5 Seed Labels And What They Mean

Do you know what kinds of seeds you're planting in your garden?

Maybe you’ve already started your seeds. Maybe your mail-order seed packets arrived but they’re still sitting on your garden bench waiting to be planted. Or maybe you still need to check out what seeds are available at your local garden shop. Whatever the case might be, the anticipation of all the vegetables and fruits that will soon be growing in your garden is exciting. But if you’re new to gardening—and particularly seed-starting—all the seed options can be overwhelming.

In this video, Joey Baird of TheWisconsinVegetableGardener.com discusses the different labels you may see on seed packets or the types of seeds you may have heard of. Here’s a brief overview of the five common options and what they mean.

GMO Seeds

Chances are you’ll never come into contact with genetically modified seeds at your local garden shop. Why’s that? Because GM seeds are used by industrial farmers on large-scale farms. These farmers contract with GM seed companies to purchase these seeds, whose DNA has been altered by scientists, and sign a contract that they will not save the seeds and perhaps even sell the seed back to the company.

Hybrid (F1) Seeds

Hybrid seeds are the product of two or more plants that have been cross-pollinated in a controlled environment for certain traits, such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, increased yield, et cetera. While it’s possible to save the seeds, it’s not recommended, as they won’t produce plants true to the parent.

Organic Seeds

Organic seeds have been certified by the USDA and raised according to National Organic Program standards. These seeds tend to be stronger and better adapted to the environment in which they were produced.


Heirloom seeds are true to the parent plant and time-tested, having been passed down through generations. These plants are open-pollinated, and gardeners can save their seeds.

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Pelleted Seeds

Pelleted seeds aren’t as prevalent as hybrid, organic and heirloom seeds, but they’re starting to pop up more in garden centers. Typically, they’re small seeds (like carrot or celery seeds) that are coated in a clay substance so that they can be more easily seen,  handled and used in a seeder. They’re pre-primed, meaning they’ve been hydrated and grown almost to the point of germination before being sold, so that when you go to plant them, they germinate more quickly. The downside to this is that they’re only viable for one year.

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