or Trade

Like many people, you may not have the budget right now to invest in multiple kinds of seed. So why not collect seeds from your previous year’s garden to replant this Spring? Odds are you’ll get much more than you can use, and have plenty left over to trade. You can find seed traders on craigslist this time of year, as well as on some online gardening communities such as TheEasyGarden.com, where there’s a seed trade forum.

If you don’t have seeds to trade, there are other options to get you going. A wonderful organization that collects free seeds to give away is called WinterSown.org. They get free seeds from all sorts of gardeners, and will send you several packets if you simply provide a self addressed stamped envelope. You will get a small amount of seed – perhaps one or two dozen seeds for six to eight types of plants. You can request vegetables, flowers or both!

Gathering and planting seed is a inexpensive way to start your garden. Chances are you won’t use an entire packet of each seed type you order, so store them in a dry, cool spot so you can use them again next year. But keep in mind that the longer you store seed, the less likely it will germinate. That said, seeds should be very viable for years to come!

Join the conversation… let us know where you’ll be getting your seeds from or ask Shannon a gardening question below in our comments section.

I’m a stay at home mom living in Central North Carolina with my three-year-old daughter and husband. I love organic gardening and trying to create sustainable living conditions for my family and neighbors. You can find me actively sharing hints and tips on my blog (fromseed.blogspot.com/). You can also find me on Twitter at @FoglsKitchen.