Garden DIY: Seed Selection and Starting

Photograph courtesy of Nat Hookway

Welcome to Garden DIY! We're excited to share tips and projects to help you get the most out of home gardening all year long. With a focus on sustainable practices, this series offers ideas for people with a wide range of time, space and resources. Stay tuned for upcoming posts! We'll help you get your garden up and running, preserve your harvest and extend the season!

The first signs of seed germination are a true wonder to behold - there's nothing like watching seeds you started at home springing into life. In addition to being extremely satisfying, home seed starting is much cheaper than purchasing transplants. If it's your first time venturing out onto the seed market, the expanse of options might seem overwhelming. A great way to narrow down your choices is to commit to sustainable seed sources right off the bat.

Choosing a Source

There are several organic, non-GMO companies that offer a diverse selection of vegetable, herb and flower seeds. These include, but are definitely not limited to, High Mowing, Seeds of Change, Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Hudson Valley Seed Library. As I mentioned in my winter planning post, understanding your climate is fundamental to choosing seeds that will grow into flourishing plants. Make sure you know your plant hardiness zone before moving forward with seed selection! If you live in the Northeast, check out cold hardy varieties from Fedco. If you're gardening in subtropical areas, Green Harvest offers seeds that thrive in hot, humid climates. Southwest dwellers will find a number of seeds adapted to a warm, arid climate from Native Seeds.

Considering Characteristics

As you explore your seed options, you'll notice a number of terms and phrases used to differentiate varieties. If you see seed saving in your future, you'll want to go with open pollinated seeds. (Heirloom seeds are open pollinated varieties that have been passed down through generational and community sharing). If you're mainly focused on ensuring high yield and plant vigor, F1 Hybrids might be the best choice. Other characteristics to consider are whether you want to focus on varieties that resist specific pests and/or diseases, hold up better in storage, or bloom early, mid or late season. When purchasing seeds, think in terms of your ultimate garden project goals. For example, if you want to eat baby kale all season long, you should buy both early and late kale varieties for multiple seed successions. If you're excited about pumpkin carving, make sure to choose a variety of pumpkin seed advertised for jack-o'-lanterns.

Sowing Your Seeds

Are you ready to start seeding? These resources provide comprehensive walkthroughs for beginners and make for a great refresher as well:

Gardener's Supply Company

Mother Earth News

Heirloom Organics

New York Botanical Garden (video)

Happy Seeding!

This post was originally published in February 2016.