A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Seed Pack info

A couple of posts ago, promised a primer on the information found on the back of seed packets. Here goes:

Veggie seed packs are typically all the same - they offer a pic of the plant on the front...

...and info about the plant on the back

Here's another example of the front of a pack...

...and the back
(Notice that the first seed pack states 'hybrid' and that the second does not. Take a look at our discussion of hybrids for more info!)

So...what are these seed packs telling us?

First of all, notice that the backs of the packs start with a short description of the plant. This is nice info but the really good stuff comes next.

The next item (which is toward the end of the description) is the word 'indeterminate.' This is critical because it tells you how long the plant will produce its veggie. An indeterminant variety will produce fruit all season long. This differs from a 'determinant' variety which will only produce for a short time - perhaps only a few weeks.

It's not that one is better than another - you just have to know what you have so that you can work with it. If you want to grow determinant varieties, you'll have to plan and stagger your plantings so that you end up with a season full of veggies...and not just a few weeks with veggies comming out of your ears!

One other thing to think about (and this is more for advanced gardeners) is that determinant varieties tend to 'bush' whereas indeterminant varieties tend to 'vine.' This means that if you want to have your...let's say tomatoes...climb up a very tall cage or a chainlink fence, go with the indeterminant type. The reason that I say that this is for advanced gardeners is because if you understand how plants climb, you can squeese more into a small space. To do that, though, you have to plan very precisely!

Ok - now that we know how long the plant will give us veggies, we have to know the first point when we will be able to pick.

Here's where the 'Harvest in __ days' comes in. The first plant that I have here is a 70 day (or 10 weeks) while the second is an 80 day (or 11.5 weeks), so you'll have to wait a little longer.

The second packet offers a little more insight into this. It states '80 days from transplant.' This is critical and leads me to the next piece of info on the packet.

Both packets state 'start indoors' and '6-8 weeks before transplant.'

Remember the 70 or 80 days till harvest? This means after planting outside!!! You've actually got to plan in the x-tra 42-56 days for the seedling to grow indoors.

How do you know how to plan for those x-tra days and when to plant your seedlings outside? Review the tools that we talked about in January here, here, and here.

According to all of this info, I can figure out that I need to start my tomatoes between March 15th and April 1st and that I won't have my first 'Super 100s' until about the 24th opf July and I won't have my first Wisconsin 55s until about August 1st!

The last bit of info that the packet tells me is how far apart I should space my plants. This is for the type of gardening that most of us are aware of (i.e. stick a plant in the ground here and there and water).

The more advanced gardening that I spoke of earlier shrinks the space between plants drastically but coaxes them to grow vertically.

More ont hat tomorrow...

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