Garden Seeds

Some of you may have already started sowing seeds indoors or are just beginning to decide on what you want to grow this season. Catalogues are starting to get dog-eared and list are being created. Seed exchanges may be popping up in your neighborhood and garden displays are getting larger and more prominent in your local hardware stores.

For any beginners interested in getting a jump on their spring planting by sowing seeds inside and transplanting the sprouts when the weather has warmed up here is a great guide to everything you need to know about seeds.

Types of Seeds

Seeds can be divided into two categories; angiosperms, which are seeds produced in flowers

and gymnosperms, seeds produced in cones. Just as in everything else in the world there are exceptions to the rule but for simplicities sake we will stick with those two.

Seeds can be further separated into heirlooms or hybrids.  Heirloom seeds are reproduced through pollination tracing back several decades to their identical parent.  These are normally what you would find at seed exchanges. In the case of heirloom vegetables they are typical grown because of their flavor and not their size or yield.

Hybrid seeds are created by breeding together two varieties of plants to create one with the best characteristics of the parents.  These usually create plants with high yield,disease and pest resistance and in some cases even specific colors.

Pretreatment of Seeds

Some seed varieties need to be pretreated before they can be sown.


Beets, carrots and spinach are a few examples of seeds that benefit from being soaked in warm water for 24 hours. This softens the coating encasing the seed making them easier to grow and more reliable in germination.


This can be done by placing the seeds in a wet paper  towel in a plastic baggie and placing it in a bright warm area.  Once the radical tip begins to emerge from the seed it can then be planted in the soil. This is great for seeds that have long and unreliable germination rates or if your growing season is particularly short.


Some seeds have a thick or hard outer shell and therefore need a small piece of the coat snipped away. Do not cut completely through the shell or the seed will no longer be viable.

Planting Seeds

Seeds can be sowed directly into the soil or can be started earlier indoors in special pots and containers. Seed starting kits are available in most major stores and garden centres.  Some plants don’t transplant well from the indoors so it is very important that you read the information on the back of your seed packets or to research the seeds online.

Starting seeds indoors gives a plant a healthy start in life by providing the ideal growing condition needed like temperature, light, humidity and controlled moisture as well as providing areas in the country with shorter growing seasons the chance to  plant more varieties.

Harvesting Seeds

You may decide after  your plants have grown, flowered or produced edibles that you want to harvest its seeds to exchange with neighbors or to keep for the next year.  With the right tools and a little bit of time invested you can successfully collect your own.  One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make when harvesting is not writing down on the storage bags what plant those seeds come from.  You would be surprised how short our memories can be. I also recommend jotting down why you want to harvest that particular seed.  Did it have huge flavor, a beautiful colour, or seemed to be relatively pest and disease free?

Start harvesting by snipping off the ripened seed heads and placing them in a LABELLED paper bag.  Make sure you are doing this on a dry day.  Any moisture can cause fungus to grow in the bag destroying all your collected seeds. If you are not completely sure they are dry spread them out on a LABELLED sheet of newspaper to finish drying for a couple of days.

Unfortunately when you are harvesting you also tend to pick up lots of extraneous detritus like bugs, dirt, and other plant material.  Here is where it can take a little extra time.  If the seed is large enough you can pick them out using tweezers and transferring them to your final storage container.  If the seeds are smaller you can get different size tea strainers with small and large holes.  Realistically your final seed pile will be less than 100% pure.  Seeds can be stored in small tins, paper envelops or plastic vials.

While growing plants from seeds and harvesting their seeds can seem like a lot of work it is best to remember that all plants started this way.  As you walk through the garden centers or if you get an opportunity to check out a seed exchange take the time to appreciate the work those growers put in to provide you with  the starting points to your next garden.



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