How to avoid over-purchasing seeds

Seed catalogues for 2015 have started to arrive through the mail and are available online. The ones from the large seed houses are full of tantalizing pictures and information. Smaller businesses provide lists and less information. Both encourage people to dream of spring and gardening.

Seed catalogues for 2015 have started to arrive through the mail and are available online. The ones from the large seed houses are full of tantalizing pictures and information. Smaller businesses provide lists and less information. Both encourage people to dream of spring and gardening.

It is easy to get carried away sitting in a warm house dreaming of spring, and purchase too many seeds, plants and bulbs or ones that will not mature in the average season.

To avoid-over purchasing, compile a list of seeds that one might want to grow.

Once the list is complete, consider the following:

l Where the plants will be placed in the garden, matching their growing requirements for hours of sunlight, heat, moisture and frost free days to location.

l Will they all fit?

l How many plants of each variety are needed?

l Did you grow the plants last year and were they successful?

Look at the seeds that were left over from last year, checking each package to see how many are left. With the exception of onions and parsnips, most varieties of seeds will still be viable for a number of years, especially if they were stored at a constant temperature.

Next, be realistic. There are approximately 90 days between frosts in Central Alberta. Plants that require longer to mature need to either be started early or have frost protection in spring and fall.

Long-season seeds can be started at home or custom grown at a local greenhouse. If only a few of each plant are needed for the garden, the most economical method it to purchase the plants from a greenhouse in the spring.

When purchasing vegetable seeds, consider the size of the garden and how much produce it can grow. Plant more if the plan is to preserve for winter consumption. Much less is needed to eat fresh. Order more seeds if the plan is to succession plant, or to plant cold crops in August for fall consumption.

Later in the season, some seeds such as spinach and kale can be hard to find. Seed houses plan to have most of their seeds sold by the end of June.

Once the list is compiled, it is time to decide where to order.

Large packages are listed by weight, giving a clear understanding of what each package contains. Seed packets are different. Some companies will give a weight or seed count on their packages, others will not.

For the most part, the more one pays for the package, the more seeds it contains. But there are always exceptions to the rule.

It is also possible to purchase plants, bulbs and tubers to be delivered by mail. Ask when they will be shipped to make sure it works with the local climate.

Trees and shrubs will have been placed in cold storage in the fall and they are shipped before they break dormancy. The roots will be packed in wet peatmoss or shavings to keep them moist and viable.

Be prepared to plant all bare-rooted plants in pots or outside when they arrive as the change in temperatures will signal the plants to break dormancy.

A limited selection of green plants, cuttings and plugs are also available for purchase via catalogues. Cuttings and plugs need to be sent early enough to allow them to increase in size before they can be placed outside.

Bulbs and tubers will be breaking dormancy when they arrive.

Placing them in cool storage can slow down the growth for a short period before they will need to be planted.

Plants that are shipped too early or can’t be cared for properly will die.

Lastly, calculate the cost of shipping into the cost of the seeds and plants. It costs to ship merchandise and most companies pass this on to the consumer. When only one or two things are purchased, the individual cost of an item can double.

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

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