Start Heirloom and Hybrid Veggie Favorites from Seed
Starting vegetables from seed rather than purchasing transplants saves money, but more importantly, there are so many more choices! In order to have spring/summer plants ready to go into the garden in March, the seeds need to be started indoors soon. Most seeds need 4 – 6 weeks to grow to transplant size.
Where to Buy Seeds
- At the local nursery or hardware store – This is fine, but due to space constraints, most retailers only carry a couple of brands, and within the brand only a few varieties of each vegetable.
- From mail order seed companies – This is my favorite source because the selection is so much greater! Also, the seed catalogs or online descriptions contain more information about the variety than is usually available on the seed packet. I still like to get paper catalogs although I then go to the seed company’s website to order. The paper catalogs are so fun to look through, I can book mark pages of the varieties I’m considering, and generally just entertain myself on long winter evenings! It’s cheap entertainment as the catalogs are usually free!
- Favorite seed companies – Here are links to the websites of my favorite mail order seed companies: Burpee, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Park Seed, Renee’s Garden, Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed, The Cook’s Garden. The websites contain online seed catalogs and most also have an option to request a paper catalog to be mailed.
What to Consider When Choosing Seeds
- Hybrid Seeds – Hybrid vegetable seeds are produced from cross mating two different varieties (“parents”) of the same species. Hybrids are bred to have certain characteristics such as plant vigor, disease resistance, plant size, high yield, faster maturity, or vegetable color. Because hybrids are crosses between two varieties, the seed that a hybrid plant produces will not grow plants true to type, so don’t save seed from these plants expecting to get the same plant the next year. Choose hybrids if you are looking for vigorous plants, disease resistance, plants that are a certain size (ie: compact for container gardening), high yields per plant, or want different colored veggie varieties.
- Heirloom Seeds – Heirloom seeds have several definitions, but in general are varieties that have been around a long time (usually 50 years or more) and are open-pollinated (not cross mated like hybrids). Some heirloom veggies are believed to have superior flavor, such as heirloom tomatoes. Choose heirlooms if you want unique varieties and flavor. But be aware that they may be more prone to disease and have lower yields. My solution is to plant a couple heirloom tomatoes each year, but also plant my favorite hybrid tomatoes so I still get tomatoes if the heirlooms get in trouble!
- All American Selections (AAS) – If you are new to veggie gardening, or if you want to try something new but want to know it’s a good choice, look for varieties that are ‘All American Selections’, designated with the initials ‘AAS’. All American Selections is a non profit group that tests plant varieties and designates the best performers as AAS winners.
How to Start Seeds
Because it’s winter and the temperatures outside may not be optimal for good germination, it’s best to start seeds indoors now. For detailed instructions, see Seed Starting Tips post or view Thyme to Grow’s You Tube video ‘How to Plant Seeds in Pots and Containers’.