Nutrition Articles

7 Things Your Seed Packet Can Tell You

What All Those Gardening Terms Really Mean

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The back of every commercially bought seed packet provides a basic how-do guide for growing that particular plant. Compiled with information on lighting, sowing depth and more, this article will help you decode what all of those gardening terms mean.

Plant Name
Usually a packet will have not only the common name, but also the botanical name as well. This is helpful because one country's "squash" is another country's "pumpkin."

Picture of the Plant
This is an easy way to gauge what you can expect to grow, which is especially useful if you want to try new or exotic edibles that you may not have encountered before. It may also help you distinguish between different varieties of a single type of plant, such as pickling cucumbers and yellow cucumbers.

Plant Profile
Typically placed on the back of the seed packet, this can be a few sentances long or take up a large portion of the packaging space. It is a summary of the plant's aesthetics, whether it's edible, and its taste. This can often contain details about how easy or difficult the plant is to grow.

Size of the Plant
The sizes given are reflective of the size of the plant at full maturity. Many are in centimeters as well as inches, and indicate the height and the spread of the plant. You'll need to know this information when planning your garden and deciding whether you have enough space available to grow this particular plant.

Life Cycle
"Annual" means that the plant will live for one growing season and then die. "Perinneal" means that the plant will not need replanting every year, but will instead reseed itself and continue coming up year after year. There are rare plants that are biannuals which have a life cycle of two years.

Planting Instructions
Packets vary by how much information is supplied in this section, but all contain instructions on sowing depth (how deeply you must dig to plant the seed), spacing (how far apart each seed or plant should be spaced), watering (how much and how often), and thinning (selectively removing seedlings so stronger plants can grow) your plants. Usually this information is listed in both centimeters and inches. Contained in this section, you should also find details about when it is safe to plant the seeds outdoors or when to start the seeds indoors before transplanting outside.

Sun Requirements
If a packet says "full sun," that means the plant requires at least six hours of direct sunlight to thrive. "Partial sun" is four to six hours of sunlight, "part shade" is 2-4 hours of direct sun, and "shade" means little to no direct sunshine is ideal. Use this information when deciding where to plant your seeds and whether they'll thrive in your garden plot.
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About The Author

Jenny Sigler Jenny Sigler
Jenny is a stay-at-home mom to her young children, Augustine and Olive. An avid gardener and baker, she enjoys writing about health and childcare topics to empower people to make healthy choices. See all of Jenny's articles.

Member Comments

  • This is a good article, but the word 'sentances' is spelled wrong. - 4/20/2014 8:33:18 AM
  • I'm sorry, I'm going to nitpick a little. I think it's biennial (every two years) as opposed to biannual ( twice a year) and while some perennials reseed, most die back but don't die off in the winter, keeping them coming back year after year. Thanks so much for covering garden topics on here! I love gardening and just finished building a greenhouse. :) - 4/19/2014 7:12:24 AM
  • interesting! too late this season but will know for next time! Thank you! - 7/8/2010 3:50:04 PM