By Gail Vanik
Flower and vegetable gardening has become even more popular since the arrival of COVID-19 last year, and many people like to start their gardens from seed because it can be a less expensive alternative to purchasing starter plants. There is a great deal of information on seed packets, and your success sometimes depends on how well you read and use the information that is found there.
When making a choice about which flowers or vegetables to plant this year consider four things – how much sun is required, size when it’s mature, at what time it’s going to bloom or produce vegetables, and the number of days to harvest.
In Montezuma County, we are in luck because in general, most flowers prefer full sun, and that’s something we have an abundance of here. Be sure to check the package though for light requirements because there are some, like impatiens for instance, that will only thrive in shade. Most vegetables will need at least six hours per day of sunshine to be happy. You will find all of this information on the back of the packet.
Size at maturity can be a huge consideration when choosing what to grow- no pun intended. When reading the seed packets, carefully look for the size of the mature plant because they can vary greatly even within the same vegetable. One of the cool things that has happened in recent years, as folks have downsized, is that seed companies have responded by breeding miniaturized versions of many vegetables suitable for patio containers or smaller gardens. Cucumbers and tomatoes are two great examples. Either of these can grow to be very large plants or very small, depending on which variety you choose so pay careful attention to the size of the plant when mature.
Something else to be sure to check is when the flower will bloom. The prettiest gardens are those that contain varieties that are staggered to bloom throughout the summer. This could mean that you’ll be planting pansies to bloom in the spring, petunias to bloom throughout the summer, and mums for color in the fall. If you prefer a riot of color all at once, then choose plants that will bloom continuously throughout the season.
In our area, we have a relatively short growing season, 100 to 120 days depending on where you live, so the number of days to harvest is critical in choosing the best varieties to grow. You’ll either want to choose something with a relatively short number of days to maturity, or start your plants indoors well ahead of our average last frost dates which are around May 25th in Cortez, and June 5 in Dolores.
One final thing you’ll want to be sure to check on the back of the seed packet, and that is the expiration date. All packets will have an expiration date on them, and it may read something like “for sale in 2021.” Old seed can absolutely be used, but their germination rate will generally not be as good so you may wish to plant more seeds than normal to account for that. Seeds like parsley and onions generally only have a one year shelf life, while other vegetables like radishes and cucumbers may remain viable for up to five years.
The information on the back of the seed packet can be your best friend in helping you to decide which varieties to choose for an outstanding harvest and beautiful garden this summer if you simply know how to read and follow the directions.
Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.