Spring is just around the corner! Many gardeners and nature lovers are eagerly awaiting warmer weather, and the chance to work and enjoy the outdoors again. One of the signs that the gardening season is on its way is the appearance of garden seed displays retail stores, nurseries and garden centers. Many of us also subscribe to the many seed company catalogs or shop for seed online.
While many of us fawn over the many options available, we need to be able to read and understand the information on the seed packet to correctly understand the growing needs for different plants that will be raised.
Correct interpretation of this material helps gardeners to select seeds that will turn into plants that will fill garden space with the vegetables and flowers we want that match the growing environment that is available to be raised in. As with all plants that we raise in containers to traditional garden plots, we need to match the right plant with the right growing environment.
Let us look at the following six vital factors that everyone needs to know and understand to make those correct selections in the first place.
Seed Count – The number, size and weight of seed will vary, depending on the crop that is being purchased. Many packets will include the approximate number of seeds in each. This factor is important since it can impact the number of packets that will be
purchased for the desired number of plants that will be sown in the area available to grow in. Some seed will be planted fairly thick, and thinned out after germination.
Some gardeners will also purchase extra for extra plantings later in the season, and store the remainder for the next year.
Plant Height – The mature height and spread of the mature plants will be on the packet. Ideally, mature plant foliage should be able to be close to touch or slightly overlapping. This information will help gardeners decide how to space and plant seed in the area that is available to grow in.
Light – The light needs for efficient growth will vary, depending on the crop being selected. Full sun recommendations refer to six hours of direct light. Partial sun refers to four hours of direct sunlight where the plants will be grown. Shade loving plants will prefer indirect or filtered light. Most vegetable crops will require six hours of direct, full sunlight to mature and produce to full potential.
When to Sow and Days to Maturity- A number of days will be listed on the packet on days to maturity. The key factor is finding the correct soil temperature that will decide when to plant various crops. Soil thermometers can be purchased at gardens centers.
Updated soil temperature data is also posted on the UNL Cropwatch website to help make those planting decisions. Once the seven day average soil temperature is reached for the target crop, it is a good time to plant then. This excellent resource can be found at https://cropwatch.unl.edu/cropwatchsoiltemperature for future reference.
If seed is being sown for a fall garden, count the days of maturity back from the last average frost date. For more information on fall gardening, refer the Fall NebGuide found at http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g1343.pdf for future reference.
Planting Depth – The correct planting depth of key to provide the growing environment, soil temperature and the amount of light needed to penetrate the soil to germinate seeds. If a depth is not provided, multiply the size of the seed by two to calculate depth.
Very small and very fine seed can be scattered on the top of a firm
seed bed, with mist being applied a couple times a day. A fine layer of vermiculite may be used with fine and small seed to help keep the seed from moving around, and to maintain moisture for germination.
Plant Spacing – Spacing seed for growth has been calculated for the mature height and width of plants as they grow their full size, with some slight foliage overlap. Thinning or removing small seedlings that have been planted too close to each other is a wise strategy to avoid plant overcrowding and leggy growth, resulting in reduced plant growth potential.
As with all decision making, consider all these factors together when selecting and growing plants from seed. Each of these factors are important, and are combined together to help gardeners make informed decisions for best results for growing conditions will be provided.
If anyone has any questions about understanding the information on a seed packet, feel free to contact me by sending an email message to email@example.com, by following my Nebraska Gardener blog at https://nebrgardener.wordpress.com/ or by calling my office at (308) 696-6781.