Choosing Seed Varieties

In the garden

Know how to choose the right varieties for your garden.

I really shouldn’t be the one to give advice about choosing seed varieties. Each and every year lost all self control when the seed catalogs come. I’m a total sucker for the dreamy variety names and the promises of large, uniform yields of blemish-free beauty. That being said, I do know better. I’m happy to share my thoughts with you (even if you do also lose control once in a while).

Get in the zone

First and foremost, you need to understand what plants will thrive in your climate, and when to expect your first and last frost. Type in your zip here to find out. I’m in zone 6a, which means my frost-free growing season is from May 15 – October 15. There are plenty of plants that can be grown outside of this window (and some prefer to!) but this is the main window to grow the kinds of plants that can’t withstand frost.

Understanding varieties

Choosing the right varieties for your garden can have a big impact on your outcome, depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish. For example, If you want to begin saving your own seeds, you’ll need to choose heirloom varieties that have not been hybridized. If you want to can tomatoes, you should choose uniform determinate tomatoes that will come on all at once.

When you look at each variety, pay careful attention to the Days To Maturity (DTM). Within one plant family of tomatoes, you’ll see varieties that mature in 55 days and others that take 80 days. That’s a big chunk of time during those precious frost-free days outside. You can either choose to go with one or the other, or grow both for an extended harvest window of fresh tomatoes. When the 55 day crop begins to die out, the 80 day crop will just be getting going.

More considerations within varieties include growth patterns (think pole beans versus bush beans), long day versus short day length (think onions), flavor, size, texture and seasonality. Not everything wants to be alive in July…I’m looking at you, lettuce… so plan to grow the cooler weather crops on the shoulders of the season.

Please let me know what you think!
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