Sunday, March 15, 2015

Big (realistic) Garden Dreams: Choosing Seeds

I love shopping for seeds. Love. It. I am shopping for seeds pretty much as soon as Christmas is over an I can feel free to do so and not feel like a freak. There is just something so exciting about reading descriptions and day dreaming about the possible bounty. Hmm... do I want a funky heirloom tomato that looks almost to weird to eat? Or... no wait! The cucumber that claims to be the original pickling cuke. Yup, I am a seed lover. Tiny little miracles that all look so different and act just as uniquely.

After years of gardening and buying seeds I have learned a couple things. First is, try to find a smaller and most local company. This really will work to your advantage because odds are they are going to have many varieties that are just for your climate thus being the most productive. There is no point in buying a drought resistant variety if you live in Seattle if you get my drift. Second, don't buy without a budget! There are many years I have spent over $100 on seeds because I just couldn't help myself (see above... I LOVE seeds)! There is no need unless you are planting an acre. And, now we come to the realistic expectations and goals.

Before you start shopping, make a list of things you want to grow and then take inventory of your growing space and the number of growing days in your zone. It's not as complicated as it sounds but it might take an afternoon of dedicated time. Well worth the effort I promise. Once you have your info look up the space requirements of all your varieties and compare to your actual space. From here weed out your list (sorry couldn't resist the pun!). With your messy piece of notebook paper you are now ready to shop!

The first time you shop on your chosen company's site (or seed rack) don't buy. Make a wish list and then walk away. Just walk away. You will be overwhelmed by the many choices and you will bust your budget. Seeds are like any other thing in this world, there are trendy things that are there just to make you spend money so by really taking your time it will be easier to stay focused and not get caught up in all the "NEW!" and "EXCLUSIVE!". They might not be lyin' but if you are new to the garden go with the varieties that have good reviews. Because of my own preferences I tend to gravitate toward heirlooms from my area because they are truly time tested and are not as much a gamble plus are just more natural. I usually start my wish list months in advance and then whittle it down to my 'buy' list as I reason with my irrational seed loving self.

Now that I have told you to go slow, if you plan to start seeds please don't wait forever! Here in Maine we plant Memorial Day weekend. Most things need a 6 week head start (except for your cold weather crops). So I try to have my seeds ordered by the end of February so I have them by early to mid March. Onions for storage benefit from being started as early as 8-12 weeks early to get them to a nice size for planting in the garden. Tomatoes are one of those that can be easily started to soon, 6 weeks is plenty or you will to re-potting over and over with little benefit to the end result. You only need enough time, don't stress it or jump the gun.

And, lastly, have fun! Every year you can try another new something and slowly collect your favorites.

Til next time.


  1. Hi Emelia,

    Remember me? I'm from around Farmington, Maine. Would you mind letting me in on where you get your local seeds? Have you ever tried Johnny's?



    1. I do remember you, yes. :-) I get my seeds from Fedco. I have not used Johnny's before merely because I have been so pleased with Fedco! They have great variety, very reasonable prices and if you ever have a question or problem they are quick to respond.