Propagation Station: Starting from seed, part 2

In the last post, we learned about the important differences between types of seeds and labels to look out for on seed packets. Now it’s time to talk about ordering seeds.

But first, what zone do you live in?

Knowing your planting zone will help personalize your plant shopping experience.

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map above categorizes North America into 11 planting or climatic zones that, with a quick search by zip code, helps gardeners determine which plants will thrive or tolerate in local temperature ranges. Knowing your zone will help you determine whether and when to start your seed indoors or plant outdoors directly in soil. This is because each zone has a different first and last frost date, when there is a 50% chance the soil will reach freezing temperature of 32°F. The first average fall date will be in the fall, and last average frost date in the spring. Together they set the boundaries for best times to plant. Most seed packets will provide instructions relative to your zone and frost dates. You can check your frost dates with online tools such as this one from Morning Chores.

As an example, LEAF’s C.R. Stone Garden is located in Zone 10A, where the average extreme minimum temperature ranges from 30°F to 35°F. Our first frost date is December 15, and our last is January 24. With this information in mind, we can select plant varieties and follow planting instructions on seed packets that are more specific and suitable to our location. Frost-sensitive plants or plants that are not hardy in our zone are started indoors in our greenhouse from February through March.

What seeds does LEAF use?

Almost all seeds propagated for our 2020 Plant Sale were donated from several excellent seed companies that we would like to highlight in this post. Below is a list of what LEAF prioritizes when acquiring seed. Huge thanks to Mariana for sending out donation requests and obtaining amazing seeds for LEAF to use!

Types of Seeds for LEAF

  1. Non-GMO priority
  2. Organic preferred
  3. Heirloom and heritage preferred
  4. Local (i.e. California or Oregon) 
  5. Unique
  6. Hybrids 
  7. No pelleted or GMO seeds

LEAF’s List of Seed Companies

Seed CompanyLocationWhat is offered
Renee’s GardenFelton, CAAll non-GMO, offers certified organic
Botanical InterestsBroomfield, COAll non-GMO, offers certified organic and heirloom
Petaluma Seed Bank (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds)Petaluma, CAAll non-GMO and heirloom
Bounty Beyond Belief SeedBoulder, COAll non-GMO, offers certified organic and heirloom
High Mowing Organic SeedsVTAll non-GMO and certified organic, offers heirloom
Sow True SeedsAsheville, NCAll non-GMO, offers certified organic and heirloom
Johnny’s Selected SeedsWinslow, MEAll non-GMO, offers certified organic and heirloom

Consider buying local!

When possible, try purchasing seed from local companies. Some large-scale companies may also have a distribution branch in your state. Take a look at the About section of websites to do some quick research, paying attention to whether the company grows their own seeds at their location, or if they source them from elsewhere in America or the world. Buying locally produced seed means you are not only reducing the amount of carbon emissions required to manufacture and ship a product, but also that any seed you buy is already suitable for your climatic zone. You are also likely supporting a small family- or employee-operated business.

Lastly, some helpful links

We hope you found this introductory series to seeds to be useful. Here are some additional resources that go into more detail on the many seed companies out there. Happy planting!

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