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The anatomy of a seed packet

So you have decided you want to start some seeds. Maybe you are starting your own garden. You've purchased seeds and are really excited to start growing; but the information on the back of the seed packet makes no sense. I'm here to help.

Let's take a look at some of the information that can be found on a seed packet.

Depending on the company, you are going to find the name of the flower and the variety on the front of the packet. You will also see the name of the flower in latin. Some companies only put the latin name. This means that you have to Google all the latin names to figure out that snapdragon is antirrhinum and sunflower is helianthus. Most seed suppliers will not include a picture of the flower on the packet, though some will. It is important to pay attention to the variety and color listed.

We can see on the packet below that I am growing Feverfew. The variety is Virgo. The latin name is Tanacetum parthenium.

The most important information on the front of this packet is the kind of plant (tender perennial vs. annual or perennial), the height of the flower, and the days to maturity. Once I plant this seed, it will take approximately 100 days for the plant to mature.

Many seed packets will have limited information on how to grow the seeds of the vegetable or flower contained inside. Thankfully, this seed packet from Johnny's is full of useful information.

On the back, the packet mentions the life cycle of the plant in the growing zones specified. Know your zone, but also take the time to discover your own microclimate within your zone. You may find that your farm or garden gets a first frost before other areas in the same zone or has an earlier last frost. You can tailor your growing habits to your own microclimate, as much as is possible with the fluctuations in weather.

Looking at the back of the packet below, you will notice that it is recommended that this seed be grown as a transplant. They give specific directions for starting the seed indoors, hardening off the seedling, and transplanting it outside. They also give directions for direct seeding, but recommend transplanting.

The packet lets you know that the seeds should germinate in 10-14 days, the best temperature at which to grow the seedlings, light and soil requirements, how far apart to plant seedlings, and when to harvest. All of this information is a tremendous help to growers. It helps us know when and how to plant feverfew seeds in order to be as successful as possible.

How am I going to put this information to use?

I want to plant out feverfew right after our last frost, according to the packet. I know that feverfew can tolerate a light frost, so I will plan on having it ready two weeks before. I am in zone 7a with a last frost date of April 18. However, in my microclimate, I know that we will likely get a frost anytime before May 14. My goal is to plant out the feverfew between April 18 and May 14. This means that I will start my first batch of seeds in mid-March to be ready to harden off and transplant outside. I will start a second batch two weeks later to succession plant. These two plantings are in addition to the fall planting of feverfew that is already growing on the farm.

Unfortunately, many companies are not as thorough with their information as Johnny's. That means that, many times, you will have to do the research to figure out when and how to plant. My hope is to help with that.

This year, I want to spend more time documenting each flower and filler that we grow on the farm. They have all been selected for a specific reason. I look forward to being able to share my seed sewing and growing processes with you and the inspiration behind each flower.

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