Are you bewildered by some of the information on seed packets or in seed catalogs? Once you know the lingo, a seed packet or catalog can give you a wealth of information such as hybrid types, growing season and disease resistance just to name a few. To help you decipher some of the gardening shorthand, here are explanations to some common phrases you may come across.
Seeds are sown, plants are planted, so when it says “direct sow,” that means you will be placing the seed directly into your garden soil where it will be grown. An annual is a plant that germinates, flowers and dies (completes its life cycle) in one season. A biennial plant takes two seasons to complete its life cycle, flowering during the second year. A perennial plant will come back year after year. A hybrid is bred from two parent stocks with the intention of combining the most desirable traits of each parent. Seeds from a hybrid should not be saved as they will usually not produce the same plant the following year.
Hybrid seeds are often designated as F1. Open pollinated or heirloom seeds are varieties that have stable traits from one generation to the next. These seeds may be saved as they will grow true to type.
Bush means it will have a more compact, low to the ground, bushy shape. Climbing or pole will have a sprawling growth habit and will require a support system. A “heavy feeder” will require frequent fertilizing. Maturity indicates time to harvest from day of planting. Thin means to remove seedlings in order to make more room for the remaining plants to develop. If dug out carefully, you can transplant the seedlings.
When it comes to disease resistance in tomatoes you may want to shop for the one with the longest string of letters. V-verticillium wilt, F-fusarium wilt, FF-fusarium, races 1&2, N-nematodes, T-tobacco mosaic virus, A-alternaria stem canker,ST-stemphylium gray leaf spot and TSWV-tomato spotted wilt virus. Good luck with that. A determinate tomato plant is shorter and will produce fruit over a four to six week period. An indeterminate tomato plant will run amuck through your garden. Just joking! This type of tomato will need some room though as it will continue to grow, flower and produce fruit throughout the season.
Hardiness zone is shown as a number or a range of numbers and refers to the USDA Hardiness Zone map. The map is made up of 11 zones based on the average minimum temperature in the winter. The term hardy or half hardy refers to a plants ability to withstand a frost or full freeze. Cool season refers to seed that will germinate and grow during cooler weather in the spring or fall. Seedlings can normally take a light frost and will most likely fail during the heat of the summer months.
The best way to learn about a plant is to grow it…have fun seed shopping.
As always, Happy Gardening!
The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County.