Which seeds to plant in Northern California
Q: I enjoyed my small garden this past year and want to expand my garden next year. Adding more beds and growing more plants from seed. What are the best plants to grow from seed? Can you recommend the best places to buy vegetable seed?
A: The best vegetable plants to grow from seed are the ones that you will eat. I know this sounds obvious, but I hear from gardeners all the time who admit to purchasing seed because it looked interesting or fun to grow, only to realize it was not something they or their family would eat.
Also consider how much room you will have in your garden as some plants like melons, squash, pumpkins and corn can take up a large amount of space. I recommend mapping out your garden spaces and determining what you would like to grow in each area, and then ordering seed or purchasing garden starts to fit those areas. This will help you avoid ordering too many seeds or plants that will take up too much room in the garden. Do consider ordering extra seed for those crops that can be succession planted — such as lettuce, radishes and green beans.
Another consideration is how much space you have to start seed indoors. Some vegetables germinate and grow better as transplants then they do directly seeded into the garden. Tomatoes, peppers — especially hot peppers — and many herb seeds are all examples of plants that are best started indoors or in a greenhouse, then transplanted into the garden.
Another thing to consider when buying seed is to make sure that they’re plants that will do well in your local climate. Pictures in seed catalogs can sometimes deceive and a variety of plants that you "just have to have" may not be suited to the local climate. Look for terms like “heat tolerant” or “wide adaptability” that will indicate the plant will tolerate the heat and large temperature swings between night and daytime typical to our spring and early summer. If you have friends or neighbors who are gardeners ask them what verities have done will for them, this will help you avoid ordering something that will not grow well here.
Consider buying seed from one of our local small nurseries as they try to carry seed that does well in our area. We also have a local organic seed producer in Manton, Redwood Seeds, that grows and sells vegetable and herb seeds well adapted to our climate.
Many seed companies have free catalogs they will send upon request and also have extensive websites with specific growing information about each variety of plant. This growing information can be very helpful in determining space and growing requirements of different vegetable varieties.
If ordering from a catalog, order early. You’ll avoid the disappointment of requesting a sold-out item and you may even be rewarded with a free bonus seed packet if you get your order in early.
The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 530-242-2219 or email email@example.com. The gardener office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardeners' questions using information based on scientific research.