Choosing seed might seem like an easy thing to do, but the difference it makes to having a successful garden is everything. In this blog post we will discuss the importance of selecting the right seed and how to determine what seed is good for your region.
1. USDA Zone Hardiness - This is a map that is put out by the USDA that shows visibly where you are located in terms of average temperature, first frost (estimated), and last frost date (estimated). Selecting seeds by name specific basis will sometimes yield a zone that they grow best in, this applies most to perennials since some winters are just too harsh for some perennials, but it also applies to annuals in that colder zones generally have shorter seasons and this can determine what crops might be better than others.
2. Ask locally - Growing seeds that have been proven to be productive in your region will be your best bet when trying to find a place to start. Asking your local agricultural extension or farmers (or even other gardeners) who have been growing in your area will have a better understanding of how certain varieties might fair.
3. Regional adaption - Seeds that have been grown in your region for many years will be better adapted to the soil type, acidity, precipitation, elevation, and other regional factors will play a minor role in how well a variety does. Some varieties have been specifically bred to growing in adverse conditions. See this example of a tomato bred to grow in the high elevations of Colorado or this tomato that is bred to grow in cold climates. These varieties are not bad if they are grown in regions outside of where there were bred, they just will do better than other varieties! Another thing people ask is "Are they GMO?" The answer is NO. Breeding plants through genetic adaption is extremely natural and is the same process that takes place when you live in Florida for your entire life, but then move to North Dakota. You will survive, but dang if you were not as prepared for the cold as someone who has lived there for some time, but after many many seasons of living there your body will naturally prepare itself for the cold.
4. Don't push reality - Sometimes the reality is your season is just too short to grow certain things successfully. By denying reality you will not find success magically. The best things to do is find things that just grow well in your region and can grow safely. Just because the maturity date is 80 days, and your growing season is 80 days doesn't mean you will have any success at all. Instead go with plants that will absolutely grow well in your region. A great example of this is with tomatoes. There are many that try to grow a large beefsteak tomato in a short season climate and are shocked when they get nothing from their efforts. Try growing a cherry tomato instead! Cherry tomatoes are much smaller and therefor ripen much quicker!
5. Tried and True varieties - By selecting universally tried and true varieties you can maximize results without doing a ton of worrying. These are varieties that are considered "classic supermarket names" like Marketmore 76 Cucumber, Blue Lake Bean, Danvers 126 Carrot, Copenhagen Market Cabbage, Waltham 29 Broccoli, and thousands others! The reason they are "market friendly" is because they have been grown in so many regions that their genetics are just an average of all the different growing zones, so it isn't superior but safe. Just as a note: almost every variety of seed we have on the website for sale is a tried and true variety to eliminate confusion and fear.
6. Hybrid vs. heirloom - Hybrid seeds are bred for specific things and so some may be good for growing in your area, however many of the benefits will not outweigh the negatives that come with it. Heirlooms can be saved again and again, however hybrids can sometimes be bred to have strong drought tolerance, heat resistance, or cold tolerance. This allows you to make a choice and determine what works best for you. I personally would much rather grow heirlooms and rely on them slowly adjusting to my growing conditions.