There is a lot more to choosing seed packets than colorful descriptions and bright, flashy packaging. Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when shopping for seeds with which to start your garden:
- Spend some time doing research into varieties which are right not only for your desired veggies but that will thrive in your garden; take into account regional differences like hardiness, soil type, seasonal extremes etc. Take time reading your catalogue, develop a list of questions and consult the experts.
- Study up on the seed producers, remember that it is as important to be knowledgeable about your seeds as it is food in your local supermarket. Read the fine print in the catalogues; are they seed farmers or do they acquire seeds “elsewhere”? If the catalogue fails to state this information, that may be a red flag, move on to another potential product.
- Focus in on the right products for your region. It is especially important with long-season crops such as; tomatoes, peppers and squash to find a strong, regionally bred variety and stick with it. Check out your local farms and growers, if they don’t sell seed stock they may have some advice. However, some of the better suppliers based on region are as follows;
- In the Pacific Northwest, check out; Wild Garden Seed and Peace Seedlings in Oregon, Uprising Seeds in Washington or Sierra Seeds in northern California
- In the Southwest, check with Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona; it is a mecca for seeds adapted to arid conditions
- In the Midwest, the Seed Savers Exchange or Sand Hill Preservation Center both sport unrivaled collections and are located in Iowa
- On the East Coast/Mid-Atlantic try Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia or Sow True Seed in North Carolina
- Should finding a regionally bred variety of a crop you desperately need prove impossible, consider a specialist. There are plenty of breeders out there that basically obsess over a certain disease resistant lettuce variety or the perfect cross pollinated tomato plant, just for example. If you do your homework, you may find the seed producer with the same plant fixation as you! Additionally, this is also a good way to get recommendations for signature crops of regions that you don’t reside in but would like more information on in order to give a gift, help a friend or grow as a greenhouse crop.
- Lastly, not all packets will pan out, but try not to base your opinion on a supplier on that sole seed packet failure. Seeds are not always easy to produce, harvest or maintain, Micaela Colley of the Organic Seed Alliance says “[Seed quality] It’s a moving target.” Remember seeds are alive, so try to forgive what may prove to be a one-time flop.
Roach, Margaret “Sourcing Truly High-Quality Garden Seeds.” Mother Earth News, December 2014/January 2015: 25-32. Print.