The Heart of New England
Seed Selection
for the Home Gardener
by Carl Majewski

What better way to spend a gray February day than perusing through all those
glossy
seed catalogs that have been arriving?  

Before long, it’ll be time to get your seed order in.  With so many varieties
available from each company and the glossy photos depicting each one as blue
ribbon winner, it is not always easy to narrow your selections.  The following
are some pointers to help you make a wise purchase.

Start with a Reputable Company.

High quality seed is the first step to having a successful garden, so deal wit a
company with a reputation for good products.  The improved varieties and
hybrids they offer cost more but the increased plant vigor and crop productions
is well worth it.  Johnny’s, Burpee or Stokes are just a few examples of the good
companies out there.  If you buy your seed from a bin at the dollar store, you’ll
get what you pay for.

Buy What You Like, and the Right Amount

It’s important to select the right variety of your favorite vegetables, but it’s just
as important to get the right amount of seed so you don’t end up with too much
or not enough of each crop.  The table, below, lists a few selected vegetables,
with the amount typically consumed by person, and the amount a typical seed
packet will grow.  Plan ahead and figure how much fresh produce you’ll
consume: double it if you want to freeze or can anything for the winter.  A
single packet might be enough for some crops, while you may need to get a few
packets (or a larger size) for others.

Amount to plant per person                      Approx. amount per seed packet

Beans                        15’ of row                      20-25’ of row
Carrots                      10’ of row                     15’ of row
Cucumbers                2 hills                          10-15 hills
Sweet Corn                15’ of row                     35-40’ of row
Tomatoes                   3 plants                        35-40 plants


Make Appropriate Selections for your Garden

A seed company may offer a dozen or more varieties of any particular
vegetable, but each one has a niche where it performs best.  Any given variety
is adapted to a certain length of growing season, soil conditions, or sometimes
even a range of latitude.  Consider your garden and location:  If cost, we soils
prevent you from planting early, stay away from the varieties that require a
long growing season.  Read the description for each variety carefully, since it
usually contains information about where it will perform the best.

Don’t Ignore Pest Resistance

It’s no easy task to keep up with the critters and diseases that attack our crops
each summer.  However, the use of pest-resistant crops is one of the weapons
we can include in our arsenal.  Over the years, plan breeders have developed
varieties that withstand many of the diseases, even a few of the insects that give
us trouble.  Try to select varieties that offer protection from the pests you
noticed last season, since there’s a good chance you may see them again.  
Incidentally, you need not fear if you have concerns about the use of genetically
modified crops, since pest resistance in these vegetables comes from traditional
breeding techniques and not from genetic engineering.  In fact, using pest-
resistant varieties is an important management practice for many organic farms.

About the author: Carl Majewski is an extension educator for Agricultural Resources
in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, with its offices located in Keene, NH.  
Seed Selection -- Hard to Decide...
The Heart of New England
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