What can you learn about growing vegetables from a seed packet?
In the garden classes I teach, I’m often asked “how do you know when you can plant a certain vegetable in the garden and should I plant the seed directly in the garden, or should I purchase or grow a transplant? You can spend a lot of time trying to find out when and how to plant vegetables in your garden. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. You don’t have to look any further than your seed packet. What can you learn about growing vegetables from a seed packet?
Here’s just a few things your seed packet may tell you.
Many seed packets are now labeled Non GMO as an answer to customer’s concerns about planting GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) in their garden. But there are NO GMO seeds available for sale to the home gardener. They are only available to big agriculture for field crops like corn, soy, canola and sugar beets. So rest assured, even if your packet is not marked, it is NON GMO.
USDA Organic assures the gardener that these seeds were grown according to the National Organic programs guidelines. They were grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically engineered seeds.
Heirloom. These are open-pollinated seeds that were grown over 50 years ago and have been passed down through generations. There seeds can be saved to grow again.
Hybrid. Produced by cross-pollinated plants. The best qualities, or the quality you want (such as large fruit) is chosen. Pollen from a father plant with large fruit is used to pollinate flowers on a mother plant. This process, repeated over time results in a plant variety that produces large fruit. Hybrid seeds tend to grow faster, are better adapted to withstand stress, have more disease resistance, grow faster, and tend to produce larger fruit. They are however, less nutritious, and not as tasty as some of the heirlooms.
Pollinator Friendly. Looking for plants for your pollinator garden or as companion plants in your vegetable garden? Some packets are marked pollinator friendly.
Some packets have more information than others. This packet tells you how much sun or shade it requires and looking at the map of the U.S. it will tell you when to transplant outdoors. It will also tell you when you should it expect it to emerge from the soil. You should expect it to bloom in 5O-6O days. Sweet alyssum belongs in everyone’s vegetable garden. It attracts beneficial insects such as the parasitic wasp and is an enemy of the dreaded squash bug. I plant it directly into the garden by seed after all danger of frost.
Cool season leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach will generally say plant seed directly into the ground 4-6 weeks before your last frost. Large cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower that have a long time to maturity will need to be started indoors and planted as a transplant into the garden.
Warm season vegetables such as squash and cucumber will advise you to plants after all danger of frost has passed. You will need to find you last average frost and plant a couple of weeks after that to be safe.
The date to maturity is also important. Find your average First frost of the season. For example, you want to plant squash several different times in the season throughout the season. This zucchini shown above will provide you with a harvest in 5O days. It will not tolerate a frost. You want to count back 5O days from your last frost. Mine is around October 3Oth. I want to plant that last squash seed around September 2nd. This works great for us who have over 23O days of growing vegetables.
Spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to order your seeds or browse the seed aisle at the nursery. I hope this post helps make all of these labels easier to understand.
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