Can I Use Those 3 Year Old Seeds?
If you are like me you have a few old seed packets lurking in a box along with the newer packets of things you couldn’t resist or wanted to try. First thing for spring (although our high temperature for yesterday, March 2nd was a record 5 degrees) is to get your seeds organized. I use a simple filing system in a photo storage box. Actually, I have one box for vegetables and one for flowers and herbs.
To find out if your seeds are viable you can do a simple germination test. Place a square of paper towel in a plastic zip bag. Write the name and year of the seed on the outside of the bag with a marker. Use a spray bottle to spray water in the bag and wet the paper towel. Place several seeds on the paper towel. Larger seeds can be spread apart and garden nerds actually count the seeds to come up with a germination percentage. It’s fine to just toss the seeds on the paper towel, it all works. Seal the bag and place in a warm (room temperature) place. Lettuce seeds need light to germinate so they should be by a window. Some seeds have warmer optimal temperatures to germinate but all should be fine with your indoor temperature unless you keep it really cold in your house. In that case, perhaps the top of the refrigerator would be a nice warm spot.
Check back to find out which seeds did or did not germinate. You can even transfer the little seedlings to some potting soil and there is a chance you’ll have a head start on your seedlings. You may have to cut or tear the paper towel apart as the seeds will root through the paper towel. I haven’t tried this yet but I plan to. So far, I have discovered that my five year old, Ferry Morse lettuce can be tossed. Even so a few of the Ferry Morse lettuce seeds germinated but they took much longer to germinate. Also, a seed that germinates isn’t necessarily going to have enough left over umph for a healthy plant. I have also found that seeds I saved from my own lettuce plants are going great guns, even the 2011 seeds!
The lettuce seeds germinated in two days so this quick test will save me money and time. You won’t waste planting medium or time with seeds that won’t do well. Next make a list of everything good you have. List the name, variety and year of the seeds. Having a list will keep you from ordering new seeds that you don’t need and show you what seeds you do need.