How to Buy Seeds

Learn how to buy seeds for this upcoming garden season. There's no better way to spend a winter afternoon browsing the latest crop of seed catalogs!

Seed catalogs offer a tempting selection of vegetable and flower seeds you can grow in your own backyard, so stock up on garden seed packets while you can. Gardening from seed is an inexpensive and rewarding way to fill your garden. Buy garden seeds at a garden center or a nursery, or even buy garden seeds online. Check out these things to keep in mind as you create your spring wish list for buying and saving seeds. With our helpful guide, you'll be a seed-buying pro.

Make your own seed tape.

Read the Label

Before you buy garden seeds, check the label to see if they require an early start indoors. Cool weather plants, such as pansy and broccoli, need a jump start indoors in order for them to grow large enough to be transplanted in the garden in the early spring. Warm-weather crops, such as tomatoes and bell peppers, also need to be started under grow lights so they're ready to go into the garden after frost danger passes. A grow light can be as simple as a fluorescent shop light hung just inches over your seed trays.

Learn how to read plant tags.

Always Buy Extra

Fast-growing vegetables, such as lettuce, radish, spinach, and beans, can be planted several times throughout the spring and summer. Be sure to buy enough garden seeds for a continuous harvest. That way, you'll have a bountiful amount of vegetables to enjoy through the season.

Get our guide to succession planting.

Be Selective

If you're shopping for vegetable seeds, buy only what your family will eat. Don't take up valuable garden space with crops you won't use. Instead, buy only your favorites and try expanding your range each season with new varieties. Some of the most popular veggies for cooking a variety of things include tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, asparagus, and, yes, even spinach.

Gardening Tip: If you want to grow vegetables, check the "days to harvest" information on the garden seed packets. Vegetable varieties vary in how long it takes for them to mature. If you live in a northern climate with a short growing season, focus on faster-maturing varieties of garden seeds to ensure harvest before frost. In the South, you'll be able to grow plants, such as okra, that require a long season of hot weather.

See how to plan your first vegetable garden.

Consider Your Space

It's one thing to want to grow your own produce from garden seeds, but it's another if you don't have the room to put it all. If you have a small garden, don't start space-hogging vegetable garden seeds, such as sweet corn, pumpkins, or squash. Focus on higher-yielding, more compact vegetables, such as salad greens, tomatoes, beans, and peppers. Make sure to do some research before buying—your plants, and yard, will thank you.

Find the perfect garden plan.

Include Flowers

A beautiful garden isn't complete without adding some flower seeds in the mix! For quick color, sow fast-growing annual flowers directly in the garden. Cosmos, zinnia, African marigold, nasturtium, morning glory, and sunflower are just a few of the many annual flowers that grow effortlessly from garden seeds. Annual flower seeds are easy to grow and will take your garden from drab to fab, thanks to the variety of colors.

Browse gorgeous cut flower plants.

Watch the Weather

Weather can be the key to your success when planting from garden seed packets. Keep soil temperatures in mind when you plant garden seeds outdoors. Garden seeds sown in cold, wet soil will often rot. Cool-weather plants prefer soil temperatures of 50 to 65 degrees F, while warm-weather crops prefer to grow in soil between 70 to 80 degrees F. Also, do not set out warm-weather crops until all frost danger has passed. Check the USDA Hardiness Zone map for details on your region.

Get detailed growing information for your region.

Save Excess Seeds

Have extra seeds leftover from this season's planting? Storing seeds is your answer! Storing seeds in an airtight container in a dark, cool location is your best bet to making your seeds last. Many garden seeds will remain viable for several years if stored in this manner. Before planting old garden seeds, do a germination test. Sprinkle a few garden seeds on a moist paper towel to help them germinate. If less than half of your seeds sprout, buy new seeds.

See more tips for saving seeds.

Keep Diseases at Bay

When shopping for garden seeds, look for disease-resistant varieties, especially if you've had problems in your garden previously. For example, when purchasing tomato garden seeds, look for varieties labeled with a VFN designation after their name. This means the variety is resistant to several types of wilt and nematode damage.

Learn about common tomato problems.

Buy Seeds Online

Not only can you buy garden seeds in-store, but you can conveniently buy garden seeds online. There are many companies that specialize in vegetable and flower seeds—especially hard-to-find and unusual varieties. Make sure to do your research piror to looking for the easiest seeds to start.

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