Whether you’re a backyard gardener or a professional grower, good seed is the first step to a successful season. However, many things can go wrong or get overlooked when it comes to ordering seeds and getting most out of them. So I’ve put together some advice from our farm as well as some questions to ask yourself as you thumb through the catalogs and prepare to purchase a big block of seeds.
1. If You’re Small, Team Up
If you have a small garden or growing operation, consider teaming up with a larger grower or a group of growers to save a little money. Many seed purveyors offer some sort of discount on larger orders, and some such as Fedco even offer really sizable bulk discounts and let you order in groups. Not a bad idea to piggyback on a larger order and save everyone a little extra money, because seed costs can add up and become expensive quickly.
2. Order Early
The earlier you order, the more likely you are to get the seeds you want because the more popular ones can sell out quickly. Also ordering early ensures you have the seeds when you need them in case they go on backorder.
3. Have a Place to Store Them
Keeping your seeds viable throughout the season is essential to successful germination and growth. The best place to keep them is somewhere that is very cold and dry. The freezer can be ideal for this, just remember that the freezer needs to stay closed most of the time (so the temperature does not fluctuate) and that when you are just taking out the seeds you need to replace the rest in the freezer immediately. A refrigerator or cooler is also a good option.
4. Are They Organic?
Organic seeds are more expensive than conventional ones. However, organic seeds also grow better in an organic system because they are generally propagated in compost or natural fertilizers (like they would be in your garden) as opposed to chemical fertilizers. This might make a difference in the crops performance and vigor.
5. Are They Treated?
If they are not organic, or you’re not concerned with that aspect, are you sure the seeds you’re getting are not treated with any sort of fungicide? Many in the U.S. are, and often this appears like a colored coating on the seeds themselves. There are bad fungi in the soil, obviously, but also good ones, and these fungicides are indiscriminate. Because fungi are such an essential part of growing vegetables, treated seeds might not perform as well as others and might also harm your soil.
6. Are They Pelleted?
Pelleted seeds can be very helpful in seeding trays and also seeding directly into the garden because they are uniform and easy to space out. Or, in the case of seeding into trays, one can easily use a vacuum seeder or automatic seeder with pelleted seeds. However, they can be a touch more expensive. Also, some coatings are not compliant with the National Organic Program, meaning they cannot be used in organic certification. So watch for that when you’re ordering seeds—it might be something you want or want to avoid, depending on your goals.