Alicia DeVore

There’s a certain liberating feeling that comes with purchasing seeds and growing your variety of plants in a garden, for example, as opposed to being confined to the selection at your local nursery. To truly experience this freedom of growing diverse varieties and saving money at the same time, you need to learn how to grow plants from seeds.

One of my prized possessions in the garden is a unique variety of small tomatoes known as the Bumblebee. Its sweet, dreamy taste is what motivates me to think about what I want to grow in my next garden season. However, this special variety isn’t available at local nurseries or big box stores. The only guaranteed way to enjoy it is by purchasing organic vegetable seeds and nurturing them indoors for 10-12 weeks before transferring them to the outdoor garden.

7 guidelines to order seeds from catalogs

Doesn’t the thought of having the freedom to select and grow exclusive varieties that aren’t readily available for sale in local stores appeal to you? How about the idea of saving money by growing your plants from seeds?

In this blog post, I’m going to help you by sharing the top 7 guidelines for ordering vegetable seeds for veggie gardens from catalogs so that you can take the first step into growing edible plants from seeds successfully.

Understanding Seed Catalogs

Seed catalogs are like a gardener’s dream come true. They contain a variety of seeds for different plants, flowers, and vegetables, along with helpful information about each seed such as planting instructions, growing tips, and expected yield.

Seed catalogs are part of the essential gardening supplies needed to be ready for the next season. You can find both print and online versions of seed catalogs. While print catalogs may give you the traditional “paper in hand” experience, online catalogs offer the convenience of easily comparing and browsing through different seeds with just a few clicks.

Exploring Seed Catalogs

Understand the variety of seed catalogs available – Identify catalogs that offer high-quality seeds – Look for catalogs that provide detailed information about each seed.

There’s a wide variety of seed catalogs available for gardeners, offering a multitude of seeds to choose from. Here are some types of seed catalogs you might come across:

  1. Vegetable Seed Catalogs: These catalogs offer a range of vegetable seeds, including common varieties like tomatoes and lettuce, as well as unique or heirloom varieties that can be harder to find in stores.

  2. Flower Seed Catalogs: These catalogs focus on flower seeds, offering everything from annuals and perennials to bulbs and wildflowers.

  3. Herb Seed Catalogs: These catalogs provide seeds for various herbs, both culinary and medicinal, that you can grow in your garden.

  4. Organic Seed Catalogs: These catalogs specialize in seeds that have been grown organically, without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

  5. Heirloom Seed Catalogs: These catalogs offer seeds for heirloom plants, which are varieties that have been passed down through generations due to their valued characteristics.

  6. Specialty Seed Catalogs: These catalogs provide seeds for less common or exotic plants, which can add interest and diversity to your garden.

stack of catalogs

Understanding Non-GMO and Organic Seeds

Non-GMO and organic seeds may seem similar, but they have some key differences. Here’s a breakdown to help you understand these two types of seeds and make an informed decision for your home garden.

Non-GMO Seeds:

  • Non-GMO stands for non-genetically modified organisms. This means the seeds have not been altered in a laboratory using genetic modification or engineering techniques.

  • Pros: Non-GMO seeds maintain their natural genetic structure, which some gardeners prefer. They can also be less expensive than organic seeds and often comes with a disease resistance.

  • Cons: While non-GMO seeds are not genetically modified, they might still be exposed to synthetic pesticides or fertilizers during cultivation unless specified otherwise.

Organic Seeds:

  • Organic seeds are not only non-GMO but they’re also grown under the USDA’s organic standards, which means no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are used during their cultivation.

  • Pros: Organic seeds are free from harmful chemicals, which is better for both the environment and your health. They can also be more resistant to pests and diseases due to their robust growth environment.

  • Cons: Organic seeds can be more expensive than non-GMO seeds. They may also require more care in terms of soil quality and pest control.

clear bag with seeds of many colors


  • Both non-GMO and organic seeds are not genetically modified.

  • Both types can be used to grow a wide variety of plants, from vegetables to flowers.


  • The main difference lies in the cultivation process. Organic seeds are grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, while non-GMO seeds may or may not be.

man picking out seeds

What’s Best for Home Gardeners? The choice between non-GMO and organic seeds often boils down to personal preference. If avoiding all synthetic chemicals is important to you, for instance, you might opt for organic seeds. If cost is a factor, non-GMO seeds might be a better choice. Either way, both types of seeds can yield bountiful and healthy gardens when cared for properly.

Understanding Seed Terminology

Before diving into the world of seed catalogs, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some key terms as seen in this blog post. This will not only make choosing seeds easier (as seen in this post) but also ensure that you get exactly what you want for your garden.

handwritten seed packets

Here are some common terms you’ll find in the descriptions of types of seeds:

  • Open-pollinated seeds: These are seeds that come from plants that have been pollinated naturally, either by insects or wind. They produce offspring similar to the parent plant and can be saved to grow again next year.

  • Hybrid seeds: These are created by cross-breeding two different varieties of plants to create a new and improved variety. However, the seeds produced from these plants cannot be saved for the next year as they will not produce the same plant.

  • Heirloom seeds: These are open-pollinated seeds that have been passed down through generations and are at least 50 years old. They are often prized for their unique characteristics and flavors.

One: Setting Your Garden Up for Success

seed packets in organizational trays

When it comes to choosing vegetable seeds, there are a few things you need to consider to have a successful and productive garden. Having the right setup and using the Simple Gardening Method gives you a space for gardening success. Check out this blog post on setting up your garden for success.

  • Climate: Make sure the vegetable seeds you choose are suitable for your climate. A plant that thrives in warm weather may not do well in colder regions.

  • Soil type: Different plants require different soil types to grow and produce well. Consider the type of soil you have in your garden before ordering seeds.

  • Sunlight: Some plants need full sun, while others can thrive in partial shade. Make sure to choose seeds that will receive the right amount of sunlight in your garden.

  • Water: Consider the water requirements for each plant before ordering. Some plants need more watering than others. Setting up an automatic watering system is beneficial for you as it saves time and for the plants consistently.

Two: Planning for Each Season

different types of seeds in piles on white background

To ensure a continuous supply of fresh produce from your garden, it’s important to plan for each season. Knowing what grows best in the average temperatures and moisture of your area is crucial to the success of your garden plants.

It is important to use the average high and low temperatures for each period of each month to determine what season you will be needing seeds for next.

For more information about planting for each season, check out this blog post. You can also plan your garden based on what food you typically consume during each season and to help you with knowing how to plant out a raised garden bed, check out this blog post.

white seeds in a tan packet
  • Spring: This is the best time to start cool-season crops and vegetable seeds like spinach, peas, and broccoli. The optimal temperature for cool-season crops varies. Cool-season crops prefer cooler temperatures for germination and early growth. Ideal temperatures for these cool-season crops are between 60 to 65°F (15 to 18°C) during the day and 40 to 50°F (4 to 10°C) at night. However, they can tolerate light frosts and temperatures as low as 20°F (-6°C) for short periods.

  • Summer: Warm and hot season plants like tomatoes, peppers, pole beans, bush beans, long beans, and other various crops should be planted when daytime temperatures are consistently between 70 to 95°F (21 to 35°C), while nights should ideally be between 60 to 75°F (15 to 24°C). These plants need warm soil for germination and strong growth, so it’s best to sow their seeds or transplant the seedlings after the last frost date, when the soil has sufficiently warmed up. Most warm-season vegetables cannot tolerate frost, and their growth may be stunted if exposed to cold conditions.

  • Fall: Some cool-season crops like carrots and lettuce can be planted in late summer for a fall harvest. Cool-season crops thrive in temperatures similar to their spring temperatures. These vegetables prefer daytime temperatures between 60 to 65°F (15 to 18°C) and nighttime temperatures from 40 to 50°F (4 to 10°C). They can tolerate light frosts and can even withstand short periods with temperatures as low as 20°F (-6°C). These crops can be planted in late summer or early fall, ensuring they mature before the first hard frost, enhancing their flavor and nutritional content.

broccoli growing

Three: Starting Small

As a beginner gardener, it’s best to start small and gradually expand your garden over time with various crops. This not only helps you gain experience but also prevents any overwhelming feelings that may come with starting a large garden right away.

Start with your next season of planting. Once you get the hang of it, you can slowly increase the variety of your plants and expand your garden. Use seed catalogs as a part of your gardening supplies.

pot, seed packet, shovel

Four: Ordering Early to be Ready

One of the biggest mistakes new home gardeners make is waiting too long to order seeds. It’s important to get your orders in early, especially if you are ordering from a popular seed company. This will ensure that you get the varieties you want before they sell out.

There are lots of things that stop us from growing a garden. Not having your seeds ready when you are planting may be an obstacle that you can avoid, but ordering early. This will also give you time to make any necessary changes or adjustments to your garden setup before planting.

ordering on a computer

Five: Experimenting and Personalization

As you gain experience in gardening with seed, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of seed, plants, and techniques. Each season is an opportunity to try something new and find what works best for your garden.

You can also personalize your garden by choosing seeds for plants that you know you and your family will enjoy. If you’re an adventurous cook, try growing some unique or heirloom seeds to add a new flavor or texture to your dishes. Remember, gardening is a continuous learning process, so have fun and don’t be afraid to try new things.

While it’s tempting to stick to your favorite vegetables and seed, don’t be afraid to try new and unique fruits and varieties of seed. You never know, you may discover a new favorite that you can’t find in stores.

seeds coming out of a packet

Six: Read Reviews

Before placing a seed order, take some time to read reviews from other gardeners and farmers who have used the seeds. This will give you a better idea of how well the seed performed and if there is anything you need to be aware of before growing them in your garden.

With these guidelines, you can confidently browse through seed catalogs and choose the perfect seed for your veggie garden. Remember, gardening is all about trial and error, so don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t go as planned. Keep learning and experimenting, and you’ll have a thriving garden in no time!

Seven: Ordering Seeds

catalogs opened and piled up

Once you have chosen the seeds you want to grow, it’s time to place your order. Here are some tips for a smooth ordering process:

  • Check seed availability: Make sure the seed you want to order are in stock before placing your order.

  • Be mindful of quantities: Most seed packets contain more seeds than you will need for a backyard garden. Consider splitting orders with friends or neighbors to save money and avoid wasting seeds.

  • Consider shipping time: If you are ordering from an online catalog, be aware of how long it will take for your seeds to arrive. This is important to know so you can plan accordingly and be able to plant at the right time.

planting seeds in small space container

Following these tips will help ensure that you have a successful experience with ordering seeds and growing your garden. With each season, you’ll become more confident in choosing the perfect seeds for your garden, making life easier to enjoy fresh and delicious produce all year

Pay attention to the number of seeds in each packet you purchase to ensure you have enough for your garden – Consider the timing of your order so you receive your seeds when you’re ready to plant them – Be mindful of shipping times and plan accordingly.

Ending on a positive note, remember that gardening is a fun and rewarding experience. As you continue to learn and grow, your garden will become a beautiful reflection of your hard work and dedication.

lots of different seeds to plant

So don’t be afraid to get started, order those seeds, and begin your journey as a gardener! You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish with just a few small seeds and some TLC. The possibilities are endless, so get out there and start planting! You’ll be amazed at the beautiful garden you can create with just a few small seeds and some TLC.

Check out our other blog posts for more tips and advice on all things gardening. Here are two Blog posts on helping you grow from seed:

  1. Basics of Growing Seeds Indoors
  2. Growing Seeds Indoors in Small Spaces

Here is an on-demand course on growing your seeds into plants for people who kill everything to know the materials and setup needed for successful seed growing indoors.

Planning for Seed Arrival

garden tools laid on a wood table

Prepare a storage area with little to no sunlight and stable environmental conditions – Protect your seeds from any drastic changes in temperature or humidity until you’re ready to plant – Make a list of all the seeds you’ve ordered and their estimated arrival dates to keep track of what you’ll be planting.

Don’t Forget!

  • Keep your seed catalogs for future reference and inspiration.

  • Save any seed packets with planting instructions for future use.

  • Keep a gardening journal to track your progress and learn from past mistakes. Check out this article on using a gardening journal.

Remember, growing a successful garden takes patience, determination, and a little bit of know-how. But with these tips and tricks, you’ll soon become an expert at choosing the perfect garden seeds for your garden. When you are ready to plant your new seedlings in your garden, check out this blog post to give you vital information to make it a success.

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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