5 Steps to a Realistic Garden Seed List


During mid-winter, gardeners are prone to “winter delusion,” a condition brought on by withdrawal from working in the soil. Its most common symptom is a complete lack of practicality when planning garden projects for the spring.

Take seed catalogs, for instance. We have several favorites. But if we actually bought all the seeds that we want, we would need a farm in the country and a second mortgage. Paring the “must-have” list down is an art form.

1. Get rid of the plants you don’t like.

Don’t bother buying seeds for stuff you and your family don’t eat. If you and your kids hate beets, it makes no sense to devote space to them, no matter how many your grandmother grew every year.

2. In a small garden, maximize space.

If, like most of us, you’re working with a smaller garden than you’d like, choose plants that give you the most return for your space. Pick vegetables that are particularly delicious fresh or are hard to find. You can always buy space-hungry pumpkins at the farmers’ market.

And get creative about using vertical elements to pack more plants in: pick varieties of summer squash or small melons that climb. If you can coax a plant to climb, you free up more ground for other varieties!

Make up that seed list, and THINK SPRING!

Make up that seed list, and THINK SPRING!

3. Try one—or maybe two—new things.

In addition to your tried-and-true, shake things up by devoting a small section of the garden to something you’ve never sampled before. Gardening is an on-going experiment, and you might find a new favorite.

4. Be strategic with transplants.

If you want to try six different kinds of tomatoes, it might make more sense to buy one transplant of each at the nursery rather than starting them from seed. On the other hand, if you want 12 ‘Amish Paste’ tomatoes because that’s what you use in your famous sauce, starting them from seed is more economical.

5. Share with friends.

While properly stored seeds can last for years, splitting your seed supply with friends makes great sense. Home gardeners rarely can use all the seeds in a packet in one year, so pooling your resources with pals gets you a wider variety for the same cost.


Amy graduated from DePauw University with a degree in physics, a lifelong love of theatre, and a problem-solving style that combines the approaches from both those fields. A Master Gardener and long-time communications professional, Amy conducts gardening seminars and blogs about gardening in addition to her work with Spotts.

Tagged with: ,
More in Kitchen garden
Cranberries can be grown in the home garden, provided you give them sufficiently acidic soil. Photo by Kristine Paulus, used under CC BY-2.0.
Thanksgiving from the Garden

The traditional Thanksgiving meal is pretty much a celebration of foods native to the Americas. From the turkey to the pumpkin pie,...