Seed Catalogs – Terms to Know Before You Buy: Part 2

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Last week I started a conversation about terms you should know when making decisions on what you will grow in your garden in the new year. The terms used in seed catalogs can be confusing to those new to gardening and sometimes even to those of us who are more experienced gardeners.

seed catalogs on a wooden table with flowersIf you want to grow your crops organically you need to understand terms used that are related to seeds. Organic seeds come from crops that are grown and have been certified through the USDA National Organic Program. For seeds to be “certified organic” that must be grown and produced by farmers who are Certified Organic producers. Untreated seed – are seeds that have not been chemically treated. Treated seeds are those that have been treated most often with a fungicide to prevent damage from diseases that live in the soil. Usually the seeds will be pink or purple in color.

When it comes to tomatoes, you need to understand the difference between Determinate and Indeterminate plants. Determinate types grow to a certain size and terminate with a flower cluster. These types will produce almost all of their crop for harvest at one time, so are planted by gardeners who want to preserve the fruit for juice, soups, or salsas. Indeterminate types will grow until killed by a hard frost in the fall. These will produce fruit all season and can grow to be up to 15-20 vines.

Lastly, you need to understand the difference between Disease Resistant and Disease Tolerant. Disease Resistant means the plant has the ability to resist or slow-down the attack from a disease-causing pathogen. Resistance levels can vary from moderate to high. Disease Tolerant refers to the ability of a cultivar to tolerate a disease infection without a significant reduction in growth or yield. Meaning it can still be infected, but it will survive and produce. Like when many of us get a cold, we have the virus, but we are still able to function. 

If you have questions about something you don’t understand in a seed or plant catalog, give me a call at 704-283-3729 or email me at dddillio@ncsu.edu.