A good seed packet should give you much of the info you need to know to grow that plant. Here’s what to look for, and why:
1. Days to Germination: A pea can sprout in just a few days; broccoli raab can take as long as three weeks. Many a gardener, having assumed there was a problem, has replanted a row of a veggie that is slower to germinate only to find the first seeds planted start sprouting very soon after. Been there, over-planted that.
2. Days to Maturity: This one is a little tricky. For plants that should be started indoors, the DTM are from transplanting. For direct-seeded plants, DTM is from when the plant pokes through the soil. This is very important for timing your plants with the weather and for succession planting.
3. Packed For, or Sell by, Date: Seeds will lose their rate of germination and their viability over time. We always keep leftover seeds for the following season, and some for a few years. If your packet isn’t dated when you receive it, just make a note of it yourself. It’s easier than trying to remember.
4. How to Plant: Every seed packet we have ever seen has growing information. You should find what depth to sow the seed, plant and row spacing, how much sun/shade is needed, plant height and other specs. Some companies even give you little tips, such as soaking the seed prior to planting. Did you know a watermelon vine can easily grow over six feet in any direction? Better to find out before the seed touches the soil.
5. How to Harvest: Much less common, helpful hints on harvesting are wonderful info to find on a seed packet. Sure, everyone knows when a tomato is ripe, but how do you know when and how to pick an eggplant?
6. Diseases and Pests: You’ll be more likely to find this information in a seed catalog or on a website, but occasionally it will show up on a seed packet. It’s usually in the description of the vegetable, such as "drought tolerant" or "late blight resistant." Whatever battle you fight in your garden, it helps to be armed with the right seed.
7. A Picture: Personally, we prefer an actual picture of the vegetable growing, rather than a beautiful display of a great harvest in a lovely setting. The first time we saw a kohlrabi in its natural habitat we were quite surprised.
8. The Botanical Name: This one is becoming rarer over time. Having the botanical name of a veggie, even if you can’t use it in a conversation, helps you to know which veggies you can and cannot rotate and which ones share disease and predators. It also can help you when you are trying to prevent cross-pollination for seed saving. All that in two italicized words? Really really!
Our advice is to keep your own notes, ask questions, and even save the seed packets that have the best information.
But after a while, it will all be in your head anyway.
Browse a great, low-priced selection of seed-starting resources and choice seed packets at GardenersHub.com.
Get everything you need to get started in planting from seed with the Starting from Seed Value Pack, which includes several reference materials plus two collections of seed packets from Renee's Garden Seeds, all for a special low combination price.
Want to grow something a little different this year? Try the "Fabulous & Unusual Annuals Collection," which includes packets of seeds for 5 annuals not commonly seen (but easy to grow)!
New to vegetable gardening, or short on space? Try the "Easy to Grow Container Kitchen Garden Collection," which includes seeds for 5 veggies that do great in containers. This is a great way to get started in growing your own food!
Enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labors with Recipes from a Kitchen Garden.