Part VI: Seed selection and planting tips

Larry G. Field
Thursday, January 31, 2019
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Seed Selection Part I: If you plan to grow a garden and wish to mail order seeds, you should consider ordering seeds immediately after the first of the year. Many seed companies like Gurney’s will offer discounts on seeds or- dered early. Gurney’s 2018 cata- log cover included three coupons offering 50 percent off on orders of up to a total of $200 good until Jan. 31. Their 2019 catalog has upped the temptation to 50 percent off everything until Feb.

6. Orders of dry, dormant seeds will generally be shipped rapidly as cold generally doesn’t damage dry, dormant seeds. Those plant- ing their own bedding plants must order early to allow growth


Instructions on many plant types will advise, “can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked” or “plant after threat of frost has past.” I like to push the season and plant very early. If some germinate, I will have a jump start on the season. If most germinate, I thin the excess. I have planted cold resistant seeds as early as late Feb.; but I would not recommend to others to plant even cold resistant seeds before April for better probability of germination.

Planting can take place over a range of time. For example, if I planned to sow onion seeds I would plant them sometime between Aug. 1 of one year and June 15 of the following year, a 10-month planting time span. In many cases I grow two crops, one followed by a second, in the same garden row. Many seeds require 24-hour warmth to do well. If double cropping, I may plant a rapid-developing, cold-resistant radish as soon as the ground can be worked (March-early April) and after harvest, replant (late May-early June) the row with a warm weather crop such as beans. I sometimes go as far as developing two radish crops before plan- ning a warm weather crop.

Advantages to mail ordering seeds are that one can read the description of the product, see its picture, view a large selection and perhaps find varieties not available locally. The disadvan- tage to mail ordering is that the ordered seed packages frequently contain fewer seeds than local purchases. Read the weight of the seeds offered in the package and if necessary, order larger se- lections offered by weight. I do not hesitate to phone the selected company with questions.

Livingston Seed Company is my favorite supplier. This com- pany’s seeds have been available since 1850 and in recent years a few local suppliers have carried them (“Jim’s Jungle,” “Big R” and probably other local provid- ers). Their packages contain FAR more seeds than most other pro- viders. Unfortunately Livingston is a wholesale distributor. If you buy and use their seeds and like them, you may choose to ask your local retailer to distribute their product.

Seeds are available at many outlets every spring including Nana’s Bloomers and many other Laurel sources. Most grocers, hardware stores, granaries, farm and ranch specialists, floral and nursery outlets carry seeds. I gen- erally purchase larger quantities of seeds than needed, plant earlier/thicker than recommended and hold the excess seeds over for future use.

Seeds will survive a “few” years if stored dry and indoors. Observation: Grain seeds thou- sands of years old have been recovered from Egyptian Pyra- mids and germinated; obviously, not all seeds will last that long. Seeds from a very few non-hybrid plants can be harvested from your garden and reused; notably herbs such as dill. Do not save seeds from hybrid plants because after a summer of work your crop will be less than desired. The off- spring of a hybrid will not be the same as the hybrid.

Again, observations are your best learning tool. To determine which plants are frost resistant, watch what plants “volunteer.” If a shed seed survives a winter in your garden and germinates the following spring, obviously it is frost resistant.

Seed Selection Part II: Prior to purchasing seeds one must de- cide what and how much to grow. Create a plot plan and consider:

Intended types of cooking and its needs: US and international recipes

Ornamental and hobby needs

Charitable donations

You must make a decision on how much you will use and how much it would cost to purchase it from a grocer. Would it be worth your effort to work for five months to produce it or would it be easier to purchase? Examples of the three above items:

Intended: Corn husks for ta- males? Jalapeños for Mexican dishes? Okra for Cajon?

Ornamental: Corn stalks and pumpkins-Halloween? Gourds- Thanksgiving?

Charitable: Zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers-minimum work, large crops

First time gardeners should start small. Select a very few of the veggies that experienced gardeners will tell you are productive, grow easily and justify the effort vs purchasing. Also consider what you like to eat. For the beginner I would recommend the following:

Corn, perhaps one row spaced 6-8 inches within the row with four feet of clearance on each side. Two zucchini plants spaced four feet in all directions, two tomato plants in the same row with the same spacing, three cucumbers spaced 20” in a row with about seven feet of space surrounding the plants and perhaps a four foot row of green or wax beans spaced 3-4 inches with 2.5 feet minimum between rows. This list will be as much as a beginner will want to work, especially if you do not have ac- cess to a rototiller. If no tiller, I would start with two short rows spaced 2 feet apart with the rows containing onions, beans, carrots and one large tomato at the end filling the space of both rows. If spacing for a tiller, space the rows a minimum of the width of the cutter bar plus 1 foot. This will allow 6 inches of clearance on each side of the tiller while in use which is a very minimum because the cutter tines will throw dirt clods which have the poten- tial to destroy young plants.

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