I was planning to talk about this closer to the spring gardening season however I am hearing a lot of people I trust talk about getting seeds early. Is it time to start planning next year’s garden and buy seeds? I think it is, so I will cover my favorite seed companies, give some tips to decide what to plant and discuss the different seeds to clear up any confusion.
Let’s start by discussing what type of seeds you should be looking to purchase. Non GMO, organic, hybrid, heirloom…..so many choices! When I was first starting out, I was so confused by this so let me try to simplify it.
Non GMO – it’s actually illegal to sell GMO seeds to the home gardener so it’s a sales gimmick to make you feel like you’re getting something special!
Heirloom – these seeds have been passed down sometimes for generations and are stable and typically a consistent variety. At one point heirlooms were probably hybrids.
Hybrid – this is simply two varieties that have been crossed. They are perfectly fine to purchase! F1 hybrids are new crossed varieties and may not be as consistent.
Organic – this certification is expensive to achieve so a seed can still be pesticide free without this label. If I am growing organically I am less concerned about the organic label on the package.
Open pollinated – if you are planning to save seeds you need them to be open pollinated. Open pollinated varieties are cultivators that have been grown for several generations. Each time the seeds are saved and grown, the plant becomes more stable and consistent.
I lean very heavily to heirloom varieties but will also buy open pollinated hybrids as well.
Folks looking for Food Independence should have a plan to save seeds from what you have grown. If I’m honest this step has felt overwhelming to me so I have not done that but I do plan to do it with my summer garden next year.
The reason why this is a good idea? Sustainability.
One pack of heirloom tomatoes may cost about $3 and have 30 seeds. You can get 30 plants from that and potentially 20 tomatoes per plant! That’s a pretty good deal right? However, you can potentially save 100’s of seeds from a few tomatoes. That’s an even better deal!
When trying to move towards Food Independence you can see how saving seeds can really help make sure you are prepared. If you need to rely on yourself for food to feed your family, having an ample amount of trusted seeds can be a game changer.
What varieties to buy? That is the question.
If you are a new gardener it feels like a big task to decide what seeds to buy. I made some mistakes my first year that has really helped me learn what I should grow and more importantly when I should grow.
First things first – know your growing zone and your last and first frost date. It’s a simple internet search and will be the starting point of planning. That is important information when choosing what seeds to purchase. Search last frost date and your zip code.
I am in zone 7B in North Carolina. In my zone I have a hard time growing delicious cool weather crops in the spring because it gets so hot so quickly so they bolt. However I can grow them in the fall because my first frost date isn’t usually until November 5th or so.
Once you know your zone and frost dates you can start to learn about what might grow well. Some northern climates have shorter growing seasons (the amount of days in between last and first frost date) so beefsteak tomatoes that take 110 days might not be the best choice. If you’re looking for volume to eat fresh, preserve and save seeds, you might want a tomato with a shorter grow season (there are lots to choose from!)
Grow what you eat. It sounds pretty obvious however I got totally romanced by the sheer variety of gorgeous vegetables available to me from some of these companies. Those sassy tomato varieties called out to me and I gave in. I bought too many.
Next year I will focus on good producers and limit the varieties to 4-5 instead of 17! If you have a ton of room and can grow that many, go for it! I am in an HOA suburban neighborhood with a small yard so I have to be wiser with my choices.
Draw out your garden
Drawing out my garden really helped me figure out what I had space to grow and how to whitle down my list to the wisest choices for my family.
I searched the internet for free planners and this one was my favorite.
So now you know your zone, last frost date and what vegetables you know your family will eat and have a loose sketch of your garden. Now comes the most fun! Shopping!!
My favorite seed companies!
Baker Creek is hands down my favorite for heirloom varieties. They have so many unusual varieties that really make me excited to grow. If you’re only growing the varieties you can buy in the store, it’s not that sexy to grow. However, that amazing heirloom tomato that tastes like heaven is totally worth it because you can’t buy that in the store.
MI Gardener is an amazing small business seed company that also offers wonderful varieties at great prices. I buy a lot from Luke because I know I’m supporting small business that cares passionately about sustainability.
Botanical Interests wins best seed packet. There is so much wonderful information on their packets that I really needed my first year of growing. They have a smaller collection but it’s fabulous!
Seeds now is less fancy but super well priced! You don’t get all the info on the packet but you get more bang for your buck.
These are the ones I have purchased from but if all you can do is buy some at the dollar store or Walmart that is 100% fine too!
At the very least get all their free catalogs and when they come in get under a blanket with a cup of something warm and prepare to get romanced!
Is it time to start planning next years garden and buy seeds? Yes, dear one. Let’s do it!