Gardening: Gardening in the freezer

Happy New Year

People that are planning on purchasing seeds have three choices: local stores, catalogues or online.

Seeds racks begin popping up in stores in January. Selection varies between stores. A typical grocery stores will have one or maybe two racks. Seed selection increases as does the space set aside for plants and gardening supplies. For the largest choice in seeds visit garden centers

The number of seed catalogues that arrive in the mail are dwindling due to the cost of printing and mailing. Instead of sending out mass amounts of catalogues as they did in the past, seed houses send catalogues to recent customers and send others as requested.

There appear to be more small independent often speciality seed houses than in the past due to the ease of online catalogues and advertising. Many of these companies will also send a print catalogue or seed list on request.

When purchasing seeds look for growing information in the catalogue, online or on the seed packages. Germination requirements can differ between varieties. They may include: amount of light, temperatures and days to germination. When the requirements are not followed few if any seeds will germinate.

The length of growing season in important in Central Alberta. Days are long but the number of frost free days can be short. It is important to know what plants need to be started indoors and put out as transplants.

When purchasing perennial, tree or shrub seeds look at the growing zone as an indication of what will survive the winter. That being said, it is possible to have a seed that has the right characteristics to survive the local climate than a plant that was started by a cutting from a warmer area. Not all seeds carry the same DNA.

Open pollination refers to the plants being pollinated by wind or insects. Depending on the distance between plantings, plants can cross-pollinate and seeds may not be true to the parent plants.

Seeds listed as F1 or F2 are breed to come true to parent stock. These plants do not always produce seed and if they do they will not be true to parent stock.

Space needed to grow plants is important. When plants are placed to close together they can all look wanting or a few will dominate. Planted too far apart and the planting looks sparse. Note that width between rows listed for vegetable crops are often for the commercial growers.

Not all seed packages contain the same amount of seeds. Unless a weight or seed count is included it is hard to tell what is in the package. Often the less expensive packages will contain fewer seeds but it isn’t always true.

Freight costs vary with company and add up quickly. Factor this cost is when purchasing from a catalogue or on-line.

Organic seeds should mean that the seeds were produced and packaged following the Canadian Food Inspection Rules and Regulations.

Heritage and or Heirloom Seeds are seeds that have never been part of the commercial breeding process to improve growth and disease resistance. Read the descriptions carefully to insure they will thrive in the local climate.

It is impossible for the typical gardener to purchase GMO seeds. Companies that use GMO seeds have to sign a contract with specific rules and regulations. Places that advertise that they are no GMO are playing on their customers fears.

Before purchasing seeds, make a list of what has worked well in the past and should be repeated. Having a second list of disasters or disappointments will avoid them being repeated.

To have a successful garden, match the cultural requirements of seeds being purchased, sunlight soil, moisture and nutrients with the location they are to be planted. If in doubt, ask the local gardening community about what worked well and what didn’t.

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

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