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How to Read Seed Packets: Get More from Your Organic Garden | Organic Gardening 365
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True confessions of a 20-year gardener OR How to Read Seed Packets and Get the Most out of Your Organic Garden

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organic radishesI’ve got two confessions to make.  No, I did not commit some heinous crime.  Nothing too serious actually.

Confession #1

Here’ my first dirty little secret:  I never planted radishes in my garden until last year.  Wasn’t crazy about the little buggers.  Too tart. Too radishy tasting.

All that started to change a couple of years ago because my wife has been ramping up her recipe repertoire and rediscovered some recipes requiring radishes.

I could either complain (and get to do the cooking as a result) or eat them without comment and have gourmet meals that I would never prepare for myself.

I did the only sensible thing and went with option B.

Lo and behold, she snuck those radishes in the back door of salads and casseroles and I hardly knew they were there.

Don’t tell anybody, but I actually started liking their tart, crispy taste.  They added a certain je ne sais quoi—that’s French for “I don’t know what.”  And I still don’t know exactly what it is.

So last year in the garden, after these many years of digging in the dirt, I finally got down on my hands and knees and launched my maiden crop of radishes.

Confession #2

Now, I’ve been gardening for years and usually know what I’m doing.  So I glanced at the radish seed packet briefly for a general overview of what to do.

But I must confess, I did not really read the instructions very thoroughly.  Honestly, I’ve probably read thousands of seed packets over the years and didn’t think I needed to bother with the details.

I knew what to do.  Plant the seeds, let Mother Nature do her magic and reap the harvest.  That’s all. Right?

Not quite.

The seeds germinated beautifully, and grew with gusto.  I was looking forward to a bumper crop.  But unfortunately, I got busy with lots of other gardening duties and did not follow through with ALL the instructions on the seed packet.

I planted the seeds as instructed, but I did not do the next, crucial step.  I didn’t thin the radishes to the recommended distance between seedlings.

The dumb thing is, I KNOW BETTER!  What was I thinking–or NOT thinking, as the case may be?

And that is why I had a LOUSY harvest of radishes.

The plants couldn’t develop properly because they were too crowded. The roots had to fight for the nutrients in the soil.  The result:  most of them were too scrawny to fool with eating.

I knew the importance of thinning out seedlings:  Give them room to grow.  Get rid of the weaker seedlings.  But I didn’t follow this time-tested wisdom with my radishes.

So I hope you will learn from my mistake and take to heart one of my Timeless Gardening Tips.

OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip # 9:  Follow the planting instructions on the seed packet or plant ID marker.

You’re probably thinking, “Duh!”  But you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow instructions on seed packets (and in lots of other situations too…but we won’t go there).

There’s a ton of info concentrated in such a small space on seed packets.  Here is one time I don’t recommend writing all this stuff down in your Gardener’s Journal.  It’s all right there for you.

Here’s an okra seed packet.  Check out all the details…

Organic okra seed packet

seed packet instructions

The basic seed planting instructions you’ll find on a seed packet will tell you:

  • Preferred soil type
  • Planting depth
  • Soil temperature required for germination
  • Light and water requirements for germination and growing in the garden
  • Days to germination
  • Whether to start indoors and/or outdoors
  • When to start indoors
  • When to plant outdoors as seeds or transplants
  • Spacing of seeds when planting
  • Spacing of plants after thinning (How wide and tall do they get?)
  • Days to maturity
  • When to harvest
  • Other growing tips and plant info.

So when all else fails—or better yet, BEFORE things fail—follow the instructions.

This applies to transplants you buy at the nursery as well, tomatoes, for example. When the little plastic label says plant your tomatoes 1½ to 2 feet apart, don’t try to squeeze them too close together.  They need the air circulation.

Same for landscaping plants, shrubs and trees.  Know how big they get, what their needs are to grow and thrive.

When you follow the instructions and DO what the plants need, funny thing, they will thrive and produce more abundantly.  You will have more delicious food on your table.

Don’t tell me there are exceptions!!!

By the way, there are some gardening philosophies like Square Foot Gardening that change up some of the spacing rules.  If you’re going with a system that is different from the seed packet directions, then follow the instructions for your system.

I’d love to hear about your gardening experiences and any lessons you’ve learned.  Please share in the comment section below.

Here’s to the unlimited potential in seeds,

James Early
Organic Gardening 365
Dedicated to helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long
P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.

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