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Reading the Back of Your Seed Packet

Date Posted: January 3, 2015

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener Reading the Back of Your Seed Packet
photo credit: Mike the Gardener

You just recently picked up your vegetable seeds (or have received your Seeds of the Month Club seeds) that you are going to plant in your upcoming vegetable garden. You are fairly new to vegetable gardening, but wanted to give growing fresh veggies from seeds a go. You have a number of reasons as to why you would like to grow directly from vegetable seeds dancing through your head ranging from the challenge of growing from vegetable seeds up through, quite frankly, growing veggies directly from seeds is simply fun.

You turn over your vegetable seed packet to see what you have to do to your vegetable seeds to ensure you are successful at growing them, and what you see is a lot of vegetable gardening information, that you simply find confusing.

What does it mean to space out your vegetable seeds? What is vegetable seed spacing between rows? And what does it mean, Days until the vegetable seeds are mature? For many, the information on your vegetable seeds pack can be a little confusing. Hopefully, I can clarify a little of that vegetable seed information for you.

Planting Depth
Your planting depth, tells you exactly how deep or shallow your vegetable seeds should be planted. In our example packet of vegetable seeds, you see that your planting depth is a quarter to a half inch. That means your vegetable seeds should be planted no deeper than a half inch and no shallower than a quarter inch. This ensures that there is not too much soil op top of your vegetable seeds and just enough soil for your vegetable’s roots to take hold.

Seed Spacing
Once again using the example vegetable seed packet, you can see that the recommended vegetable seed spacing is two inches. When you initially plant your vegetable seeds make sure they are spaced out at the distance written on the vegetable seed packet. With smaller vegetable seeds, such as celery, it is nearly impossible to properly space out your vegetable seeds when initially planting them. In this case, plant plenty of those vegetable seeds and then when they sprout, use a pair of scissors and thin them out to the recommendation on the vegetable seeds packet.

Days to Germination
This piece of data lets you know how long it should take for your vegetable seeds to germinate. The information provided is the best case scenario (on the example vegetable seed packet that number would be five) up through the worst case scenario (on the example vegetable seed packet that number would be fourteen). The best case for your vegetable seeds would occur under optimal conditions, i.e., plenty of sun, regular watering, optimal temperatures, and ideal nutritional source for the vegetable seeds such as fertilizer or compost etc. Chances are your vegetable seeds will germinate closer to the middle of that range, although many have great success for their vegetable seeds closer to the optimal day.

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Spacing after Thinning
When you initially plant your vegetable seeds as per the Seed Spacing recommendations discussed earlier, you would not leave your sprouted vegetable seeds at that distance. Your vegetable seeds simply would not grow well. What you have to do now is space your sprouted vegetable seeds out a bit further to give the vegetable plants’ roots (as well as the vegetable plant) plenty of room to grow. On the example vegetable seeds packet we see twelve to eighteen inches as the ideal range to space out your vegetable plants once they sprout, with twelve being the minimum. The more you space your vegetable plants out, the better chance they will have to grow large and in the case of tomatoes, peppers etc., they may even produce more fruit.

Days to Maturity
The days to maturity value on the back of your vegetable seeds packet is the recommended time frame as to when you can expect to harvest the vegetables you are growing. In the vegetable seed packet example provided, the days to maturity for Kale is fifty-five to seventy days. So, somewhere within that time frame your vegetables should be harvested. Conditions will also dictate this time frame as well, such as drought, heavy rains, and cold weather and so on. The days to maturity time frame on the back of your vegetable seeds packet is also a great gauge to use when your growing seasons are short. It will help you calculate exactly when to start your seeds indoors. All you need is the date of the last frost in your area (provided by the USDA frost zone map), days to germination (on your vegetable seed packet) and the days to maturity (on your vegetable seed packet) and you can calculate when you should start your vegetable seeds indoors.

Soil Depth (not shown)
You will never see this data on any vegetable seed packet, however, I wanted to bring it up, because it is very important for many who grow vegetable plants in pots or in raised bed vegetable gardens on patios. This is how deep your soil bed should be for your vegetable seeds. It is not written on the vegetable seed packets because of the room constraints of the vegetable seed packet itself, as well as assumption that they, the vegetable seeds, will be planted in a “regular” garden. Although, as you will come to find out, a regular vegetable garden is whatever you make it. As for depth, you want at least sixteen inches deep of soil as well as the recommended thinning space, to give the roots plenty of room to expand. The more room the better.

On one final note. You will see a copyright date on your vegetable seed packet. In this example you see “Copyright © 2012”. This is the copyright of the information on the vegetable seed packet itself, this date has absolutely nothing to do with the vegetable seeds inside the vegetable seed packet.

Please share this article! Let`s get everyone gardening!

Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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