New seed and plant catalogs have been arriving in my mailbox almost daily and they make the wintery days much easier to take.
The glowing descriptions and fantastic photographs are a welcome reminder that spring will come eventually.
I’m a sucker for their horticultural hype and end up making long lists of plants that I can’t possibly live without.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevail in my household and these lists will get whittled down considerably by the time we send in the orders.
Inventory Leftover Seeds
January is the time for planning your dream garden and for me the first step is to inventory the leftover seeds to avoid duplication.
Some seeds have a longer life expectancy than others. Most last for a couple of years if stored in a dry, cool place.
- I have learned from experience that onion seeds are not much good after the first year but tomato, cucumber, and melon seeds can last 5 years or more.
- Brassicas and squash seeds are good for 4 to 5 years.
- Parsley, sweet corn, leeks, parsnips, shallots, and chives require fresh seed every year.
Seeds are living things and their viability is affected greatly by the way they are stored. Most experts agree on dark, cool, and dry conditions as being the best. We keep some of our seeds in the refrigerator but most are in open boxes in the dining room, probably not the best location.
How to Test Your Seeds
If I have a question about the viability of some seeds, such as those beans that someone gave me that they had kicking around since 2012, I will test a few.
This is as easy as placing ten seeds on a damp paper towel, folding it up, and placing it in a plastic bag. Put the bag in a warm spot and check after a week or so to see if any of the seeds have sprouted.
- 2 out of 10 means 20% germination—not too good, so I would just sow them more thickly than usual when planting or buy fresh seeds.
- If 8 out of 10 germinate that means 80%—not bad at all and I can get away with using them for another season.
Once you have determined what you need, you can shop with a clear plan in mind and be less likely to overbuy.
Have fun perusing the catalogs and dreaming of your best garden ever. Summer is just a page away in a seed catalog!