By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
One key to planning any type of garden is determining how to obtain plants. While purchasing transplants can help to establish the growing space quickly, starting your own plants from seed is a much more cost effective option. Exploring where to get seeds and seed buying is an easy way to ensure that as a grower, you’re ready when warmer weather finally arrives.
Before buying seeds for the upcoming growing season, many gardeners suggest taking inventory of what types and quantities of seeds you need. It’s generally best to purchase slightly more seed in order to account for low germination rates or other unforeseen seed starting issues. Purchasing seeds early in winter will help to ensure that you’re able to get all the varieties you want before they have sold out for the season.
While many local garden centers and home improvement stores offer a wide range of seed each spring, options are fairly limited to more traditional flowers and vegetables. When purchasing seeds locally, timing may also be an issue. Some seeds are simply offered by retailers too late in the spring or them to be grown successfully.
For this reason, many gardeners now do their seed buying through various online retailers. Reputable online seed companies ship year around. This allows you to order seeds at the correct time for planting. Furthermore, you’ll be able to choose from a much wider selection of heirloom and open-pollinated seed types.
If purchasing seeds for the garden is not an option, there are other places to get seeds. If you already have established green spaces, you may find that saving your own seeds is ideal. In doing so, it will be important to plan accordingly during the growing season so that seed has ample time to mature before it is harvested. After mature seeds are collected from open-pollinated varieties, they can be further dried in a cool place. Next, move the seeds into paper envelopes and label them for storage.
Collecting your own garden seeds is also an excellent way to share among other growers. Seed exchanges are especially popular within community gardens and in growing groups on various social media platforms. This is an easy way to expand the garden at little cost, as well as diversify your plantings.
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If you're a gardener, or interested in getting started with gardening, you're going to want to read below to find out how you can get free seeds. By saving your own seeds, swapping seeds, and becoming a member of a seed library, you may just never have to pay for seeds again.
Occasionally there are some free seeds that companies mail out to those who request them. The best way to find out about these free seeds is to follow your favorite seed companies on social media. Then you'll be aware of any free seeds being mailed out.
You may also receive some free seeds when you request a free seed catalog. There are more than 70 catalogs available that will be mailed to you for free, which will give you some great ideas for planning your own garden.
Toilet paper companies aren’t the only ones experiencing increased demand. Seed companies are feeling it, too. “Good companies are having a huge surge in mail orders,” Rose explained. “I know that Baker Creek had to shut their portal down over last weekend just to catch up with orders.”
Rose recommended a few vendors she’s ordered from herself. “I have nothing but good things to say about them,” she said. “I think all of these companies are having a good sales year.” Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, based in Missouri, began in 1998 and now offers about 1,200 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers. Try the purple lady bok choy and atomic orange corn. Iowa-based Seed Savers Exchange started with tomato and morning glory seeds brought by the founder’s grandfather from Bavaria. Johnny’s Seeds, which is 100% employee-owned, began in the attic of a New Hampshire farmhouse in 1973. Kitazawa Seed Company, founded in 1917, is the country’s oldest seed company specializing in Asian vegetables.
People who start seed companies are a special breed. It takes a lot of passion and perseverance for small, organic companies to go up against huge, conventional seed growers. I recently ordered seeds from Wild Mountain Seeds in Colorado, after sharing an Uber Pool ride with the one of the owners, who was en route to an organic seed growers conference. Wild Mountain specializes in heirloom tomatoes and sturdy seeds that can withstand colder climates.
Because of the pandemic-related upsurge in seed sales, keep in mind that these and other companies might be slower than usual in delivering, out of stock and/or might have to temporarily close ordering to catch up with demand.
Rose recommended checking out any unfamiliar seed company in the Garden Watchdog rating database on Dave’s Garden. You can even narrow your search to specific plants.
The following garden vegetables, listed from earliest planting dates to latest, all do best when seeded directly into your spring garden. 1,2 Many of these seeds also yield second crops when planted in late summer, once soil temperatures cool down.
As soon as your seeds are in the ground, mark your rows to help you remember what seeds are planted where. Water seeds gently you don't want to wash them away before they take root. Keep your seed packets tucked nearby in a garden shed drawer or a garden journal. You'll want to refer to them for reminders and growing tips as seeds sprout and grow.
By growing garden vegetables directly from seed, you and your family can enjoy all the benefits of homegrown edibles plus the added fun and ease of starting seeds from scratch outdoors. The GardenTech ® family of brands wants you to discover all the joys and rewards of gardening, and the GardenTech blog is here to help.
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2. Steil, Aaron, “Vegetable Harvest Guide," Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, July 2004.
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