Good Gardening: Seeds

Feb 4, 2019

Credit John Fischer

Despite today's chilly weather, spring is not too far off, and you may be wondering if seeds leftover from last year will grow well this year. If the seed is only a year old, the answer is yes. Two years old- yes. Three years old- almost certainly. You don't need fresh seed every year. The date on the seed pack shows when they were packed. It is not a best used by date.

Size matters. Larger seeds tend to keep longer. Take the 2000 year old date seed from Israel, and the 1300 year old lotus from China. Both are healthy growing plants now.   I have planted ten year old lettuce seeds with good results. While germination rates may go down, the seeds that do sprout will produce healthy plants. Plant old seeds closer together to make up for decreased germination rates.   Or if you have plenty, sprinkle ten on a damp rag, and see how many sprout in ten days. Six sprouts or more is good. Keep the rag in a warm wet location- like Florida. Seeds that are eaten - like corn and beans often have a shorter shelf life.   If you have experienced poor germination, and blamed it on old seed, you may be off base. Planting in cold wet soil- because we have one sunny warm day-- is the more likely cause of poor germination. Corn, beans, squash, melons and tomatoes all need warm ground to germinate.   Planting in cold ground will give you rotten seeds and few if any sprouts. And warm ground will greatly speed up the sprouting of even cool season seeds like peas and lettuce.   Now go into your kitchen, and put a poppy seed on your finger tip- oops don't try to find that one, just get another. That little dot can grow into a whole plant and produce a new crop for next years muffins. Isn't nature amazing?