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Deciding Which Seeds To Start

With the New Year comes the influx of seed catalogs. Looking through them, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the choices and the pretty pictures. There are flowers and vegetables, organic and heirloom- how does one choose between so many wonderful options? Help narrow down the choices by educating yourself in the different types of seeds available.

If you are planning on starting your vegetable garden from seed this year you will find it is not only fun and rewarding but also very economical. When you are first deciding what to plant in your vegetable garden, it is best to start small. It is easy to become a little too excited and purchase many more varieties than you need. Make sure that you keep your garden a manageable size for you, else you will end up wasting food and feeling overwhelmed instead of satisfied. Take a look at how much and what types of vegetables your family will eat as you are planning.

Vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, and peppers continue to provide throughout the season and fewer plants will provide more food. Other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and corn, produce only one time. To enjoy these vegetables more than once, plan on purchasing enough so that you are able to reseed multiple times. Make sure to pay attention to the number of days to maturity included in every seed packet description. Here in Northern Colorado we have a 130 day growing season. Plan accordingly- if started too late, the frost will come before your crops have a chance to mature.

ORGANIC SEEDS

Are seeds that are from an organically grown mother plant. Regular seeds are produced by growing the mother plants using conventional growing methods, which may include the use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides. Organic seeds are produced by a certified organic grower, so no chemicals are used during the growth of the plant, the harvesting of the seed, or the processing. While it is generally best to support organic growing practices, if you plant a seed that is not certified organic, your resulting plant will still be organic if you yourself do not use synthetic fertilizers or other chemicals. If non-genetically modified produce is important to your family, know that organic seeds cannot contain any genetic modification since there are laws in place that prohibit the use of genetic modification in organic agriculture.

HEIRLOOM SEEDS

Are seeds that have been passed down by seed savers for at least 60 years. Seeds from heirloom vegetables are true to type, meaning that you can save the seed from a certain plant and expect to get the same thing when you plant those seeds again next season. Heirlooms must be varieties that are open-pollinated and that were bred and grown using classic breeding practices. No genetically modified plant can be considered an heirloom.

HYBRID VEGETABLE SEEDS

Are created by artificially crossing two or more varieties of a certain plant. To create a hybrid, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to attain the right combination of characteristics. Hybrids are bred to have bigger and more uniform size and better disease and pest resistance. This is a natural process and requires no genetic modification. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage with hybrids is that the seed cannot be saved. Since hybrids are created by controlled pollination, resulting seeds may be either sterile or produce a plant totally unlike its original.

Although starting flowers from seed can be trickier than purchasing a finished plant, the reward may be worth it. If you have a large area you want to cover with flowers, it is much more economical to start the plants from seed. A $4 packet of seeds will cover the same area as $30 of plants. That is $26 to spend on other goodies for your garden! Different types of flowers require different germination requirements so make sure to read the package carefully before attempting to start seeding. To get the most out of your flowers, make sure to start your seeds with ample time. Many varieties may not mature enough to bloom if started too late.

The process of planning and purchasing the seeds needed to plant your garden becomes much easier once you are armed with the information you require to make the right decisions. Now pull out a pencil and a piece of paper and start planning your garden!

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