How to Read a Seed Packet


It's getting to be that time of year again, time to bring out the seeding trays, soil, and lights and get down to the business seeding some flowers and vegetables. If you are new to gardening or have never planted from seed it can be a bit intimidating. But the truth is seed starting can be easy and a lot less expensive than buying transplants and with knowing how to read all the information of the back of a packet you'll be a master in no time. In the post below I will interpret all the different and important information, keep in mind seed packets may vary in what and how they present the information, but the general information should be noted in the same way. 

A. Name / Variety = In most cases you will have the common name and variety (of the plant and the Latin version.  The sample packet also has the french translation.

B. Basic Growing Info = Here you will discover if the seeds can be started indoors or if they are to be sown directly in the ground. Information on the characteristics of the plant and sometimes as with the sample information about eating and cooking of the vegetable. 

C. Planting Depth =  How Deep to plant the seeds. In most cases seeds are planted at a depth that equals double the largest portion of the seed size. So if a seed is 1/8" it would be planted at a depth of 1/4" deep. Some seeds need a little more light, and some need to be planted deeper. When planting the depth doesn't have to be perfect but be consistent for good germination. 

D. Seed Spacing = How far apart to plant the seeds in a row. This is not how far apart they will be after thinning them. The number is optimized to account for germination inconsistencies. The bigger the seed the easier it is to control but if you are sowing fine seeds like carrots or lettuce, don't worry about this too much as thinning will be done to regulate the plant spacing. 

E. Row Spacing How far apart to place rows of seeds. If you are planting in rows then this is how far apart the rows should be from each other.  Not all gardeners prefer to grow their plants in a row, especially with flowers so just keep the general amount of space in mind for seed spacing and for plant growth so they don't get crowded out. 

F. Germination = When you should see your plant sprout. If you don’t see your seeds coming up fairly soon after the last day of the range you may have a germination issue.  Make sure you have read the whole seed packet on how to start them (some need soaking overnight etc).

Seeds won't germinate until the ideal soil conditions are met, so keep in mind the # of days are based on close to ideal conditions. If you get a few really cold, hot or wet days within that time frame it may set the germination time back a bit. 

G. Spacing After Thinning = How many tiny seedlings to cut or pull out to allow for proper growth of the main plant.  Seed packets want you to plant extra seed and remove tiny sprouts later.  Once you get familiar with seeds you can cut down the thinning and use less seed. Remember that thinned plants from lettuce, radishes, and beets can be eaten as microgreens if you do not want all those seedlings to go to waste.

H. Days to Maturity =  To most gardeners this is the most important number on the packet!  This is when you can expect to get fruits, vegetables, or flowers.  If your growing conditions aren’t optimal (drought, overly wet, bad soil) expect this to be longer than listed. You may need to leave the fruit or vegetable on the plants for it to ripen so I always add 10 days onto this number. 

I.  Extra Info =  On our sample you are given info that this is a non GMO seed. You may be given information about the amount of seeds in the package although on our sample that is noted on the front.

J. Sell By Date = Yes seeds expire!  Many seeds can be kept for a few years but you want to check the packet and make sure you have fresh seed if you are recently purchasing.  I have seen old seed packets accidentally moved in with new stock.  I always check to make sure they are the freshest I can find. Unfortunately our packet is not stamped so we don't know how old it is. 

Important Information for the Edmonton Area.

Average Frost Free Days 131 days

Average Date of Last Spring Frost  May 10th

Average Date of First Fall Frost September 21st

The Old Farmers Almanac

Planting Date Calendar for Edmonton Alberta.

#gardening, #planting, #seeds, #albertagardening, #Frostdates, #thewheelbarrowgardener

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