My Seed Shopping Method

With starry eyes, I am looking at my seed catalogs to decide which plants will lay claim to my valuable garden space. Planning next year’s gardening season takes some forethought and self-control (so my list isn’t insanely long) to decide which vegetable and fruit varieties to choose. Here are my seed shopping tactics to help me plan a garden that will be successful. 

Woman holding seed packets and a cup of coffee.

There is just something about planning next year’s garden, really yearning for the garden, with all of its possibilities that I love. 

It is so fun finding new varieties of plants to grow and this is the time of year to build up the desire for the gardening season so that, when the work comes, I will remember these days and how badly I wanted it. 

When you have that big beautiful seed catalog in your hands, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many choices. There are so many options, my goodness, it’s amazing! 

I want to give you the basic tools to navigate this process and to feasibly purchase the seeds that you need to grow a great garden that you will be happy with. 

So cozy up with a cup of tea and let’s dream and plan together.

You may also be interested in my must-grow heirloom list

A woman holding carrot seeds in the palm of her hand.

Where To Purchase Seeds

I’ve shared my nine favorite companies to buy heirloom seeds, so I’ll just do a quick recap here. 

You can buy them from a lot of places, however, whenever you purchase seeds, think about what your dollars are supporting. Are your dollars going to a big corporation or a giant brand that may not be doing anything to further the home gardening movement? 

My advice is to avoid purchasing from companies that really have nothing to do with gardening which many times also support GMOs in the higher levels. I prefer to buy from companies that are doing something to further the home gardening movement.

TIP: If you don’t have time for a comprehensive review, I will tell you that my go-to company is Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

How Many Seeds Do You Need

You are probably getting more seeds than you realize in each packet. I opened a pack of tomato seeds that the packaging listed as having a minimum of 25 seeds. I counted out the individual seeds and there were 125 seeds in the packet!

That makes a $2.50 seed packet seem so much more affordable. Most likely, you will have a lot of extra seeds that you are not going to grow. You can save them for future gardens. 

Another fun idea for keeping your cost down when buying seeds is to buy seeds with a friend and split them. You don’t know exactly how much extra will be in each packet but, obviously, this is more than enough seeds to share and grow out of. 

When you are sitting down to order your seeds, keep in mind how you can be resourceful, especially if you're on a budget.

Banner ad for the book "The First Time Gardener" by Jessica Sowards.

How Long Are Seeds Good For?

You might notice some seed packets say “packaged for this year”. I am so embarrassed to admit this now, but during my first two years of gardening, I threw away the leftover seeds in the seed packets after planting. I was under the impression that you couldn’t use them after that year because they would be no good. 

That is just not true! Luke from MI Gardener did an experiment where he sprouted 87-year-old seeds! 

That was just the permission I needed to hold onto seeds for the coming years. Now I am a collector of seeds and I have seed packets that I have planted out of for four or five years.

How to Store Seeds

If you store seeds properly, they will last a long time. Store seeds in a cool, dry and dark place. Do not store them in a greenhouse or anywhere hot or humid. 

One of the most important things is keeping those seeds dry. Store the packets inside sealed containers in a cool, dry, dark location. 

We keep our seeds in our basement with a dehumidifier. I even know some people who keep seeds in the refrigerator or the freezer for very long-term storage.

I also like using photo cases to store my seeds because it makes it easy to keep them organized by type. Watch the video above to see my tomato seed case!

I can also grab one tiny case and head out to the garden, instead of carting along my entire seed collection, or just a little packet that might get water on it. The plastic photo cases help keep them dry as well.

My Seed Shopping Method

To me, seed catalogs are like the Toys R Us catalog was when I was 8 years old. I usually end up with a list that is way too big. I have to actually look for disqualifiers or my growing list is just insane.

“Must Grow” & “Maybe Grow” Lists

Each year, I sit down with the catalog and a pen and start circling everything that I want. I take a bunch of notes and put sticky notes all over the catalog. From there I compose my “Must Grow” list and my “Maybe Grow” list. 

My Must Grow list has the things that I know my family and I love to eat. They are staples in our diet that we don’t want to go without. These plants must have a place in my garden. 

In fact, when we first moved to our new homestead I wasn’t going to grow a fall garden, but I just couldn’t help myself and had to get some lettuces growing in my Greenstalk vertical planters (use code ROOTS10 for $10 off your purchase) and some peas and cabbages growing in the new raised garden beds Miah built for me right outside our house.

Once I’ve made my “Must Grow” list, then I can figure out how much space my must-grow plants will take up in my garden. As soon as I know how much space I’ll have left in my garden I’ll take my “Maybe Grow” list and add in more plants until my garden space is full. 

I make sure to cross-check the lists for duplicates or really similar varieties, then do my research to make sure all the plants are a good fit for my garden and climate. 

TIP: Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.’s website is a great resource. They have customer reviews from real gardeners with a lot of helpful information you can read. For instance, I live in a humid area where fungal disease is an issue, if I see a review that says a plant was really susceptible to fungal disease, I will take it off the list. That is how I pare it down.

Be Realistic

Be realistic with yourself about what your family actually needs or eats. If nobody in your family is going to eat salads, don’t grow 10 varieties of lettuce. What are you going to do with all that lettuce? 

Make sure you don’t get so excited about the rare stuff and the stuff you’ve never tried that you don’t plant food you will actually eat. You don’t want to end up with a garden full of unique things but a grocery bill that hasn’t been affected by it at all. 

My post on garden planning basics has information on growing zones, when to plant and more!

Let the majority of things you grow be foods that will fill your pantry and your table. That should be the backbone of your planning.

I want to share this beautiful life with others and teach them the lessons we've learned along the way. Welcome to Roots and Refuge, friend. I am so glad you're here.

Top Posts

R&R on Teachable

Looking to get started Homesteading? Check out our courses!

Subscribe Now

Never miss an update from us! 

Plus...something special

coming next week!


Watch Jess & Miah's "Wilder Still" Series


USE CODE  "JESS10" FOR 10% OFF - EXPIRES 3/4/2022

​​Plus premium content, designed specifically for your homesteading needs.