Mail Order Seeds
Every experienced Gardner will agree that the best time to buy seeds is when the gardening year begins wich is the end of winter at this particular time the seed catalogs start arriving.
If you are not an experience Gardner yourself then you Ask gardeners you trust to find out what companies they like and have had success with. A good source is your county extension office. Ask to speak with a Master Gardener, in this article we will be reviewing the top things to look for when buying seeds online.
- Read the Label
Before you buy seeds, check the label to see if they require an early start indoors. Cool weather plants, such as pansy and broccoli, need a jumpstart indoors in order for them to grow large enough to be transplanted in the garden in the early spring. Warm-weather crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, also need to be started under grow-lights so they’re ready to go into the garden after frost danger passes. A grow-light can be as simple as a fluorescent shop light hung just inches over your seed trays.
- Don’t buy more than what you need
It’s so easy to want to overbuy on seeds, because they’re just, well, tempting! If it’s your first year gardening, choose varieties that are known to be easier to grow, or stick with the more common varities that you know your family will enjoy (save that funky squash or red oriental cucumber for next year, when you’re feeling more confident, and instead go with standard Butternut and a long, green cuke). Also, take into account the size of your garden and how much you can realistically grow. Remember, you can always add a few things to the garden as the season goes on, or try something new in the fall after you’ve already had the spring to figure some things out. Plus, there’s always next year!
- Check the expiration date
Make sure the seeds you are buying are fresh and packaged for that year. Deeply discounted seeds may be out of date. Although still viable in many cases, they do begin to decline in their rate of germination success as they get older and/or stored improperly. Remember, you get what you pay for.
- Open pollinated or hybrid seeds
To make seed purchasing easier, whether starting them indoors or outside, several things should be considered. One is whether to purchase open pollinated or hybrid seeds. Open pollinated means that when seeds are collected from a plant and are later replanted, the resulting plants will maintain the same characteristics as the parent. Because of this, many feel that if an emergency were to arise and seeds could not be purchased from a garden store, open pollinated seeds are more reliable since they can potentially be collected and replanted. However, collecting seeds from many plants requires preplanning and knowledge of how and when to remove them and how to process the seeds for use in future years.
Opposite of open pollinated seeds, seeds collected from hybrid plants that are later replanted result in new plants that have differing and often diminished characteristics, or seeds will not germinate at all. Keep in mind that yields from hybrid varieties are usually greater than open pollinated types and hybrid plants are often more disease resistant.
- Watch the Weather
Keep soil temperatures in mind when you plant seeds outdoors. Seeds sown in cold, wet soil will often rot. Cool-weather plants prefer soil temperatures of 50-65 degrees F. Warm-weather crops prefer to grow in soil between 70-80 degrees F. Also, do not set out warm-weather crops until all frost danger has passed.
- Buying from overseas sellers
You can buy seeds from overseas sellers but you should be aware certain customs and quarantine laws prevent certain seeds from entering your country for various reasons. I limit my purchases from overseas to well-known vegetable varieties like: tomatoes, carrots, regular vegetables, etc because they will likely get through the post no problems; whereas, exotics or little known plant species may get blocked. It’s for this reason, that I recommend the majority of your seed purchases should be from sellers within your own country or indeed in certain countries (such as Australia) you might have to stick to buying seeds within your own state due to strict quarantine laws.
What To Do When Your Mail-Order Plants or Seeds Arrive
Mail-order catalogs online come with very good directions, here are some tips on what to expect.
- After you open the box, check to be sure that you have received everything that you ordered. If there is a problem, call the company immediately.
- Your plants will most likely be wrapped in plastic. Go ahead and unwrap them to allow air circulation. Water them and give them the kind of light they prefer.
- Your directions may tell you to let the plants acclimate to your area by placing them in a shady spot for about 3 days before planting. We all like to get settled and rest a few days after a big trip!
- Once acclimated, plant as soon as possible following the directions that come with your plants.
- If you have bought seeds and it’s not quite time to plant, store them in a cool, dry place
- Keep bulbs in a dry spot with good air circulation until ready to plant
Best Seed catalogs
There are numerous seed catalogs to order from. While this is not an extensive list, many more can be found online. Consider these five:
Burpee — Burpee offers vegetable and flower seeds, as well as both open-pollinated and hybrid varieties.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds — Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers vegetable, herb, flower, farm and fruit seeds. The company’s seeds are certified organic. You can view the 2016 Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog online here.
Urban Farmer — Urban Farmer’s seeds are produced on its Westfield, Indiana, farm. The company asserts that all seeds are non-GMO and not genetically engineered. Vegetable, herb and flower seeds are available.
Harris Seeds — Harris Seeds sells a variety of seeds, and does not sell any GMO seeds.