Know Your Climate and Your Seeds

by: Sara on 03/09/2016
Posted in: Food , Gardening , Guest Posts

It is Day Three of our Spring Gardening Book Sale! Receive a 35% discount when you order online with the code Garden16 until March 18th.

'Tis the season for Seedy Sunday! So who better to talk seeds then Cindy Conner, the author of Seed Libraries, And Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People and Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth.

Cindy helps you look past the seductive pictures in the seed catalog and make smart seed choices for your growing climate.

seeds spilling out of jars--BOG (1)

If you know your climate and what grows best in your little spot on this earth, you are on your way to being a successful gardener. Gardening advice is generally given according to the dates of your last spring frost and your first frost in the fall. If you don’t know those dates for your area, you can find them at, along with more climate information. 

Are your summer nights hot or cool? Is the air humid or dry? These things make a difference in how well certain vegetables or certain varieties of vegetables will do in your garden. Read the descriptions in the seed catalogs carefully to discern if what you are interested in is the best choice for your garden. Seek out seed companies and seed exchanges in your region and pay attention to where the seed being offered is actually grown--the closer to your garden the better. There is much to know about planting seeds. I developed the worksheets in Grow a Sustainable Diet to help you plan how much seed you will need for the area you are planting, when to plant, and when to expect a harvest. 

Charts to record temperature and precipitation daily are in Grow a Sustainable Diet, also. Having those records for your own place

is a big help when things don’t go as planned. It is easy to forget that it was unusually dry, wet, cold, or hot at specific times of the growing year that could affect your plantings. Of course, just when I used six years of precipitation records to determine that October was the driest month of the year, we had record rainfall that year in October! Life is always interesting.

We are all guilty of succumbing to the seductive descriptions and photos in the seed catalogs, leading us to plant things that are not suited for our area. That is not always bad, however, and is most certainly going to result in new learning experiences on your part. Thomas Jefferson is known to have been an adventurous gardener at Monticello in Virginia. If you have even partial success from something not usually acclimated to your area, you could save the seed and plant it again, gradually developing a strain of that variety that will do well with your conditions. Don’t bet the farm on it or promise it to your hungry family until you have it stabilized, but that could happen; and if it doesn’t, then you will know more about it than you did before.

Most of the gardeners I know have tried-and-true varieties that they grow every year, resulting in good yields. Over the years they have explored what’s out there and decided what fits best in their garden. They continue to try new things, always comparing them to their tried-and-true varieties, which serve as their control group. Once you have your tried-and-true varieties you could save the seed for yourself and to share with your neighbors. If you do that, you might want to participate in a seed library. My book Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People will help you with that. No matter where the seeds were grown that you acquire elsewhere, growing them out in your garden and neighborhood is a different experience. Developing varieties specific to your microclimate can be an exciting adventure and, if you share them, can lead to building a stronger, more resilient community.

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