Petunia is in a tizzy. She is the type of housekeeper who has the vacuum cleaner out before the guests are in their car. She just has to get the footprints out of the carpet before she can sit down. So, you can imagine her distress when she walked into HER kitchen and seeing her kitchen table and most of the counter tops covered with opened seed packets, horrors! It seems Bunkey was attempting to decide what seeds he needed for this year’s garden.
Like most thrifty gardeners, he keeps unused seeds from year to year. Most seed companies seem to think everyone plants huge gardens, so they fill packets with 60 corn seeds, or a hundred carrot seeds. This leaves gardeners with lots of unused seeds every year. Unfortunately, seeds have a shelf life.
Corn and pepper seeds are only good for about two years. Asparagus, peas, beans, peas and leeks for about three years. You can keep beets, pumpkins, squash, rutabagas (although why anyone wants to keep rutabagas), tomato and watermelon seeds for about four years. The Cole family, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc., muskmelon/cantaloupe, lettuce, radish and spinach seeds are good for up to five years. Seed packets will have a date someplace on the front of the packet, usually on the top so open the packet from the bottom to save that date.
If you didn’t preserve the packet date, there is a way to determine if the seeds are worth planting. Lay 10 seeds on a damp paper towel, then roll it up, put it in a plastic bag and lay it in a warm place to germinate. The top of the fridge works quite well. Keep the paper damp. In about six days, unroll the paper and check to see how many seeds have sprouted. If it is only a few, give it a few more days. If only two seeds sprouted, you have a 2% germination rate and so on. Time to replace that batch. Don’t throw old seeds in the trash, put them in the bird feeder. Some birds will eat anything. However, don’t feed them any seed that has colored coating as whatever it is, is not good for them. You may also get a pleasant surprise next spring when you find an aster in the pea row or a tomato growing in the flower bed where the birds have planted them. The nice thing is that they are already fertilized.
If you have too many reasonably fresh seeds, donate the extras to the library seed exchange. Six tomato seeds are quite enough for the gardener who plants them in pots. Or if your neighbor also has a garden maybe you can sit down and order seeds to share. This way you may find yourself growing plants you would never try on your own.
Get in the habit of reading the back of the seed packet. It has all kinds of information from how far apart to plant, when it will germinate and days to maturity. Some even show you what a seedling looks like, so you don’t accidently weed it out. Seed companies want you to buy their seeds again, so they do their best to ensure you have good results with their product. Do try different varieties of the vegetables or flowers you always plant. Remember, a rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out.
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