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Understanding Seed Catalogs

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Now is the time of year that gardening enthusiasts always look forward to; seed catalogs begin arriving in our mail boxes and we flip through their pages or check out the seed racks at Van Putte Gardens and dream about our summer gardens. With all those gorgeous pictures and tantalizing descriptions it’s difficult to choose. You can learn much if you understand a few key terms used in their catalogs and seed packs.

Open Pollinated: Done by insects, wind, bats, birds, and small animals in which pollen is transferred from one flower to another naturally. In some plants that are “Self Fertile” the pollen is re-deposited within the same flower. The genetic traits of the parents are faithfully transferred to their seeds producing offspring that resemble a combination of both parents. Open pollinated plants tend to be more genetically diverse due to the open sourcing of pollen. This allows greater adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Small changes year after year assure a dynamic lineage, sometimes creating better characteristics naturally.

Heirloom:  Varieties of plants, with specific desirable characteristics, whose seeds are collected and handed down year after year, generation after generation. Similar to a family heirloom, these seeds are considered valuable because they maintain a continuation of those desirable traits. They must be Open Pollinated; yet tend to maintain their positive attributes naturally. They are a storehouse for agricultural biodiversity which is being diminished by hybridization practices. International Seed Banks generally store Heirloom varieties for future generations.

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Hybrid:  Seed produced by pollination between two different species or varieties within the same group, in which pollen is manually

transferred from flower to flower to create a desired trait. Hybridization provides two major benefits. First, they tend to be stronger and more productive than their parents, a phenomenon referred to as “hybrid vigor.” Secondly, they have the specific traits they were bred for in the first place. The 1st generation seeds are frequently labeled F1. The seeds produced by F1 hybrids should not be saved as they will not have the same traits. New seed packs must be purchased every year when using Hybrid F1 Varieties.

Treated or coated:  Seeds treated with substances to improve germination and growth. This may be a clay coating to assist planting, a starch jacket to hold moisture, a fungicide, antibacterial agent or insecticide to protect the seed and young seedlings.

Days to Germination: Number of days after planting, under the correct conditions, seed will sprout.

Days to Harvest:  Time it takes for a seed, directly planted in the ground, or a transplant set out, to reach maturity and produce flowers or fruit. This number is highly variable due to weather conditions.

Come on into Van Putte Gardens; we have our seed racks up and are ready to go. Our green thumb specialists can help you select the varieties you’ll need for your gardens this year.

Success with your Gardening, Naturally!

Written By Rick Stecher – Garden Center Manager

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