How To Choose Seeds for the Organic Vegetable Garden


New gardeners (and experienced ones too) often become overwhelmed by the seed choices available. Check out our tips to help you get exactly what you want when you choose seeds for the organic vegetable garden!

Pick seeds based on what you like to eat

The seed rack can be seductive, so make a list of vegetables your family likes to eat. Radishes are a fast and easy crop, but they’re a waste of space if you hate them.

Choose small-space favorites

Good choices for small gardens are crops that

  • Taste better when extremely fresh (tomatoes and peas)
  • Grow quickly and can be harvested several times (lettuce and other salad greens)
  • Cost a lot in the store compared to growing them (baby gourmet vegetables)

Avoid crops that tie up your garden space for a long time (onions and carrots, for example). If you have a small garden, don’t try to grow melons and pumpkins unless you can grow them up a trellis. They require a huge amount of space unless you buy small-fruiting versions that can climb.

Leaf lettuce is an easy, direct-sow, cool weather crop, perfect for new gardeners.

Leaf lettuce is an easy, direct-sow, cool weather crop, perfect for new gardeners.

Plant both cool-weather and warm-weather varieties

The garden year is divided into cool and warm seasons. To keep your garden going for a long period, you’ll want both cool- and warm-season plants.

Cool-season plants are planted in early spring and harvested by late spring, or planted in midsummer to harvest when the weather turns cooler. Warm-season crops are planted in late May in Indiana and are killed by frost.

Cool-Season Crops

  • Root crops: beets, carrots, radish, turnips
  • Greens: lettuce, spinach, salad mixes
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Cole crops: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale

Warm-Season Crops

  • Melons and squash: cucumbers, zucchini and other summer squash, pumpkins and winter squash, melons and watermelons
  • Greens: chard, New Zealand spinach
  • Fruiting: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants 

Pick easy direct-sow seeds; buy the rest as transplants

Some vegetables are planted as seeds and others as transplants.  Seeds planted directly outside are the best choice for beginning gardeners. Buy transplants at a nursery for plants that need a head start inside.

Direct sown seeds are those planted directly in the ground.

  • Cool-season: peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, potatoes (seed potatoes are tiny potatoes, not actual seed), onion sets (tiny onions)
  • Warm-season: beans, pumpkins, summer squash, and cucumbers.

Transplants are available for plants that need a head start in order to grow to eating stage in the amount of time available in our growing season.

  • Cool-season: broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • Warm-season: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, and some squash.

Want to learn more about seeds? Check out our explanation of seed terms, our favorite seed companies, and the information you can get from your seed packet.


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.

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