Seed Packets Explained! Right now is the time of year when new and old gardeners alike tend to amass hundreds of seed packets of their favorite garden vegetable crops. What some might not know, however, is that each seed packet is like a mini-encyclopedia of information…a blueprint on how to grow that potential crop inside! In this article, I will show you the 8 main pieces of information that I look for in a new seed packet, and how to decode and decipher that information so that you’re planting those seeds to grow the most epic crops this summer.
But let’s quickly go over the front of the package as quite likely that’s what you’re gonna see first. Right off the pack, you’re going to see a pretty picture of either the finished fruit, the foliage, or the flowers it all depends on the plant.
Other useful information that may be on the front of the package could be things like plant type along with the specific variety, the price, the weight or the number of seeds inside, and finally, the lot number and date used for tracking recalls.
For larger more expensive packages you may see on the front also a short description but that’s often on the back instead as the front is valuable real estate for pretty imagery not walls of text.
So let’s get into the real information normally found on the back of the package. In my experience, there are 8 important things that I look for in a seed packet to help me successfully cultivate that crop.
8 Important things to look for while reading the seed packet information
1. Climate Suitability
Right away I look for a hardiness zone map or at least a regional suggestion letting me know whether or not my climate is even suitable for this crop. Usually, I’ll do my research on a crop first and then I’ll search out my seeds to buy, but it’s still nice to have and confirm that I can indeed grow this plant in my area.
Seed packets are usually stocked in stores for their appropriate local zone but if you’re buying your seeds online obviously that’s not going to apply.
2. Planting Date
The next thing I look for is the sowing date. When do the seeds actually need to be planted? In the spring, in the fall, or maybe a specific time frame based on your first or last frost dates.
Planting your seeds at the right time of year is probably the single most important barrier to your crop success.
3. Planting Depth
How deep or shallow do these seeds need to be planted? Getting that correct planting depth greatly affects your germination rates and planting at the wrong depth puts unnecessary stress on the young seedling’s life even if it does germinate successfully.
4. Plant Spacing
Usually, it’s listed twice on the package both as a measure of sowing density as well as suggested at all plant spacing. if the information given is just a number, chances are they mean just the distance between plants for that corresponding stage or age of the plant.
5. Soil Type
The next piece of information that I look for in the seed packet is soil type. It’ll raise questions like do I need to change the soil type in my garden just to accommodate this particular crop or should I be adding amendments to the soil to meet this crop’s particular set of needs often.
Also included with soil type they’ll include the drainage requirements these are nice to have as well.
6. Sun Exposure
This is the amount of direct daylight that the plants will require to grow properly to maturity. Does the plant need full sun or will it tolerate some shade? Knowing these requirements ahead of time is also going to inform you where to plant these seeds in your garden for the best chance at their success.
7. Days to Germinate
That is how long does it take to seed the sprout after you plant it. This is very useful because it lets you know when you can start to expect to see the new seedlings appear.
It’s usually given in a range of days or weeks as seed sprouting time is directly correlated to the soil temperatures, the warmer it is the faster your seeds are going to sprout.
8. Days to Harvest
Lastly, we have days to harvest or days to maturity. That is how long it takes the seed to fully grow into the final harvestable crop. Now the frustrating issue with days to maturity is that not all companies list it from the same starting point.
Not to mention even within the same company not all plants are listed the same either. For instance, while a watermelon may be listed at 60 days to maturity from a well-started plant, your carrots may be listed at 60 days to maturity from the dried unplanted seed and further yet your beets may also be listed at 60 days, but this time from the day of germination to harvest.
So are we confused yet don’t worry you’re not alone, we all are? However, the information can still be useful just remember what the seed package is claiming as the actual start date and then work forward from there.
While those eight pieces of seed packet information will definitely get you and your seeds underway this year, there are other tidbits of information that are often included on that seed package that is very helpful. Things such as direct sowing versus early indoor planting, adult plant size, and whether trellising or staking will be needed.
Maybe definitely don’t throw those seed packets out after you finish planting as they might contain useful information as your crops continue to grow.
If that feels like information overload and you’re struggling to retain any of it now is the perfect time for a pop quiz. Just kidding! Here are the two long obligatory recaps.
Seed packets contain useful information both on the front and the back. Information about the plant itself variety quantity and a picture of the mature crop is usually on the front.
Normally planting information is included on the back and I look for eight key things: regional suitability, sowing dates, planting depth, spacing, required soil type, preferred sun exposure, days to germination, and finally days to harvest.
So there you go everything you ever wanted to know about seed packets, but hey if you have any other seed packet deciphering information that you’d like to share with the community leave it in the comments down below.
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