Start with a Seed Series (part 3): Buying Seeds and Understanding Seed Packets

I think it was just a week or two into the new year when I started seeing plant growing containers on the shelves. I got a little excited… of course anything non-Christmassy is exciting right after the holidays, for me at least.

Welcome back to the Start with a Seed series.  This is part 3 where I’m covering buying seeds and understanding the details on those seed packets, aka: specifics you’ll want to know for getting the best results when sowing and growing your own plants from seed.

Start with a Seed part 3 - understanding | reading seed packets |

Buying seeds

There are 2 main ways to get your hands on seeds for growing: buying them from the local store or nursery or buying them online.  In my opinion. the more local the seeds the better, and I plan to use that as a guideline, rather than a rule.

As I’ve mentioned, I want to add native (Illinois) plants to my yard.  To buy seeds online, I have been doing a google search using: Native plant seed sellers Illinois.  From there, I’ve made my choices and pinned them to my board on Pinterest, so they’re easy to find when I’m ready to place an order (which will be in the next few days.)

Last weekend, I also took a trip to our local Menards and found about $20.00 worth of seed packets that fall into my list from the garden planning printable in part 2.


How to read seed packets | StowandTellU.comUnderstanding seeds packets

Reading the info on the back of the seed packets should have been the priority, but I must confess, these packets kinda had me at the pretty seed packet pictures.  Anywho, I brought the packets home to further analyze the seed packets details.  Understanding and following this information is going to help me get a final plan in place for sowing and planting.

One of my favorite discoveries was that many of these plants suggest sowing the plants right into the ground.  That means I could start less of them indoors. Skipping that step would be nice, less work, right? What I’ve decided to do is try both methods for some of my seeds.  If I’m going to do this, I want to get the most out of it and hopefully have plants in abundance when I’m done.

Knowledge = good planning

Understanding seed packets can be very helpful for putting a garden growing plan together.  Most seed packets contain some or all of the following information.  These are the kind of details that will help me put the packets into growing groups and later planting groups.

Seeds that have the same growing requirements, such as “start indoors” or “sow outside” can be grouped together and then started at the same time.

how-read-seed-packet | stowandtellu

Info found on a seed packet

Here is the info I found on these Burpee seed packets.  I would imagine most of the same info would be on other seed packet brands, as well.  In addition, if shopping for seeds online, this would be the same type of info the seed seller should include.  So getting familiar with it can only improve the whole process.

Front of packet

Plant classification: Annual, perennial, herb

Common name: The simple non-scientific name.  This can vary from region to region.

Latin name: This should be the same, no matter the common name, and the most precise identifier.

Plant feature: Reasons one would want to grow the plant, ie: border plant; colorful and easy to grow; attracts pollinators; etc…

Plant height: Knowing the height of a plant will help one decide where in the garden it might look best.

Container height: The height of a plant can vary when grown in a container versus grown in the grown.

How to understand seed packets |

Back of packet

Zone: The part of the country/ continent based on temperature and climate for growing conditions.

Plant habit: Specific growing habits of the plant, ie: grows in clumps; trailing vine; blooms in spring, etc..

Sun exposure preference: Knowing how much or little sun is needed will help one decide where in the garden it might grow best.

Sowing directions: The preferred method of sowing, suggested by the seed supplier.

Best sowing process: Details for the preferred and alternative method for sowing, suggested by the seed supplier.

Planting to ground schedule per zone: The best time to place plants into the ground based on one’s zone and after the last frost, etc…

Harvest, bloom or color time: This information is based on the time from the sowing start date.

Container planting details: The recommended amount of plants per container size listed.

While I haven’t taken a class on seed sowing, I feel like I’m learning more and more as I’m going along. And gaining confidence that I can do this successfully.

For the other plants on my list that I would like to grow, I am going to order those online. I’ve already been scoping them out and I’ve saved them to my Pinterest board, Growing Seeds DIY.  I’ve noticed that by getting familiar with the info on the seeds packets from the store, the info provided online per seed/seller is making more sense.

Coming up

I’ve got an easy seed sowing plant marker idea.

I’ll be putting a sowing/ planting plan in place with a calendar.

AND THEN, I’m going to actually start sowing some seeds.

Easter grass?

Hey, if you want to grow some Easter grass in time for Easter, pick up a bag of grass seed (most any kind will do), so you can get some started. No fancy grass seed type required. I did this last year with a plain old bag of seed from the store.

Start with a Seed Series

Part 1 – Intro

Part 2 – Garden planning printable

Join me in a Seed Growing Facebook Group?

Interested in joining a seed growing Facebook group, like this post on Facebook ( or post on my Facebook page letting me know you might want to join in.)  

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2 Responses to Start with a Seed Series (part 3): Buying Seeds and Understanding Seed Packets

  1. Feral Turtle February 25, 2017 at 7:51 am #

    Geez I just look at the picture on the packet and if it looks good, I grab it. lol. Probably why my thumb is so black! 🙂

    • Amy February 28, 2017 at 7:10 pm #

      Somehow I doubt you have a black thumb, but I agree, the seed packet pictures get me every time.

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