So…a year without gardening for me also meant a year without buying seeds. Well, ok, maybe I bought a few packets early last year before I collapsed into homesteading ennui. But I have only a handful of seeds from 2016 and none labeled 2017.
Of course, because I have suffered from seed hoarding disorder for about 13 years, I still have gaggles and gaggles of seeds. The question is, are my old seeds worth planting?
Seed viability is usually claimed at about 2 to 4 years. It varies a huge amount, of course, based on type of seed (stupid alliums), but most seed companies will tell you most of their seed should be good for a couple to a handful of years after you buy it.
Beyond seed type, how you store your seeds then has a huge impact on their longevity. I keep my seeds in the fridge, which is the kind of low-moisture, low-temp environment most conducive to seed longevity.
Which brings us to my old seeds. I just re-inventoried my seeds. It’d been 2.5 years, it was time. After I tossing a few old packets, I ended up with a “keeper” list of 206 varieties. The oldest seeds in my collection date from 2009, with most between 2011 and 2015. That’s a pretty big investment to just toss because we are at or over the nominal “Best By” date.
So, I’m doing what I periodically do: germination tests!
A germination test is a way to measure what percentage of your seeds are still viable and show strong vigor. A germination test will give you a germination rate which is the percentage of seeds that germinate and show a future of strong growth.
At home, DIY seed germination testing is so easy a child could do it. Which is why I make my children do it for Homeschool Science. Mwaa Haa Haa. Just kidding, they love it.