Savvy gardeners who start plants from seed can reap a bounty of benefits. A single packet of seeds can yield rows of vegetables, annuals or even perennials plants from one thrifty purchase. And then there’s the issue of choice. Hundreds of varieties from which to choose await gardeners who annually discover the magic of starting from seed.

Add to that a whopping amount of information that is crammed on a single seed package, and you’ve got something special. So don’t just toss those little envelopes. Take a few minutes to observe and absorb the information. Here’s what you can expect to find:

• Suggested planting dates

• Sun requirements

• Planting depth (often a critical factor in germination success)

• Number of days to germination

• Number of days to harvest

• Starting indoors details

• Seed starting and growing tips

• Harvesting information

• Use suggestions

• Organic designation

• Weight/number of contents

• Packing year (many seeds will stay viable for years if stored in sealed containers in the freezer)

• Photo or illustration of nature plant

• Seed supplier contact information

• Price

• Seeds origin

In short, pretty much everything you need to know about how to start and grow the seeds is all there. All you have to do is provide a place for them to thrive. Selecting seeds is easy these days with most nurseries supplying seeds. There are numerous seed catalogs and websites that offer seeds to order, further expanding the selection choices.

If all this talk about seeds has got you thinking of planting for spring, you aren’t alone. Gardeners everywhere are planning their gardens, selecting and ordering seeds to start indoors in the coming weeks. Remember many of the small-seed varieties are best started in flats with good-quality seed-starting mix. Then separate the small seedlings and plant them in six-packs for their root systems to develop before planting in the ground or containers.

Early March is the suggested time for starting seeds in this growing zone. That means there’s still time to get those mail orders in. Starting seeds that you would normally direct sow in flats instead, such as those of summer squash, cantaloupes, cucumbers, annuals like sunflowers, zinnias or marigolds for example can give your gardens a jump start when you have small plants to put in the garden as soon as the danger of frost has passed.

From Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds we get this “Essential Seed-Starting Timetable” for both vegetables and ornamentals, including annuals: Vegetable and Herb Seed-Starting Timetable by variety and the number of weeks before your Frost-Free Date.

• Four weeks: Bitter Melon and Cucuzzi Edible Gourds.

• Six weeks: Asparagus, Basil, Echinacea Root, Fennel (herb and vegetable), Melons, Okra, Onions, Rhubarb and Shallots. • Eight Weeks: Amaranth, Anise Hyssop, Bell Peppers, Catnip, Chile Peppers, Chives, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Paprika Peppers, Parsley, Sage, Savory, Sweet Peppers, St. John's Wort, Thyme, Tomatillos and Tomatoes.

• Nine weeks: Broccoli, Cabbage and Kohlrabi (transplant out four weeks before the last frost date).

• Ten weeks: Eggplant, Jicama, Lavender and Lemongrass.

• Eleven weeks: Artichokes, Cauliflower and Leeks (transplant out four weeks before the last frost date).

• Twelve weeks: Brussels Sprouts, Cardoons, Celeriac, Celery, Cutting Celery, Parsley Root and Stevia.

• Sixteen weeks: Rosemary and Strawberries (for first year crop).

Flower Seed-Starting Timetable: These varieties prefer to be started indoors prior to transplanting out after your Frost-Free Date.

• Two weeks: Baptisia.

• Four weeks: Celosia.

• Five weeks: Alyssum.

• Six weeks: Dahlias and Echinacea.

• Eight weeks: Alternanthera, Amaranth, Baby's Breath, Balsam, Black-eyed Susans, Cutting Ageratum, Canterbury Bells, Catmint Nepeta, China Asters, Cleome, Coleus, Coreopsis, Euphorbia, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardia, Globe Amaranth, Hardshell Gourds, Helichrysum Strawflower, Heuchera, Milkweed, Nicotiana, Nigella, Platycodon, Scabiosa, Snapdragons, Statice, Stock, Thunbergia, Tithonia and Yarrow.

• Ten weeks: Hibiscus, Phlox and Victoria Salvia.

• Twelve weeks: Datura, Dianthus, Digitalis, Helichrysum Silver Mist, Heliotrope, Hollyhocks, Johnny Jumpups, Lobelia, Salvia and Viola.

• Fourteen weeks: Verbena. Midsummer for Fall Use: Ornamental Kale.

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the Garden Writers Association’s Silver Award of Achievement for 2012. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association, and she gardens in Camden. Got questions, or comments? Visit her blog, and join in the conversation at: or “friend her” on Facebook.