It All Starts With Seeds!

multiple seed packets on table

directions on back of seed packet

San Marzano seed instructions, notice appearance of second true tomato leaves above cotyledon.

Do you know the difference between Heirloom, Hybrid and GMO seeds?  Heirloom seeds have been cultivated since before 1951 which means the same seeds will grow true to type from one generation to the next while a single Hybrid seed may be a combination of 2 or more plant varieties. Most packets will show if they are Heirloom seeds; if not, they are most likely Hybrid.  Heirlooms usually have an interesting history like who started harvesting and collecting a particular variety, sometimes over 100 years and many generations! Heirlooms are known to have better flavor with interesting selections of colors, sizes.  GMO seeds have been genetically modified or engineered for a certain outcome like disease/pest resistance.

Seed packets tell you everything you need to know about how to start the seeds. There are a lot of seeds/packet, more than I usually need. At the top is a historical description of the plant/vegetable that’s usually pretty interesting as well as detailed description of size, color, flavor, expected yield.  Directions for either starting seeds indoors or directly sowing them into garden and when the best time of season to do so; i.e. when soil temperature is above 45*.   It’s very important to follow these recommendations if you want to successfully grow vegetables or flowers. There is a table that may have a picture of the first true leaves which are actually the 2nd leaves.  Cotyledons are the first leaves produced by plants; they are not considered ‘true leaves’ and are sometimes referred to as ‘seed leaves’. The second set of leaves will be the true leaves. Other information on the chart includes days to emerge from soil, seed depth, seed spacing, row spacing, thinning (if applicable), how much sunlight needed and days to maturity – the day you will have a juicy red ripe tomato!

ripe tomato on vine

Juicy ripe tomato!

How do I know which seeds to start indoors/outdoors and when?  I refer to the “Sowing Recommendation Chart” (shown below) from Botanical Interests and my journal to know when to start planting indoor and outdoor. The warm weather loving plants like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes don’t tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees very well, so I start peppers and tomatoes inside 6-8 weeks prior to planting and the squash, cucumbers about 3-4 weeks ahead. The cool weather loving plants like lettuce, spinach, peas can tolerate pretty cool temps and even snow!  These cool weather lovers don’t care for the hot temps of mid-summer so they are best suited for spring and fall growing.  I check the soil temperature often in spring to see when I can direct sow the cool weather seeds. For the early spring sowing it usually needs to be above 45 degrees, most likely end of March or early April here in our high altitude garden as long as the snow has melted!

Seed starting is next….

sowing recommendations

Sowing recommendation chart from ‘Botanical Gardens’

directions on back of seed packet

Notice the cotyledon photo upper left