Here are six questions to consider when you go seed shopping:
1. Are you a veggie or flower grower?
I’m veggie annuals and mostly perennial flowers so I walk right past the flower seed aisle and focus on my vegetable seeds.
2. How much room do you have for growing your plants?
I have a small urban garden and only about 80 square feet for growing so I only grow a couple of each plant. I don’t have enough space to grow a long row of multiple varieties. So I only start a few seeds and give the spare seeds to friends.
3. How much room do you have for starting your seeds?
You need very small space to start (warm, access to water and a grow light) but as your seedlings get bigger, you need room for transplanting and growing them in pots until you can plant them into the garden in May. There is nothing wrong with skipping the seeding part and just buying bedding plants for your garden. They are often much healthier and you can get 1 or 2 plants for the same price as a pack of seeds.
4. Are you willing or able to preserve your harvest? And how?
Some gardeners are brilliant canners and preservers. They have all the canning equipment and they make dill pickled cucumbers or carrots and Kim chi and fermented hot sauces and stewed tomatoes and salsa. Some gardeners (like me) eat fresh as much as possible and then fill my freezer or dehydrate. So I choose snacking tomatoes and snacking cucumbers and tomatoes that are good for making a freezer tomato sauce.
5. Do you like to experiment?
Not all plants are successful and will respond differently to the amount of sun and water and soil nutrients in your growing area. Are you excited about trying an exotic veg for which you will have to research growth and harvest and food preparation? If so, reach for some novel seeds! If not, stick with the tried and true. There is no shame is a prolific and trustworthy crop. Last year I experimented with a new cucumber variety in my greenhouse and it was a beast! It crowded out my other plants and produced a heavy crop of bitter melons…and were a home to a terrible infestation of spider mites. I’m glad I tried them but this year, I will stick with the crops I know I love. Some years I just need a break from the unknown. (Having said that, I’ll probably buy something novel when I shop for bedding plants!)
6. How many people will your garden need to feed?
If you have a large family – or even just a few enthusiastic veggie eaters – plant several seeds of each variety and consider planting in 2-3 week cycles so the harvest stretches out over time.
This year I am seed-starting 2 kinds of snacking tomato seeds, a couple sweet pepper seeds, some basil, thyme, bergamot, and parsley.
I will shop for rosemary and corn bedding plants and probably a healthy saucing San Marzano tomato or two.
I will direct seed patio snacking cucumbers, carrot, spinach, dill and potato.
I grow 2 different lettuce plants at a time on my counter in a small aerogarden. It’s enough for me and Loren, and I don’t have to fight the birds or the slugs for my leafy greens!
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, there are only answers that reflect the kind of gardener you are and the plants you will grow. Your only job is to love your garden.