How to choose seeds for your vegetable and flower gardens – 8 things to consider

Oooooh, I’m so exciiiiiteeeeed!! I started my detailed seed planting schedule for this year. I have glorious visions in my mind of 8 ft sweet peas and copious beds of blooms. Amidst my romanticized garden lies a small patch of vegetables.

We have grown our share of veggies, but now we get most of our produce from a local farm through a CSA. Like a magazine, we pay for a subscription and they deliver a weekly share of veggies to the farmer’s market. (It’s wonderful! You shud look into it!) Even though I’m focusing on my own variety of market garden, my children still want to include vegetables in their portions of the garden.

Hopefully you’re starting to think about growing your own salads and bouquets in the coming summer. Here are a few considerations when you shop for seeds.

  • Sun/shade Most vegetables and many flowers really appreciate full sun. You can get away with a little shade with members of the cabbage and lettuce families. Make sure you have enough space in the sun for your yumminess!
  • Watering needs. Depending on your climate of course, most people will need some kind of irrigation. Sprinklers or a drip system work wonderfully. If you’re relying heavily on rainfall, make sure your seed choices are appropriate. If you don’t get copious amounts of precipitation, don’t plant varieties that won’t tolerate getting a smidge dry. If you live in the rainforest, don’t expect to grow plants that hate to get their feet wet.
  • Soil Your plants need nutrients. Before you pour on chemical fertilizers, consider this: Healthy soil needs very little help growing healthy produce. If you’re needing to pour on the Miracle Gro, step back and figure out your soil deficiencies. Check pH and N-P-K levels with an inexpensive kit. There are entire books dedicated to making amendments (maybe a blog post is in order) but fortunately, most soil test kits come with instructions for suggested amendments based on your test results.
    • Soil type. You’ll also need to know where your soil falls in the clay to sandy spectrum. They say that sandy loam is the ideal soil type, but I believe you can have a beautiful garden in a wide range of soils. Very sandy soils will lose water faster than I lose keys (and phones). Very clay soil will get water-logged and prevent healthy root growth. You’ll want to make adjustments to these. (Compost will be your very best friend.) If you know your soil tends to be on the clay side, try searching for shorter root vegetables. There are not-so-slender carrot varieties out there, for example that do better in places where it would be difficult for your typical model carrots to stretch their legs down deep.
  • Zone If you don’t have a year-round green house, I don’t suggest a pineapple tree. Double check to make sure any perennial plants can survive your winter and that annuals will mature during your season length. If some plants require more days to mature than your growing season contains, find out if you can/would enjoy starting them inside.
  • Yumminess. If you don’t like to eat broccoli, don’t grow broccoli. If you hate the look of celosia, then don’t plant any. You should consider, however trying a few of your least favorites, maybe one a year. Often they are exceptional garden-fresh and home-prepared.
  • Purpose. The type of vegetable, fruit, flower or foliage that you grow should be based on what you plan to do with them. Some veggies are better fresh than canned; sometimes they’re best for frying. Bedding flowers will do you no good in a nice big vase. And you might grow something wonderfully tall, but it’ll never help if it doesn’t hold up in water. Check the details in your seed catalog, the seed company’s website or ask an experienced grower for suggestions. IMG_1772
  • Color. You might not be making a bouquet with your vegetables. But check out a website like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and you’ll be super excited about dragon tongue beans, truly blue corn and black tomatoes. I dare you to peruse the website and wish for some of those totally weird seeds! As far as flowers go, you’re usually better off with a mix when you’re growing at a small scale. But there are times when choosing one or two gorgeous colors is worth buying an entire packet.

For example, I plant sweet peas for two main reasons: 1) even one tiny jar of them will draw people over to my market booth and 2) they fix nitrogen in the soil. So when I find a color as sexy as say these Nimbus Spencer’s, I’ll plant just that color and they’ll serve both purposes + make me happy.

Now I’d absolutely love to know: What are your garden plans for the coming season? What preparation needs to happen? We’d love to see pictures of your garden & produce! Subscribe and reply with photos of yours!

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