Choosing Seed. Choose seed from seed companies that are long on information; look for seed packets or seed catalogs that tell you what it takes to start seeds and grow plants: germination temperature and days to germination, days to maturity, when to start the seed, water needs, temperature and weather tolerance, disease resistance, and, importantly, a good description of the vegetable at harvest including flavor. Also, is the crop variety a hybrid or open-pollinated; open-pollinated means you can save seed from mature plants and grow exactly the same crop again next year.
About Seed Companies. Seed growers can be national or regional. Regional seed companies grow their seed in the same part of the country that they sell their seed. Choosing seed from a seed company in your regions means the plants will easily adapt to your garden and that you will get varieties that are regional favorites. National seed companies may grow seed in many different parts of the country; that usually means they sell seed varieties that are easily grown in any part of the country.
How Much Seed. When you buy seed, consider how much of a crop you plan to grow over the course of the season. A seed packet of carrots with a lot of seed will probably get planted in one season, but a seed packet of squash need not have a lot of seed—you will likely plant only a few squash of each variety each season.
Seeds to Start Indoors in Spring:
Vegetables: broccoli, eggplant, gourds, peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes.
Herbs: basil, fennel, catmint, lavender, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme.
Flowers: amaranth, asclepias, buddleia, calendula, carnations, columbine, delphinium, Echinacea, feverfew, foxglove, ornamental grasses, globe amaranth, heliotrope, hollyhocks, nicotiana, pansies, penstemon, phlox, portulaca, rose, salpiglossis, scabiosa, snapdragons, stock, zinnias.
Seeds to Plant Directly in the Garden in Early Spring:
Vegetables: beets, broccoli, broccoli raab, carrots, chard, bulbing fennel, kale, leeks, lettuce, mâche, scallions, pak choi, peas radishes, salad greens, stir fry greens, spinach.
Herbs: arugula, borage, chamomile, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic chives, parsley, watercress.
Flowers: agrostemma, alyssum, bells of Ireland, bishop’s lace, calendula, clarkia, cornflowers, cerinthe, delphinium, forget-me-nots, larkspur, nigella, poppies, rehmannia, stock, sweet peas.
Seeds to Plant Directly in Garden in Early Summer (once nights are above 50-55°F):
Vegetables: beans, edamame soybeans, beets, carrots, chard, corn, cucumbers, gourds, melons, onions, pak choi, pumpkins, salad greens, stir fry greens, scallions, summer squash, watermelons, winter squash, zucchini.
Herbs: arugula, basil, borage, cat grass, cilantro, dill, sage, thyme.
Flowers: bells of Ireland, cleome, cosmos, cardinal climber, cypress vine, four o’clocks, hyacinth bean vine, love lies bleeding, marigolds, mina lobata, moonflowers, morning glories, nasturtiums, nicotiana, phlox, portulaca, salvia, scabiosa, scarlet runner beans, sunflowers, tithonia, zinnias.
Seeds to Plant Directly in the Garden Mid-Summer in Cold Winter Regions/Mid-Summer to Early Fall in Mild Winter Regions:
Vegetables: beets, broccoli, broccoli raab, carrots, chard, bulbing fennel, kale, leeks, lettuce, mâche, pak choi, peas, radishes, salad greens, stir fry greens, scallions, spinach.
Herbs: arugula, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic chives, parsley, watercress.
Flowers: agrostemma, alyssum, bishop’s lace, calendula, cerinthe, clarkia, cornflowers, forget-me-nots, foxglove, larkspur, nigella, pansies, poppies, snapdragons, stock, sweet peas.