Sowing Seeds

A Gardener’s Pet Peeve

A typical vegetable seed packet. Lots of useful information, but nowhere does it show the plant’s height! Photo:

I’ve received many of my seed packets by now (I usually send in my seed orders in January), so I was going through them the other day, putting a bit of order into the chaos. I group mine by seed-sowing dates: which ones I sow indoors early (early March where I live), mid-season (April) and late (May), which I sow outdoors when the ground is cold and which only when the ground has warmed up. And all the special cases (you always find a least one seed variety that will need some sort of special treatment).

And I was also vaguely planning my garden, trying to work out an acceptable crop rotation plan for the summer.

To properly design an attractive vegetable garden, you need to know how tall the plants will become. Photo:

And I ran into my usual problem when it comes to vegetable seeds: the seed packet almost never gives the plant’s height. They give all other information I want: when to sow, seed depth, recommended spacing, days to harvest, etc. But how tall is that darn plant going to become? I need to know that, as tall plants shade out shorter ones and I want to put those towards the back of the garden, but also because I try to make my vegetable garden look good and it won’t look so hot if some ginormous plant is jutting out, visually squashing the little guys just below! 

This isn’t the 1950s, when gardeners obediently planted all their veggies in neat little rows in a perfectly rectangular vegetable bed. We design with our vegetables, choosing some at least as much for their appearance as their taste, and we need to know their height. Everyone tells me that foodscaping is a trend… well, just try foodscaping when you don’t know how big the plant will become!

If They Can Do It for Flowers…

This is a flower seed packet, so of course it shows the height! Photo:

If I look at flower seed packets, even from the same company, bang: there it is! Height! In inches or centimeters or both. Flower seed packets always tell how tall the plant will be. Why can’t that same simple bit of information appear on vegetable seed packets as well? 

I especially need to know for the taller vegetables. Like, do I need a big tomato cage for that tomato or a small one? Or maybe it’s one of the short determinate ones that don’t need a cage? And some of those seed amaranths (both gorgeous and delicious) may be short and stocky, but others are monsters.

So, I spent about 40 minutes yesterday digging around on the Internet, looking for the height of each vegetable. I had to check each by cultivar name, because, yes, each variety is different, and by thorough searching, I found most of the heights and wrote them on the seed pack. Some, though, I had to guessimate. So much effort for something that should be so simple!

Come on, seed companies: share the info! Gardeners need to know the dimensions of their vegetables as much as those of their flowers. 

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “A Gardener’s Pet Peeve

  1. ? I did not give it much though. I do not try new varieties very easily. Actually, I prefer familiar varieties, even if I do not grow the same ones every year. Anyway, I sort of know how big they get. Therefore, I do not look for the expected size in the description on the label. I certainly would want to know how big a new variety would get.

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