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How long do seeds keep?

That's what I was wondering as I pondered what seeds to order this year. I've got lots of bean and pea seeds left from previous years, but I noticed they didn't germinate too well last year. Is that because they're no longer good? And what about all of my beloved tomato seeds? I mean, you get so many to a pack that you never use them all in one season unless you have a whole farm. I've just got a little secret farm, so I went searching for an answer.

This is what I found:

Vegetable seed viability

beans - 3 years
beets - 2 years
carrots - 3 years
corn - 2 years
cucumbers - 5 years
lettuce - 3 years
peas - 3 years
peppers - 2 years
pumpkins - 4 years
radishes - 5 years
spinach - 5 years
tomato - 4 years
watermelon - 4 years

It also depends on how they were stored. It's best to store them in a dry, cool location away from light - however mine always seem to end up out on the 3 season porch every winter where it gets below zero for a bit every year - way colder than "cool". But last year I had some tomato seeds from 5 yrs ago germinate quite well, so I guess it all depends.

You can check the viability of your seeds by placing several out on a few layers of moist paper towels, roll up so that the seeds don't touch, and enclose the bundle in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out. Place in a warm bright location (65 to 70 degrees or so) but away from direct sun. Check the seeds every couple days, until you reach 2 weeks. If you put 10 seeds in there for instance, and 3 germinate at the end of 2 weeks, you'll probably have a 30% germ. rate. Of course then you just wasted 10 seeds, so I usually just go with the less scientific -sow more with older seeds strategy. No matter what, I always end up with more seedlings than I can use anyway.

Well, happy seed shopping!

March 17, 2007 in Handy Tips, Seeds | Permalink

Comments

How about those wonderful tomatoes you were doling out last summer? What were they called? You had some yellow ones and, were the other ones Big Boy? I'm going to try planting tomatoes this year.

Posted by: beavela at Mar 20, 2007 10:38:39 PM

Oh beavela! I had many many tomatoes last year. I'm not sure which yellow ones, maybe the Peche Jaunes, or the Pineapple - or even the Green Zebras. I'm not sure which ones I gave you guys. I did not have any Big Boys - though some of my tomatoes were VERY big.

Are you going to grow from seed? I would advise against it unless you are gonna get a whole light set up going (and Frida and Francine won't get into it). Putting them in a window won't give them enough light.

If you want to have some of my leftover seedlings in May sometime, you'd be welcome to them. I always seem to have WAAAAAY more than I need.

If you want to start seeds though, let me know and I can tell you what ya gotta do.

Posted by: Lorika at Mar 21, 2007 7:34:20 PM

I'm so glad to hear that pepper seeds may last more than one year - I just found a pack of Orange Fogos and Red Demons from 2006 that I'm trying to sprout. Fingers crossed!

Posted by: Tracy27 at Apr 6, 2007 10:21:04 PM

If you got 'em on heat they should be fine. I've really learned the past couple years that a heat mat is essential. Things sprout sooo much faster. I don't know how I ever got by without one before.

Posted by: Lorika at Apr 9, 2007 9:18:20 PM

Ah - good point. The warming mat thing had not occured to me. I think I may have f'ed up a bit by setting the seedling pots outside during a particularly warm weekend - the weather's gotten cooler, so I brought them in, but I'm wondering if those couple of days may have doomed us. Ah well, if at first I don't succeed - the season's still early for peppers. Thanks!

Posted by: Tracy27 at Apr 9, 2007 10:44:14 PM

So how cold is it out there? Here in Portugal I sprout my most tender seeds in pots on a hot compost heap with the top of a water bottle as a cloche. That way they get the sun and the warmth.
I also use your scratching method for loosening soil over seeds. This started when I got impatient waiting for something to appears, but seemed to really help!

Posted by: alison at Apr 14, 2007 3:27:32 PM

Wow, Portugal! I was in the Azores once - loved it! If the mainland is anything like the Azores, you're pretty much in paradise.

What a novel way to sprout seeds! I have a plastic compost bin that I can't really set anything on or I might try that. 'Course it can still get to freezing here for another 3 weeks or so.

Yesterday was 76 though, and 3 weeks ago it was a record 82! (Farenhiet) Lows have been in the low 40's and high 30's though. And highs more like 55-65. Welcome to the roller coaster that is MN weather!

Posted by: Lorika at Apr 17, 2007 3:09:52 PM

How do I get seeds from a tomato to dry and keep, so I can plant them.
Here in Florida we have a tomato called "Ugly", and that's just what it is, ugly.
They are delicious, but only grown here in Florida, as they are so unattractive no one wants to buy them.
But the taste is out of this world.
I need to save some seeds and grow my own next year.
HELP.
mary
mdg1945@cfl.rr.com

Posted by: Mary D at May 4, 2007 11:13:06 AM

Sorry it took me a while to get to your question MaryD, but here is an excellent link that tells you step by step how to save tomato seeds!
Saving Tomato Seeds

And, if you don't feel like doing it the old fashioned way:Ugly. Not sure if it's exactly the same variety.

Posted by: lorika at May 11, 2007 12:10:08 PM

hi, i am growing a zucchini plant and some of the flowers are falling off the plant. also some of my leaves have light purple spots and signs of being eaten in certain areas. i bought some insect dusting powder, hoping this does the trick. is this problem common to this plant and if so, what do i need to do, thanks, charles.

Posted by: charles sinchuk at Jul 3, 2007 9:17:56 PM

Hi Charles, and welcome! As far as I understand it, all vining squash, melons and cucumbers have 2 different kinds of flowers - one male and one female. The first ones, the male shrivel and fall off eventually. The female ones are the ones (usually a bit later) that get fertilized and grow fruit.

As for the purple spots and holes in the leaves, I 'm not sure what's going on exactly, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. My squash usually gets a bit of powdery mildew every summer during the most humid days and a bunch of the leaves even shrivel and fall off. They still get plenty of fruit though.

You may have been a bit premature with the bug powder - be careful with that stuff!

Posted by: Lorika at Jul 5, 2007 11:13:55 AM

thanks, for the great information and advice. i was skeptical on using the bug powder. i am also growing white egg plant and the only things i've gotten out of it so far are two purple flowers. i feel the problem may be due to the location in which it was planted. it only gets about five hours of sun a day. is there anything i can do to help this plant or does it just need some more time, thanks again, charles

Posted by: charles sinchuk at Jul 5, 2007 11:54:48 PM

Well, I'm not the best person to ask about eggplant, as the only 2 I've ever grown grew nothing but flowers. But, I suspect your problem with them is sunlight related. I bet they do need more than 5 hours a day, and come to think of it, mine were shaded a bit last year as well. My neighbor had pretty sucessful eggplants, and her garden in in full sun nearly all day - lucky duck! Sorry I can't be of more help.

Posted by: lorika at Jul 16, 2007 12:04:36 PM

Awesome trying to grow some tomatoes right now in our grow tent. love the pictures.

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