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Fresh Seed

February 18th, 2016

I’ve blogged about the shelf life of seeds and even made a seed viability chart a few years ago. You can see the shelf life of seed chart here. You may think it’s not important to check seed freshness, store seed in specific ways, or purchase new seed of specific types of vegetables each year. Here’s a great demonstration of the importance of fresh seed:
lettuce seedlings 1
As you can see by this image the seeds on the right hand side had slow or very low germination. This seed was purchased last winter for spring sowing. It germinated beautifully last spring. This year, germination is slow and spotty. Most likely these seeds will still germinate, though they will do so in a few weeks instead of a few days.
lettuce seedlings 2
As you can see on the right hand side of the flat, germination was great with the fresh seed purchased this spring. With garden seed, you don’t know exactly how old the seed is when you get it. Thus, lettuce seed may have a decent shelf life, but the seed you purchase may already be a few years old. It pays to watch germination rates and figure out if your seed supplier is perhaps using not so fresh seed. I have great long-term germination rates when purchasing seed from farm supply business like Johnny’s Selected Seeds and High Mowing Seeds.
Shelf life of seeds
When it doubt about the viability of your seeds, throw them out (or feed it to the chickens like I do). The longer I garden the more I realize the benefits of starting with fresh seed. For me, an extra 10 days under the grow light waiting for slow germination throws off my entire system. I’d much rather spend an extra $4 buying a fresh pack of lettuce seed that will germinate faster, grow faster, and reach harvest stage a week or two early than it is to save seed packets from year to year. If you want ultra fresh seed, save your own lettuce seed. I do this for a few varieties that I love.

How often do you cull old seeds and get fresh?

3 Comments to “Fresh Seed”
  1. Brenda on February 19, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I don’t have much patience with slow or poor germination, so prefer to use fresh seeds. My favorite seed company is Maine’s FEDCO. Love everything about them–low prices, small quantities available (so you don’t blow $4.00 a packet when you only need a few plants), great variety, wonderful people, amazing catalog, and it’s a co-op.

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  2. Sue on February 19, 2016 at 8:34 am

    I learned the lesson of using old seed the hard way a few years back.
    Now I use last year’s seed for early cold frame crops and use the new seed for later –main–crops. I tell myself if something eats the cold frame crops or it doesn’t germinate, well, I’m not out any money, but if it works-woohoo–more salads, etc!

    Great post

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  3. Nebraska Dave on February 19, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Susy, oh, I’m a guy that will keep seed and try to use it way past the expiration date. As you know I’m not so much a hard core gardener for harvesting but I’m a let’s overcome this challenge gardener. So old seed doesn’t get thrown out it just gets sown double thick or started on a nice warm heat mat. Heat makes my old bones feel good and so I figure heat will help old seed germinate. I still have a big stash of seed from past years that will probably get tossed some day but just not yet.

    Have a great fresh seed day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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