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Simply Picked: Breaking Down a Seed Packet

November 27, 2023

Spokane, WA

Field of Flowers

This post may seem juvenile to those of you that have grown flowers for years or are avid gardeners or flower farmers. So just a heads up, that this post is directed at those of you that were me approximately 5 years ago and on occasion, me today. The me that gets a little antsy and thinks that Mother Nature has got nothing on me! I can plant anything and it will thrive! Once you terminate the lives of hundreds of plants, or more if we're being honest. Your humility and patience sort of kicks in...until the next time you decide you're on top of the world and do it again. Every dang year!

It happens to the best of us. Now admittedly, some of my killing of plants came from not knowing better. Not paying attention to the details on those handy seed packets. So today's post is about just that. What details do you need from seed packets and what do they mean?

Below you will find two different seed packets for the same flower which just happens to be one of my favorites--a zinnia. The left is from Floret Flower Farm while the right is from Johnny's Selected Seeds. Both companies provide quality seeds. Floret is located in my home state of Washington and their focus is on getting cut flowers and unique blooms to the local growers. Johnny's seeds range from fruits and vegetables to farm supplies and more. Both provide educational resources that are worth checking out if you are just starting out in the world of growing.

Key Points:

"Plant Type/Life Cycle": Zinnias are "annuals". This is important to know because annuals grow for a single season only. They can not be anticipated to come back each year.

"Site/Light Soil Requirements": Full Sun/Sun. Don't even try to put zinnias in shade. They are a sun/heat loving plant!

"Days to Maturity/Days": This is how long the seed takes to bloom once the seed germinates. This information is on the back of Floret's packet and the front of Johnny's.

"Plant Spacing/Spacing": 9" or 9-12". For optimum root growth, you want to adhere to these recommendations. Plants start small so this is where patience comes in to play. Wait for it...I promise they will grow! Here at Simply Picked, we plant on 9" spacing for zinnias.

"How to grow/Culture": Based on the packets, you would be starting seeds 4 or 4-6 weeks prior to your last frost of the new year. For both of these packets, you plant outside after a danger of frost has passed. Now, in order to know when your last frost typically is. You will need to know your growing zone.

A good starting point for finding your growing zone is to visit the USDA Plant Hardiness site and enter your zip code. Your zone will then be populated for you and you can find out when your last frost will be. That being said, my zone is listed as 6b (low of -5F) and I can tell you that we are more like a 5b (low of -10 to -15F). We refer to our home as "Narnia". It has literally been blizzard like at our home and we drive two miles to see the fog dissipate, snow stops and they sun is shining. I encourage you to talk to your local nurseries or someone you know to be an avid grower and see what they consider to be your last frost date.

Ok, now this is where things can get a little tricky. I generally assume my last frost date is May 15. Then, about a week prior to that I check the weather to see if there is a frost anticipated. If not, I plant. Otherwise, the patient me will wait. So below I have an example for you:

Example: "Start seeds 4 weeks prior to last frost. Plant out after danger of frost has passed"

This means that if I figure my last frost date is May 15, I would count back 4 weeks or 28 days to figure out when I would start these plants.

For 2024 this would look like this:

If the math isn't mathing for you, Johnny's has a great tool that is free to use. It will calculate the estimated plant date for a variety of fruits/veggies/flowers for you once you know your final frost date. This tool is linked here.

Plant Height: Located on the back for Floret and the front for Johnny's. This little detail is getting added in because I frequently hear, "My flowers are tiny compared to yours" and people think they'd done something wrong. Now, I'd love to believe that it's my green thumb. My houseplant with a single leaf would beg otherwise. Pay attention to this little snippet when you purchase your packets. There are many different types of zinnias (and flowers in general) out there. Some grow taller than others...Some have larger blooms, etc. This may matter if you are trying to plant along a walkway versus in a garden bed.

Bottom line, research the type of plant you like and/or just read the packet.

Now, some of you may be wondering WHY this information would help you now. TRUST me, the growing season will be here before you know it. We will be starting seeds as early as February 2024. The theme of our farm during seeding time is "spreadsheets" that we refer to often. It's not for everyone, so if you'd prefer to not do the growing yourself, we offer bouquet subscriptions, individual bouquet purchases AND u-picks! Plenty of ways to get blooms without all that extra "stuff" mentioned above. I'm just here to support you in whatever your flower journey looks like (wink wink).

Do you grown from seed? If so, what are some growing challenges you have had? Growing successes?


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Affiliate Links to items below

Have your seeds and ready to jump in? Here is a small seed starting kit that will help get you started!

Ready to up your seeding game? When we first started, a shelving unit and grow lights were key.

I've seen seed storage set ups ranging from super fancy to a shoe box. I personally have one similar to the one linked below.

We have a small number of seeds available from orlaya, zinnias, and calendula. Oralya is up on the website. Comment down below or message us if you have an interest in any others!

If you've got growing flowers down and are interested in how to best harvest to be able to enjoy your blooms inside or share with others, this book is amazing! I've read it cover to cover and reference it still! Floret seed packets also do a great job of explaining harvesting details. The book is a more indepth resource.

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