How to Pick Your Annual Garden Seeds
I know most of you are probably thinking that it’s simple, but there is certain terminology that you should be aware to make sure that you are getting exactly the plant and produce that you want. You’ll want to know what things like what determinate and indeterminate mean, or shelling and wax. Below is a list of some of the pitfalls to watch out for as you’re choosing your seed.
Beans- It is really important to decide whether you want to use your beans as dried beans, or do you want to eat them fresh. If you want dried beans, they will typically be called shelling beans, but if they are better fresh, they will be called wax. Beans grow as a bush type or as a climbing vine. If you don’t want to trellis, you might want the bush variety, but if you want a climbing vine for a three sisters garden like me, you would want a pole variety. Also, if you are growing wax beans, make sure they say stringless, otherwise you will be de-stringing your beans.
Corn- If you are looking to eat the corn on the cob fresh, or to freeze it, you are going to want to pick a sweet corn. If it says that the corn is a dent or flint corn than those corns are typically good for flour or cornmeal.
Cucumber- If you plan to grow cucumbers for fresh eating, pick a “sweet” cucumber, but if you want to pickle them, make sure to pick a pickling variety.
Peas- Peas are similar to beans in that shell peas are typically eaten as loose peas, whereas snap peas are eaten young before the peas develop pod and all. If you are going the snap route, make sure it’s a stringless variety. I personally prefer snap peas, as I will not devote my time and energy to shelling peas by hand.
Peppers- With peppers, it’s all about the size of the fruit and the range from hot to sweet. Just make sure you get the size and taste you want. The catalogue will tell you that plainly.
Squash- The important thing to understand about squash is how you plan to use them. Are you planning to eat them right away as they ripen, or are you planning to put them in a root cellar for long term storage? Zucchinis are good for eating fresh during the season. They produce much faster than other squashes, but their skin is thin and they don’t store well in a root cellar, although you can blanch and freeze them. If you are looking for a squash to store in a root cellar, they will be described as a “great keeper” or having and “excellent shelf life”. I grow zucchini, but I like to grow tons of butternut and PA Dutch crookneck squash, because they are good keepers. During the season, it’s hard enough to eat the abundance of food coming in everyday, but the squash I can let grow, and I can harvest them at the end of the season easily and store tons of produce in my root cellar easily without any energy input. The best part is we can have squash all winter.
Tomato- The first thing to know when choosing a tomato is whether you want a determinate vine or an indeterminate vine. The determinate varieties will grow to maturity and stop growing. The determinate vines are typically smaller. Indeterminate vines will keep growing and growing and growing until you get that frost. So if you have a small space and don’t want to prune your vines, you might want to consider a determinate variety. Indeterminate varieties are usually more productive and hardier. You’ll also want to choose the size of the tomato. “Cherry”, “grape”, or “currant” tomatoes are the smallest. “Pear” or “Plums” are usually three times the size of the small varieties. The full size tomatoes are typically advertised with a weight. Wide ranges of tastes and uses abound. Some are better for soups and sauces, while others are better fresh in salad.
Watermelon- Most people think of watermelon as being very sweet, but there is a range from moderately sweet to super sweet. There is a big difference between the two. Size will be advertised and keeping ability. Typically the thicker the rind the longer it will take them to rot. Varieties of shape and flesh colors abound. It’s always fun to try something that you can’t get at the store, like a “Mountain Sweet Yellow”, or an “Orangeglo”.
If you are interested in a fantastic, affordable, heirloom seed pack. I am proud to offer The Food Production Seed Pack which boasts 36 packets of heirloom seed containing 45 different varieties carefully selected and used in my own garden. (NO hybrids or GMO’s)The seed is from a great organization that is desperately trying to save our seed heritage, Seed Savers.org. As a bonus, the seed pack is $97 or 10% less than retail at Seed Savers. Also shipping is free to the lower 48, which is another huge discount, and if you are a garden club member, your discount would also apply, bringing the price down further.