Tomlinson: Take time to buy seeds

Seeds are available through catalogues and will soon be in stores and garden centres.

Seeds are available through catalogues and will soon be in stores and garden centres.

Those that have planted seeds for a number of years have their favorite seed sources. Newbies need as much information as possible to enable them to make informed decisions.

GMO seeds, genetically modified organisms, are not sold to the general public. Companies that are advertising that they are selling GMO free seeds are using the fear factor in their advertising.

Organic seed is seed grown on land that has been certified as organic. Neither the parent plants nor the seeds have been treated with chemicals or fungicides.

Seeds that are labelled as hybrid are a cross from two plants of the same variety. Plants are pollinated with another plant with desirable characteristics which could be for taste, disease resistance etc. Seed saved from these plants will not come true meaning that they will be different from the original plant.

F1 is a form of hybridization where two different variety of plants are crossed.

The seed caries the dominant genes from both parents. F1 seeds grow well and are often stronger than other hybrids but are usually sterile. The advantage in planting a F1 annuals in that the plants continue to bloom throughout the season without being deadheaded.

Heirloom seed has never been part of any hybridization program. Plants are openly pollinated by insects, wind or rain.

Open pollination results in gradual evolution of plant varieties as the stronger varieties dominate.

There are many unique heirloom seeds on the market. The cost of the seed is often dependent on the amount of seed available as well as the demand.

When looking for Heirloom seeds, visit garden clubs and seed exchanges as some varieties have been handed down in families for generations and are not available through retail sources. Many varieties were handed down in families for generations.

Unless a seed house grows and collects their own seed, the seed is purchased from large growers that sell to multiple seed houses. Seed from one field can be purchased from a number of different retailers under different names.

Seed packages differ in amount of information given as well as the number of seeds within the package. Chose seed packages that give specific planting, spacing and growing instructions. Catalogues often give a seed count. Some seed packages have plastic windows but it is often a guessing game.

Before purchasing seed look at how many days are needed for the plant to mature. Do not count on more than 90 warm, frost free days in Central Alberta.

Plants that need more than 90 days should be started indoors and transplanted outside when the danger of frost is over.

Tomato plants are listed as determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants grow to a certain height and stop. The rest of the growth is directed at side shoots.

Indeterminate plants grow upwards forever and need to either be staked or put on a string or trellis.

Seed varieties that are listed as new, might be new to this particular seed house or it could be the first year that they have been sold commercially.

Not all seed houses will sell the same varieties. There are too many varieties available and companies carry ones that are popular with their customers.

Flower seeds can be lumped together or divided into annual and perennials. A typical annual seed germinates easily and will bloom within six to eight weeks of planting.

Perennial take longer to mature. Unless the seed is planted early in the year or in the fall of the previous year, the plants will not bloom the first season. While some perennials germinate easily others require specific environments which encompass temperature, light and moisture.

When ordering online, pay close attention to the cost of shipping which can be more than a couple packages of seeds.

Take time to pursue catalogues, online or visit seed outlets. Read the packages and catalogues carefully before making any purchases.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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