As uncertainty drives more to home gardening, Master Gardener expert advises against common seed-ordering pitfalls
Gardeners motivated by pandemic-related uncertainty should shop carefully and rely on local experts, rather than anonymous sources on the internet
February 2, 2021
As home gardeners again rush to purchase seeds for their 2021 vegetable gardens, seed companies have already started to limit the number of orders they are accepting.
New and seasoned gardeners should shop for seeds carefully, making purchases from reputable seed companies, keeping in mind their available growing space and the number of plants they can reasonably expect to care for in their garden.
“Gardeners should be careful to only order seeds from reputable sources,” says Kathleen Reed, Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener state coordinator. “We have a number of seed companies located right here in Virginia that are a great resource for vegetables that do well in our climate.”
Gardeners shouldn’t feel panic to order seeds online, according to the Extension Master Gardener program. Seeds can also be purchased locally at hardware stores, nurseries, or agricultural supply stores. If gardeners don’t have the capacity to start seeds like tomato or peppers indoors, they can also plan to purchase transplants later in the season.
When ordering seeds, the Extension Master Gardener program recommends:
- Consider the space you have available and don’t overbuy seeds. Plants need adequate space to be productive. For example, more than eight tomato plants can’t be planted in a three- by six-foot raised bed. One packet of tomato seeds would be sufficient for that space.
- Buy (and plan) for succession planting. Crops like beans can be sown multiple times throughout the season. For example, beans could be planted at the end of April, the middle of May, and the beginning of July to ensure a harvest throughout the summer. You will therefore need enough bean seeds to plant multiple successions.
- Plan the fall garden as you order seeds now. A fall garden containing cool-weather crops like lettuce, peas, or kale can be planted in late summer as other crops die out. Think about what will be planted next fall when ordering seeds this spring.
- Keep expectations realistic. While home gardening is a great way to supplement your summer diet with fresh vegetables, it is not a reliable way to provide a substantial amount of one’s necessary yearly calories. All gardeners experience a mixture of successes and failures, and new gardeners should anticipate that not everything they plant will be successful.
“Please do not rely on viral memes or other online sources for gardening information,” adds Reed. “We have seen a lot of dangerous and un-scientific gardening advice pop up online in the last few years. If you have a question about seeds, pest control, or general gardening, your local Extension office is the best resource.”
The Extension Master Gardener program has compiled a library of research-based gardening information for Virginia vegetable gardeners available for free online here.
Kathleen Reed is the state coordinator for the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program and a former Extension agent for Roanoke County, as well as an experienced home gardener. She holds a Master’s in Community Sustainability at Michigan State University.
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