Right now, if you’re like me, your end table in your living room is stacked with seed catalogs.  

I have a real problem of buying more seeds than I’ll actually plant. Seed catalogs have a way of appealing to your senses during winter. I don’t think true gardeners ever get everything planted that they actually buy. We see new varieties in these catalogs and it helps to pass the mundane winter that has been muddy so far this year.  

Here’s a few steps to help select what to buy this winter.

First, draw a plan of where things will go in your garden. Hopefully, this will help you realize the space that you have. If you have kept seeds from previous years, be sure to inventory those also. 

It is always good to do a quick germination test to ensure the viability of these seeds. To do this, you can moisten a paper towel and place some seeds in the paper towel in a plastic bag. After about 10-12 days, you should see some type of root growth if the seeds are still viable.  

Secondly, try some cultivars that have been trailed and those that have won awards. The All-American Selections is a testing agency that trials plants all across the universities of the U.S. This data can be found on its website and you can see the winners in each vegetable and flower category. 

Another great website is This is the University of Tennessee’s horticulture resource website.  You can find the results of trials that the University of Tennessee performs each summer with various vegetables. 

Lastly, use those cultivars that have always performed well for you. My mother will plant the same green bean variety until she can garden no more. That’s because she knows how they perform and she can roughly guess how many quarts of green beans she’s going to put up that summer.

Everyone has their own favorite varieties, and if you’re a new gardener, it’s time to find your favorite.

Lucas Holman is the Horticulture UT-TSU Extension Agent in Wilson County. Contact him at (615) 444-9584 or

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