What to avoid: Success or failure with a new plant often comes down to the quality of the seed. When possible, try to get this year’s seed from reliable dealer or another trusted source. If the quality of the seed is in doubt, you can check the germination rates by sowing some in a wet paper towel a few weeks before you would sow outdoors.
Local seed sellers: Finding a source for seed can start to feel like treasure hunting, but never underestimate your local resources. Small farms have been known to sell heirloom seed and plants, and independent seed growers exist in some areas of the state. Ask the sellers at your local farmer’s market if they know of a local seed seller. An internet search like “heirloom seed [your city], Florida” can usually point you in the right direction, too. The good news is that, if you find a grower in your area, it’s a safe bet that the varieties they carry will be a good fit for your local climate, too.
At home and garden stores, seed stored in paper packets and displayed outside are unlikely to be top quality. Likewise, if you want to save for next year, avoid seed that doesn’t have a species label or that is labeled “hybrid.” The seed collected from these plants will not be like its parent plant. In all cases, avoid seed that is more than a couple years old or of an unknown age (few seeds are as lucky as Methuselah the date palm).
Saving seeds from fresh produce is a fun experiment, but the plant must still be suited to our subtropical climate. Credit: UF/IFAS
Finally, while planting the seeds that come with your fresh produce is always a fun experiment, know that Florida’s climate presents unique challenges. Many varieties that grow well elsewhere in the country don’t survive our relentless heat and humidity.
Home and garden stores: Home and garden stores usually have a selection of seed at the beginning of the spring growing season and some stores also stock seed at the beginning of Florida’s fall growing season. Seed offered here is usually quality and has high germination rates. Be careful though — varieties offered at nationwide “big box” stores may not be well-suited for your area. The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide has a list of varieties recommended for Florida; consult this before you purchase to be sure the variety offered is a good choice for the Sunshine State. Just because it’s sold in Florida doesn’t mean it thrives in Florida.
One of the most frequently posted questions on the Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) Program’s social media pages is “where can I get the seeds?” Here are our suggestions for finding seed, especially for difficult-to-find species and varieties:
Seed catalogues: Most seed sellers offer a free catalogues with a selection of their most popular varieties. You can search “seed catalog” online and sign up to receive dozens in a matter of minutes. These catalogues usually include a picture of the plant, flower, or vegetable and are a good source of information. Look for phrases like “fungus resistant” and “heat tolerant.” Traits like these are especially important when gardening in Florida; again, check the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide’s list of recommended varieties. You can order by mail or online after viewing the catalogue’s selections.
Seed libraries: In Florida, many public libraries have on-site seed banks, or “seed-lending libraries.” They may receive seed donated from companies or from local growers and gardeners. Anyone with a library card can make withdrawals from the seed library, and the labeling and organization is usually very good. Sometimes libraries also host seed swaps for county residents. Contact your local library for details about programs in your area.
Sometimes you can save seed from your own garden, but proper seed storage makes all the difference. Learn more about seed saving to increase your likelihood of success. Remember, seeds saved from hybrid crops will not be “true” next season.
Some seeds are low quality and weak. For better germination (the ability to sprout) and vigor (the ability to grwo stronger), choose tested varieties from reliable sources.
DO start with good seed from trusted sources
One advantage to starting from seed is the wide selection of varieties available through seed catalogs. Another good reason to sow is that it is almost always the more economical option; seeds are cheaper to buy than transplants. Direct sowing does come with a certain amount of uncertainty, though. Over-seed and you’ll be thinning for a long time. Or, if the seeds struggle, you may end up with fewer plants than you hoped.
Planting date, depth, and spacing aside, some guidelines are the same for all seed:
Sowing the Seed
Success or failure often comes down to the quality of the seed. When possible, buy from a reliable dealer. If the quality of the seed is in doubt, you can check the germination rates by sowing some in a wet paper towel a few weeks before you would sow outdoors.
The Association works closely with the Florida Department of Agriculture and the University of Florida-IFAS in matters regarding seed, plants, pesticides, and fertilizers. Each year the Association contributes financially and materially to research activities that create better quality plants, more efficient production methods, new markets and more profitable products.
FSA plays a vital role by assisting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in settling complaints and disputes between seed dealers, farmers and others. It does so through its active participation in the Seed Investigations Conciliation Council.
Annual scholarships available based on scholastic achievement and financial need
Our Legislative committee constantly monitors federal and state seed laws, pending legislation, and regulations affecting our membership. Constant vigilance is required regarding proposed industry regulation.
Who is the Florida Seed Assocation?
Committee trips to Tallahassee are made when necessary to advise lawmakers and to prevent unfavorable pending legislation. To assure industry representation, FSA members meet several times each year with the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Seed Industry Technical Committee.