The New Gardener: What to Plant and Where to Get Seeds

Bounty from the Plageman garden

Recently I read the following query on a Facebook group for gardeners in my town (Milton, MA): “Hi. I’m a new gardener. My husband made me a raised bed. What are some good vegetables to start with? And any recommendations on where to get seeds?”

What a great topic for this blog, especially as the gardening season is about to begin.

In my opinion, must-haves for the new gardener with a relatively small plot include lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The first three are quite easy to grow from seed planted directly into the garden. Where to get that seed? I love Ocean State Job Lot, which carries seeds from Burpee’s at a 40 percent discount. You can also often find seeds at your local supermarket. 

And, NEW THIS YEAR for gardeners in Milton, MA (where I live): the Milton Public Library has started a Seed Library through its Milton Grows program! Residents can "check out" up to three packets of seeds. Folks are also encouraged to donate seeds, although it's not necessary. (The cilantro, kale, and a few tomato varieties are all from my garden.) If you're not a Miltonite, check YOUR library's home page. They may well have a Seed Library too. They're becoming ever more popular.

More unusual varieties of a given plant—“Cimarron Romaine” lettuce, for example—can be ordered online. A few of my favorite sources include Rare Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds.

You can also find helpful information on these seed sites. For example, Pinetree includes a section called “Easy to Grow Varieties.”

Although in my opinion every home gardener should have a few tomato plants—the taste of a home-grown tomato is phenomenal compared to what you can get at the supermarket—they’re not particularly easy to grow from seed in the garden. It simply takes too long. I start my tomatoes indoors from early March to around now. I usually grow some 15 varieties (I've penned a full blog post on tomatoes alone). That said, you can buy tomato plants from seed companies (see above), OR from local sources like Milton’s Brookwood Community Farm. In the past, Brookwood has offered some 45 different varieties of tomatoes alone. This year's Brookwood seedling sale is May 6-7. 

And in another gardening first for Milton: the library will also be holding a plant swap later this spring. The date hasn't been set yet, but check the Milton Grows site for updates.

One final note: the National Gardening Association has a slew of helpful information, including a Gardening Primer. Videos are also available. Here's a link to one on Starting a Vegetable Garden. Enjoy.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been completely revamped and updated.

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