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Tips for Buying Seeds for Gardening

If I had every seed in the world, I would. But I know that when it comes to seeds, less is more. The key is to know what you can actually grow, what you really want to grow, and manage your expectations. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to buy seeds for gardening.

Tips for Buying Seeds for Gardening

Reading a seed packet can be like reading a whole second language when you’re first starting out. There is a lot of jargon and special terms in gardening This can be a little difficult to start with.

And I’ve been there! I didn’t grow up gardening, so it was a steep learning curve when I started my gardening journey.

We’re in the middle of early season, and I wanted to get back to basics. Many people have asked me things like how you choose what to plant (especially when you want to grow everything!) and what all the information on the back of the seed packet means.

I’m going to explain it all, so sit back and let’s talk about what you need to know about buying seeds for gardening.

The best garden seeds are collected from the garden and kept in separate containers
Instead of purchasing seeds for gardening, you can also save seeds from your existing garden for planting next year.

Today, I’m sharing excerpts from my ebook Keep moving forward! Expert Seed Beginner for the DIY Gardener. Be sure to check out the complete guide and everything you need to know, from sowing to thinning to transplanting your seeds.

Get the Growing eBook Cover

choose your seeds

Searching through seed catalogs and seed websites can be a fun adventure if done properly, but if you don’t prepare, you may end up with more than your garden (and you) can handle.

First of all it is important to think about what kind of plants you want (Flowers? Herbs? Vegetables?). Is your garden warm enough to grow watermelons or cool enough to grow kale? Do you really have room for three varieties of squash, or will any one do?

Tips for Buying Seeds for Gardening
Be sure to label your seedlings so you know what’s what!

Perennial vs Annual Seeds

Starting seeds early in the season is a great way to save money on annual plants like flowers, herbs and vegetables that will produce flowers or fruit in the first year. For beginners, annual plants are generally the best garden seeds to buy.

More advanced gardeners can also grow perennial plants from seed in many cases, but this is a more difficult and time-consuming process. Perennial plants may require several months or even years to reach nursery plant size.

Some perennial plants are easier to grow from seed than others, so if you want to try your hand at growing perennials from seed, be sure to read this post to see which is the best option for you.

It is important to keep this in mind Some plants grow better than others from seed. This doesn’t mean you should be too limited in what you plant. There are lots of flowers, vegetables, annual and perennial plants that will grow easily from seed and thrive. With so many options, you may have trouble choosing what to plant.

Of course, your unique location will have its own limitations in terms of climate. Be sure to check the seed packet before purchasing to see if your area meets the seed requirements for success.

Buy only your favorites

When buying seeds for gardening, it can be easy to buy every colorful, attractive seed packet you see. But stop and think about how much you’ll use.

The best garden seeds will be different for each person, depending on what you like to grow and where you live.

Make a list of your favorite plants and plant only as many vegetables as you will eat or as many flowers as you need to fill the bed.

This will make the growing process simpler and more fun, and you won’t find yourself overwhelmed with crops you can’t keep for later seasons.

Stephanie in the garden
Herbs are one of my favorite things to grow, so I make them a priority in the garden.

Heirloom vs Hybrid vs GMO Seeds

These are terms that can be confusing to new gardeners. And they can easily get along with each other! It is important to learn the difference between the terms heirloom, hybrid, and GMO. This will help you with the seed selection process and ensure that you buy the best garden seeds of your choice.

I have a whole post on the differences between these types of seeds and all their advantages and disadvantages. See that post here.

How to read a seed packet

I cannot emphasize this enough. Following the instructions on the seed packet will give you the best possible start. Unless, of course, the growing directions read like the radicchio I once started, “Sow seeds a few days after a moonlit night.” Growing plants with the cycles of the moon has a long history, which you can read about in this post. But for this post, we’ll continue to use past frost dates and the Gregorian calendar.

Most seed instructions will list everything you need to plant the seeds, Such as when and where to sow, planting depth and spacing, special watering requirements and number of days to germination.

Some will list specific information such as germination temperature, reseeding, transplanting and thinning. Following the instructions gives you the best chance of success, so it’s best to put aside your insistence on seed packets for the map-hating, instructions-scoffing people.

Best place to buy seeds
A good seed packet will give you all the information you need to grow the plant.

Main Seed Packet Terms

Here are some terms you may encounter on your seed packets and what they mean.

  • Germination Rate: The probability of a seed germinating is expressed as a percentage.
  • Plant Type: Answer whether the seed is perennial, annual, or biennial.
  • Seed difference: How far away from each other you should ideally place each seed.
  • Plant spacing/spacing after thinning: At what distance should the plant be from other plants?
  • Height: What will be the height of the plant when it matures?
  • Maturity days: How many days does it take from planting until the plant is ready to harvest/bloom.
  • Planting Depth: At what depth should the seeds be sown?
  • Days of germination/germination: How many days can you expect to pass before the seeds germinate.
  • Bloom period: When the plant is flowering.
buying seeds online
Read the seed packets and growing instructions before purchasing seeds.

Determining Your Growing Conditions

Before you plant or buy seeds, you need to have a good understanding of your growing conditions. Every plant has specific requirements to germinate and grow, so if you want to grow a specific plant you need to make sure your garden can meet those requirements.


On the seed packet, it will usually tell you when you should sow the seeds based on frost dates. It is important to find out the average frost date for your area. To do this, you can use Calculator from Farmer’s Almanac,

You can then use this date to count forward or backward or know when to start some seeds indoors.

I also encourage you to try and implement succession planting. By carefully planning your seed planting times, you can expand your crop and make space for it.

The best garden seeds turn into healthy seedlings
Avoid having all your vegetables ready to harvest at the same time.


All plants will have specific light requirements, which are listed on the seed packet. These are usually described as full sun, partial sun, partial shade or shade. Before buying seeds for gardening, Make sure your garden gets the right amount of sunlight (See this post for how to measure sunlight in your backyard).

Seeds will also require a specific amount of light as they germinate. Seeds with shallow planting depths that only have a thin layer of soil on top will need a lot of light to germinate. Similarly, plants planted deeper in the soil will require less light.

Sunny windows or grow lights are essential for starting seeds indoors.


Some seeds require certain soil temperatures to germinate, A heating mat It may be helpful for some plants, such as peppers or tomatoes, to receive this supplemental heat indoors. Others, such as carrots or radishes, prefer outdoor soil temperatures.

Check out this post for more information on soil temperature.


Most plants prefer well-drained soil, but not all do! Your seed packet may provide some information about the type of soil or location the plants prefer. If not, do a little research into the plant’s soil needs beforehand.

To start seeds, you need potting soil with sterile material that does not promote fungal or bacterial growth. You can find my seed-starting potting soil recipe here.


Some plants are considered drought tolerant and perform better in areas that do not receive supplemental water or have a hot climate. Others prefer lots of water, doing best in locations close to the home where they will have access to excess water or in areas that receive adequate rainfall.

When selecting your seeds, Consider your garden’s moisture status And how much additional water do you want to provide?

hail catchment system
This Ola watering system gently waters the plants in my raised bed.

Best place to buy seeds

If you’re like me, you’re surprised when seed catalogs arrive in the mail. It seems like Christmas is coming, and you can’t help but stock up on all the best garden seeds you could want.

But for most beginners, the first step is to find a reputable source to buy seeds online. My favorites for Canada include West Coast Seeds And Richters.

Avoid buying seeds online from across the border or anything that may be harmful to your area, When in doubt, don’t buy seeds. The local garden center will always stock good quality and safe seeds.

Also see if there is a small seed library in your neighborhood! Some libraries also provide seeds. Because who can say no to free seeds?

FAQs About Buying Seeds for Gardening

Is it better to buy seeds online or in person?

Either is a good option. When buying seeds online, you get a wide range of seeds available. You can find many varieties and rare plants that you cannot find in a garden center. You’ll have to double-check and perhaps do some additional research to make sure the seeds will germinate and grow in your area.

How do I choose the right type of seeds?

The most important factor when purchasing seeds for gardening is to make sure that the plant has the right growing requirements for your garden. Refer to the seed packet for sunlight, water, soil and space requirements. If your garden matches, it’s good to plant the seeds.

The second main aspect you want to look at is the gardening area. This will give you a quick indication of whether the plant can handle the temperatures in your gardening area.

What is the best way to store seeds?

The seeds should be stored in airtight packaging and then labeled with the name and variety of the plant, where you grew it, and the date. This information will be very useful when you decide where to plant it next year.

Place the seeds in an area where they will not be damp and at a relatively constant temperature. They should be in a cool, dry place. Most seeds are good for two years. Subsequently, their germination rates decrease with each additional year in storage.

Coriander seeds spread on the surface of wood
Coriander seeds.

More Seed-Starting Resources

This is the beginning of all the seed-starting information I share. Check out these posts for more information on the next steps in growing plants from seed.


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