How to Buy Seeds for Your Vegetable Garden

How to stay organized when ordering vegetable seeds for your garden.

It's never too early to order seeds for your spring vegetable garden. The best time to order garden seeds is in late fall and or at least by early winter.

I usually wait too long to place my seed order - I'm a great procrastinator - only to find out that the seeds I want are already out of stock. So I go to the feed store in spring and buy whatever seed packets they happen to have, but there isn't much variety there. At all.

And you might remember that earlier this year seeds sold out much earlier than usual and were harder to find. 

I suggest that you order vegetable seeds for next year now!

Should you buy seeds or transplants

So why not buy started plants instead of seeds? Sometimes that's my only alternative - because sometimes I even wait too long to start my own seeds! - but then I'm limited to what the nursery decides to grow and sell. 

I want more for my garden; I want to be in charge of choosing what I'll grow and harvest and eat. My favorite varieties of some vegetables aren't available as transplants. 

So this year let's be smart and do it the right way, by ordering our spring seeds early - NOW.

This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission but it doesn't affect the price you pay. Read my disclosure here.

Start with a seed inventory

The first step in ordering seeds is to take inventory of the seeds you have on hand. We all have them, right? Opened, partially-used packets of seeds from last year, the year before, maybe even the year before that.

You did know you can save the leftover seeds to plant later, right? As long as you store seeds correctly, they should be viable for several years. Here's my advice on how to store your leftover seeds.

Make a list of the seed packets you have on hand

I divide my leftover seed packets into three piles: flowers, vegetables and herbs, and I write them down in three columns. Each seed packet should have date on it - such as "packed for 2020" - so I write that down too. 

Then the oldest seeds need to go through a germination test to make sure they are still viable.

The seeds that don't pass the germination test are disposed of. I feel a bit of grief doing this, but there is no point in keeping seeds that won't grow. They are crossed off of my seed inventory list.

(Sometimes I take those old, old seeds out into the woods on our property and broadcast them by hand in a clearing. I just can't bear to throw them out! They're left to their own devices, but if any do sprout and grow, I hope they feed the wildlife and provide pollen for bees.)

How to figure out what seeds to order for your spring vegetable garden.

Make a seed packet wish list

Next, make a new list of what you want to grow this year.

Tomatoes top my list, of course; tomatoes are the reason I began gardening so many years ago. No grocery store tomato will ever taste as good as a sun-warmed tomato fresh from my own garden. And I'd certainly never find the variety of colors and flavors I want in a grocery store either.

Then add the staple crops to your list: carrots, peppers, and all the standard vegetables you grow each year. Don't forget to order herb seeds and some flower seeds too. 

And finally, add something new to the list, something that you want to grow this year. Because what's life without a few experiments?

For instance, the Chief loves brussels sprouts but I can't stand them; I want to grow a few plants for him even though I won't eat them. 

How many seed packets to order

Chances are your list is pretty long at this point. But there's never enough room to grow everything, is there? 

So take your space into consideration, make a plan for succession planting and growing vertically, and decide how many plants of each variety will fit in your garden. You might only have space for 2 or 3 plants of something. 

And that's ok. Order a packet of seeds and plant just a few of them, because now you know how to store seeds correctly so they'll grow next year too, right? 

Finally, compare this information to the list of seeds that passed the germination test, and then decide what needs to be ordered.

How do you figure out what seeds to order for your spring garden? Do you order whatever catches your eye, or sounds delicious or fun? Then you end up with a pile of seed packets and no room to plant them all... and you forgot to order carrot seeds. Here's how to stay organized when planning and ordering your vegetable garden seeds.

Add flower seeds to your vegetable and herb garden

In the past, I've rarely planted flower seeds unless they were herbs or if they'd benefit my vegetable plants (like nasturtiums or marigolds). This year I'm planning to plant more flowers simply for their beauty.

My motto over the past couple of years has been "if there are flowers outside, there will be flowers inside," even though I have to put those vases of flowers in out-of-the-way places to keep them out of reach of my flower-chomping cats.

Beautiful flowers make my soul smile. While I love Mason jars of wildflowers gathered from the fields, and vases of roses from the rosebush in the front yard, I'd like a little more this year, so I'll be adding a few packets of flower seeds to my order.

You should too!

Growing cabbage - how to stay organized while ordering vegetable seeds for your garden.

Then go shopping for seeds - what to plant in your garden

This is the fun part! Now it's time to browse catalogs and online, and decide which varieties to grow.

Should you order your vegetable seeds online? I highly recommend it. The selection will always be larger online than in a local store and you'll find more information on each variety of seed.

I live in Zone 7b, so I look for varieties that will grow well here. You can find your plant hardiness zone by entering your zip code at the USDA site.

I have to deal with hot summers for instance, so I look for varieties that can withstand heat. Drought resistance is another plus for my region.

You might have different requirements than I do. Disease resistance or cold tolerance, for instance, or fast-maturing plants for a short growing season. Write down your requirements and preferences.

If you're short on space or must use containers, look for smaller varieties, or purchase vining varieties and grow them on a trellis.

Armed with this information, you can begin filling out your seed order - oh, it's still so hard to choose, but you can at least narrow down the options, right? 

Get started now so you can order early and your chances of getting the seeds you want will be better.

Organize your seed orders

Keep your seed lists in your garden notebook so you won't have to start from scratch next year. Having most of this information already written down will make the process easier (and faster) next time.

If you don't have a garden journal already, just grab a 3-ring binder or notebook and get started. Or copy your lists into a composition notebook or your planner.

Learn how to save seeds

A good goal this year is to learn how to save seeds so you won't need to order as many seed packets next year. 

You'll need to order and grow heirloom seeds in order to save seeds. If you plant hybrid seeds they won't grow true to type, but heirloom seeds will grow plants that look and taste like the parent plants. 

Growing lettuce - how to organize your spring vegetable seed order.

Where to order vegetable seeds online

I recommend ordering heirloom, organic, open-pollinated, non-GMO seeds from Mary's Heirloom Seeds. I've always been happy with the service and with the quality of the seeds I've received from Mary. The germination rates are great!

You can read more about Mary's Heirloom Seeds in this guest post she wrote for us. 

Don't forget the carrots!

There are so many seed choices and it can be hard to restrain ourselves! 

I hope this method will help you make wise decisions so you don't end up with more seeds than will ever fit in your garden space and then realize you forgot to order carrot seeds. (Because that's never happened to me. Ahem.)

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There's no better way to spend a winter evening than planning your spring garden. Here's how to choose what to order so you won't forget the carrots.

How to stay organized when ordering your spring seeds.

It's easy to go overboard when ordering spring seeds; here's how to stay organized! From Oak Hill Homestead

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