There’s snow on the ground, but it’s not too early to think about this year’s garden.
Seed catalogs were mailed long ago and the online business is already booming. If you haven’t started planning this year’s garden, grab something warm to drink and cozy up to the fire with your laptop and order for spring!
How much and when to order?
For most home gardeners, one or two seed packets per variety are all you’ll need. To have the best selection in seeds, place your order soon. Popular varieties will sell out, so be an early bird if you want to catch the best seed.
Can I use any of last season’s left-over seeds?
While some plant varieties will produce seeds that will last for centuries, they are generally the exception. Anasazi beans collected from the cliff dwellings in southwestern Colorado that were planted soon after discovery were good to grow. Beans, grain and corn are generally longer-lived than other plants-but their hybridized versions we use predominately today don’t have a prolonged shelf-life.
Best rule of thumb is to check the expiration date on old seed bags and toss expired seeds.
If you have left-over seeds from past seasons that are questionable, you can check them out with a preseason germination test. Plant a couple seeds of each variety indoors in a sand/peat mix. If they don’t germinate, don’t waste your time with them later.
Planting old seeds that don’t germinate can cost you two to three weeks of 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 short growing season.
Can I use seeds harvested from last year’s garden? The next generation of seeds from hybridized plants is generally less reliable than the fresh seeds you can buy. Also, as plants cross-pollinate with other garden plants, the mixed-up results can land in the seeds.
For example, if you plant seeds from last year’s huge pumpkin that grew next to the zucchini, the fruit that grows this year from those seeds may be a surprise. It may not look anything like last year’s prize pumpkin. That’s part of the magic that matters when you select 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 from plant to seed to plant, season after season, keep them isolated from non-heirlooms.
If you haven’t started planning this year’s garden, grab something warm to drink and cozy up to the fire with your laptop and order for spring!