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Seed Facts for Informed Buyers

Article based on a press release from the National Garden Bureau

With the new year comes new hope: for better health, to achieve your resolutions, and for gardeners, a bigger and better garden!

That means that if you haven’t already finished your 2021 garden plans (good for you if you are one of those over-achievers who have!), then it’s time to do so now. Part of those plans might include ordering seeds and plants online. 

Because COVID-19 put us in stay-at-home mode, gardening is at an all-time high right now, and it looks like that will continue for the near future. For the millions of new gardeners out there as well as long-time gardeners and everyone in between, here are a few Seed Facts tips for you on how to successfully buy garden products online.

Pack of sunflower seed with title Did You Know? Seeds are packed annually for freshness.

Shopping Tips for Buying Garden Products Online

  1. Know the merchant and their reputation (National Garden Bureau Members are a great place to start).
  2. Avoid offers that seem “too good to be true.”
  3. Know or research the vendor, especially if going through a third party like Alibaba, Amazon, Etsy or eBay, as some overseas sources, notably in China, have been supplying seeds that aren’t viable or in no way correspond to the plant’s description or .
Black bean seeds in a spoon with text Did you know? There is not a seed shortage?

Seed Facts: Beginner Tips for online ordering of seeds and/or plants:

  • Ask around. Talk to your friends and other gardeners about what they buy and whom they buy from.
  • Peruse the catalog or website. Get to know that company and what they specialize in. There is a huge variety of companies and each serves an important niche.
  • Know your limits or your garden’s limits. All experienced gardeners can tell you that buying too many seeds or plants is the most common problem. It’s like an addiction!
  • Buy seed now for fall too. Don’t buy just for spring because succession sowing is important for season-long harvest and there are wonderful vegetables like cabbage and kale that are great for fall plantings.
A hand holding mottled bean seeds  and caption Did you know? Garden seeds are rigously tested for quality and purity?
  • Note how many seeds are in each package and plan ahead. If you can’t use all the seeds in the seed packet, no problem! You can always store leftovers for next year. The germination rate will decline slightly, even if properly stored, but most seeds of common garden plants are good for at least 3 years. Maybe you want to share or swap seeds with a gardening friend? (Note: National Seed Swap Day is January 30, 2021.)
  • Pay attention to growing zones and conditions. No one wants you disappointed by trying to grow something that simply won’t grow in your garden’s conditions.
Box being packed with caption Did you know? Most seed orders are handpicked and packed.
  • Try something new! Step out of your comfort zone and try at least one new plant each year … you never know, it might be your favorite!
  • Order early if possible but please be patient. Seed companies are likely to experience delays in times of high demand, so be aware of that company’s current timeline for shipping. They will be transparent. Sign up for or subscribe to that company’s communications to stay informed and up to date.
  • Keep records. Keep track of what you ordered, what you planted, what worked well, what didn’t work, which tastes you preferred, etc. Next year this time, you’ll be glad you did!

Ready to Shop? 

But not sure where to look? Here’s a thought: why not go to the National Garden website page Shop Our Members? This select group of NGB’s trusted and reputable retail members is a safe way to buy either online or at your local garden retailer.


Growing from seed: always such a pleasure … and you now know how to get seeds from truly trustworthy sources!

All photos used in the above article were generously supplied by the National Garden Bureau

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 “Seed Facts for Informed Buyers

  1. Catalogs are TOO tempting, even for those of with very simple and conservative taste. I will be purchasing only a few of the basics this year. (Most seed is from what grew last year.) I might get mine from the hardware store. In the future, I might get some tomato seed from a catalog, only because the hardware store lacks the old types that I like. However, even then I will stay within my limits.

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