For a bountiful harvest, choose seeds for your garden carefully
Spring planting is just around the corner, so now is the time to sort your old seeds and order new ones to be planted this spring. Popular varieties can sell out, so the early bird will catch the best seeds.
START WITH A PLAN
The temptation is to buy some of everything you would just love to grow and then end up with more potential plants than you have space to grow them. On the other hand, you may want to expand your growing area this season.
To maximize space, plan succession crops so that late-season crops take over a space when early-season plants have stopped producing. Decide what will grow where and buy seeds accordingly.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING SEEDS
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• Pay attention to quantity and price whether ordering online or selecting packets in the garden center. For the same variety, some packets will be twice the price as others. There won’t be a price per ounce posted like items at the grocery store — so for the best value, do the math on quantity and price.
• Check days to maturity on the seed packet. Some varieties will take longer to mature than others and in Colorado’s limited growing season, time counts — especially for gardens at higher elevations.
WHAT ABOUT LAST SEASON’S LEFTOVERS?
Planting old seeds that don’t germinate can cost you two to three weeks of outdoor growing time before you know the seeds failed and you need to replant. That’s time you don’t want to lose in Colorado’s growing season.
While some plant varieties will produce seeds that will last for years when stored under ideal conditions, they are generally the exception. Beans, grain and corn are usually longer-lived than other plants, but the hybridized versions we use predominately today don’t have a prolonged shelf-life. The best rule of thumb is to check the expiration date on seed bags you’ve saved and toss expired seeds.
CAN I USE SEEDS HARVESTED FROM LAST YEAR’S GARDEN?
The next generation of seeds from hybridized plants is not going to produce true to variety, and you will be growing plants of unknown quality and character. For example, if you plant seeds from last year’s great pumpkin that grew next to the zucchini, the seeds saved from that pumpkin may grow a surprise that doesn’t look anything like last year’s favorite pumpkin.
If you have room to take a chance and see what happens, experiment with last year’s seeds. But if you want to replicate the quality of last year’s pumpkin, buy new seeds.
WHAT ABOUT HEIRLOOMS?
Heirloom varieties are the old favorite plants that go back generations, some to Colonial days. Heirlooms have been collected and maintained for generations and have not been hybridized. These seeds can be collected for future seasons and will remain true to the original plant as long as they have not cross-pollinated with another variety in the garden. To keep heirlooms going unchanged from plant to seed to plant, season after season, isolate them from non-heirlooms.
Another growing season will soon begin. Enjoy watching Mother Nature’s magic unfold one more time as those small specs and dots you plant in the earth soon become spinach, lettuce, herbs, carrots, zucchini, pumpkins and more. Happy planting!
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.