Winter Reading Means Successful Seeding

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Days are getting longer. Seed catalogs are inevitably showing up in mailboxes. That can only mean one thing: it’s time to plan this year’s garden. Here are some points to consider before ordering seeds.

Although most seed companies still send out catalogs, a lot of suppliers list their inventory online. So if you’re interested in something specific but can’t find it in a paper catalog, try searching online to find it.

Before getting carried away with all the colorful pictures and exciting descriptions in the seed catalog and ordering only vegetables you’ve never heard of, make a list of the vegetables that you and your family eat on a regular basis. To make the most of your garden, the majority of seeds you order should be on this list. However, also including a couple of new vegetables that you or your family normally wouldn’t eat is a good idea. Fresh vegetables from the garden taste different than the ones in the grocery store, so you may find that you enjoy eating a vegetable that you thought you disliked.

If you’ve had disease problems in your garden in the past, look for disease resistant varieties. Initials following a variety name denote disease resistance. Variety names followed by the initials V, F, N, T, and A indicate resistance to the most common tomato problems: Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and Alternaria (early blight), respectively. For example, after the tomato variety Better Boy, you will see the following abbreviations: V, F, N, and T. These letters mean that Better Boy shows some resistance to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts, nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus.

Now is also a good time to draw a garden diagram showing where each vegetable will be planted. Garden diagrams are especially useful in determining crop rotation schedules. Look at garden diagrams from previous years to ensure that the same vegetable (or one in that family) is not being planted in the same place year after year.

Other valuable information found in seed catalogs is the days to maturity. This is very helpful in planning when to plant so that you have a steady harvest. For example, planting three different tomato varieties with varying days to maturity at the same time will allow you to have fresh tomatoes for weeks.

Many vegetables grow better in the garden if they are started indoors and planted in the garden as healthy transplants. Cool season crops, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, which are seeded indoors need at least 6 weeks prior to their transplanting outside in the garden.

Try to stick to local seed producers. Seeds produced from local seed companies tend to be better adapted to our climate than those produced elsewhere.

Before you order, make sure you’ve done your research and are selecting varieties that will do well in our area. North Carolina State University has a publication for home vegetable gardening (, which includes a list of recommended varieties for our area. Keep in mind that new varieties are constantly being developed, so there are many new varieties available in the trade that are not listed.

Timing is everything in gardening, so the next time you curl up by the fire, grab a seed catalog and start planning this year’s garden.

Written By

Photo of Amanda Taylor, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionAmanda TaylorArea Specialized Agent, Nursery and Greenhouse, Western Region Serves 28 CountiesBased out of Burke(828) 475-2915 amanda_jo_taylor@ncsu.eduN.C. Cooperative Extension, Burke County Center
Posted on Feb 25, 2013
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